An Indian tech-firm has won a whopping grant of over USD 450,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to set up eco-friendly and hygienic "eToilets", making public conveniences more accessible to the urban poor.
Thiruvananthapuram-based Eram Scientific Solutions Private Limited was awarded the grant as part of the foundation's second round of 'Reinvent the Toilet Challenge' grants totalling nearly USD 3.4 million.
Foundation Co-chair Bill Gates announced the grants yesterday along with the winners of the first round of Reinvent the Toilet Challenge-an effort to develop "next-generation" toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don't have it.
The other firms to receive the grant are Cranfield University (United Kingdom); Research Triangle Institute (United States); and the University of Colorado Boulder (United States).
The awards recognise researchers from leading universities who are developing innovative ways to manage human waste, which will help improve the health and lives of people around the world.
The Reinvent the Toilet Fair is bringing together participants from 29 countries, including researchers, designers, investors, advocates, and representatives of the communities who will ultimately adopt these new inventions.
"Innovative solutions change people's lives for the better," foundation Co-chair Bill Gates said in a statement.
"If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world's toughest problems," he said.
Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death, the statement said.
Food and water tainted with fecal matter result in 1.5 million child deaths every year, it said.
Most of these deaths could be prevented with the introduction of proper sanitation, along with safe drinking water and improved hygiene, it added.
Improving access to sanitation can also bring substantial economic benefits.
According to the World Health Organisation, improved sanitation delivers up to USD 9 in social and economic benefits for every USD 1 invested because it increases productivity, reduces healthcare costs, and prevents illness, disability, and early death.