by Umar Khurshid
SRINAGAR: As authorities’ in Kashmir are taking up innovative approaches to combat Coronavirus, a young KAS officer from district Pulwama has came up with a new sanitization idea.
Saqib Murtaza, 30, a civil service officer from Pampore, along with an electrical engineer from Srinagar has designed an automatic fumigation tunnel that works on sensors. A first in South Kashmir, the tunnel was installed at Sub-district hospital Pampore.
“The basic principle behind our fumigation tunnel was to make it automatic thus saving the time, energy and resources,” said Saqib, a 2019 batch KAS officer attached with additional deputy commissioner, in Awantipora. A BSc forestry from SKUAST-K with a gold medal, Saqib has done his post-graduation from University of Huddersfield, England.
It was one of the warm, mild mornings of April 2020, and Saqib woke up with the news of more Coronavirus positive cases being spotted in Kashmir. With the disappointment, Saqib rushed to his office and late in the afternoon, he called one of his friends Mohsin to discuss the idea of automatic fumigation. Mohsin is an Electronic Engineer from Srinagar. An NIT Srinagar graduate; Mohsin, 28, has previously worked in a major Multinational Semiconductor Company, Finisar Corporation, Malaysia for three years as Product Design manager.
Same day, Saqib approached the district administration at Pulwama where the Deputy Commissioner Pulwama Raghav Langer and Additional Deputy Commissioner Awantipora, Zaffar Shawl, encouraged the duo in implementing the plan of making an automatic fumigation tunnel.
Next day, amid lockdown, the duo managed to reach Srinagar and locate an electronic component supplier in downtown. “We drove to his doorstep and picked him up so that he could open his shop in Maisuma, and collected requisite material for the pilot run,” Saqib said adding that managing such material from Srinagar was not an easy task. As soon as they sourced material, Mohsin completed the design and fabrication of prototype within the same night and by next morning they were ready to deploy.
“We knew that it won’t take much time in making the model but collecting the basic material took time,” Saqib said.
Saqib said that the module they produced is an automatic version based on motion detector process where a fumigation process gets started automatically when a person gets in 3ft vicinity of the tunnel and shuts down once a person comes out of it. “This not only ensures saving of electric and fuel energy but also water,” Saqib said hoping that the initiative would be taken by the other hospitals as well. “This automatic version is eco friendly and cost-effective as well.”
Pertinently, the motion detector fumigation tunnel Saqib produced is first of its kind in Jammu and Kashmir and has been highly appreciated by the officials and public. The tunnel is currently installed at Sub-district hospital Pampore.
When asked about the feedback from the district administration and SDH Pampore in particular, Saqib said that feedback from the field was very encouraging. Normally without the automation, 800 litres of disinfectant material used to be consumed per day. “The system was inefficient because the resources were being wasted for the time there was no thoroughfare through the tunnel,” he said.
But now with the automation in place, there are around 150 liters being consumed. “Because it fumigates once the person gets in,” he said admitting that there is a reduction of more than 75% in both energy consumed and material required.
Saqib believes that tunnels installed throughout the valley are being operated manually with electric motor forcing the operators to keep the machine on throughout the working hours, thus causing the usage of electricity, petrol to a greater extent. He said fumigation tunnels have been installed in every district of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Other Side
However, the installation of the sanitizing tunnels has also emerged as new controversy after World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend that use of sodium hypochlorite – a key ingredient mixed into the water for fuming, is harmful to eyes and skin.
Earlier, WHO in its advisory on use of disinfectant sprays, cautioned that “spraying alcohol or chlorine all over the body will not kill viruses that have already entered the body.” In fact, spraying them will be harmful to the mucous membranes in eyes and mouth, though some of them could be used to disinfect surfaces.
It was actually China that began using such methods in February when a disinfectant tunnel was installed in the city of Chongqing.