India Nitin Gadkari urine
India is currently the world's second-biggest consumer of urea Reuters file photo

The Indian government is looking at plans to set up urine banks, similar to blood banks or sperm banks, in rural areas to reduce the country's urea imports, reveals a top government minister. Although the proposal is still in nascent stage, he hopes each farmer may be paid roughly Rs. 1 (one penny) per litre.

Nitin Gadkari, the federal minister of road transport and highways, shipping and water resources, has revealed the government is working with scientists from Sweden to check the feasibility of the project and how it can be implemented. Gadkari, who is also in charge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet project on river development and Ganga rejuvenation, said he hopes to build a urine bank in every Taluk, an administrative division similar to sub-districts, of rural India.

"Human urine contains a lot of nitrogen. But this is completely wasted," Gadkari, who was former president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told the Times of India on Monday, 13 November. "Since converting waste into wealth is my passion, I feel there is no harm in trying the idea. We already have organic substitutes for phosphorous and potassium. With these if we could add nitrogen, it could make an ideal plant booster."

Once the plans are introduced, the government hopes to dole out 10-litre-capacity cans to farmers, who can then turn in the human waste to the banks and monetise them.

"The cans will have to be provided by the government and the farmer would get Rs1 per litre. The trial can be done in rural areas because here the urine doesn't get diluted with water in the toilet. The urine will then be distilled to make it more pure so that it can act as a soluble organic fertiliser," added the minister, who a powerful political figure and is closely associated with multiple large-scale infrastructure projects previously. Gadkari admitted he is not entirely sure how the project would be operational economically and cautioned it is still in the ideation phase.

Also, Gadkari is not entirely new to commenting on human urine and talking about the idea of recycling the liquid waste. In 2015, the minister disclosed that he was watered the plants in his garden with his own urine.

India is currently the world's second-biggest consumer of urea, with about 32 million tonnes of the fertilizer being used in the financial year ending in March 2016. About a quarter of this was imported.