A pilot program is being tested in one of the poorest slums of Port-au-Prince, the capital city of the poorest nation in the Americas, Haiti. In a place where the availability of basic resources is limited and sanitary conditions are appalling, the Brazilian NGO Viva Rio is widening access to what is considered in Haiti to be a luxury--toilets. Not only will the most impoverished have a sanitary alternative in terms of waste disposal, the project will allow them to benefit from the biogas that it produces.Up until now, the sanitation options for the city's poorest were rather limited. While the city does operate public toilets, the 10 cent charge to use them puts them out of reach for many residents in Port-au-Prince, and without alternative much of the waste is not properly disposed of. The toilets being built by "Viva Rio" will come with a 1 cent charge, but the real benefit will come from what happens next.
According to TVCiencia, the waste will be collected in a large pool, called a bio-digester--an infrastructure where bacteria transforms human waste into methane which can then be used as an energy source. This reaction can produce 50 cubic meters of biogas per day and can generate three thousand watts of electricity for 24 hours straight.
Project Coordinator Valmir Fachini:
The operation is very simple. The droppings come from toilets, the bathrooms, and enter the bottom of the reactor and woe starts a fermentation process that produces biogas and biogas through the water column and is accumulated in the dome, which is where we are. And this serves as biogas for cooking and to produce electricity.
The benefits of increased access to toilets for the slums of Port-au-Prince will do wonders for improving sanitation in the poorest neighborhoods. But perhaps more importantly, the methane the system will produce can be used as an alternative to coal, easing the serious problems of deforestation in a nation already plagued with daunting internal challenges.