Reduce Emissions, Save Forests with Biogas

 

 

Summary: 

 

Promote the development of simple yet effective indigenous technologies to cut down on carbon emissions. Legislators can take a page from Nepal, where biogas technology allows poor, rural farmers to harness methane gas for cooking from organic waste. Replacing firewood and animal dung with biogas has myriad benefits: it curbs deforestation, saves time gathering fuel, cuts down on indoor air pollution, and produces fertilizer byproduct.

 

 

The idea:

 

Challenge. About 85 percent of Nepal's 25 million live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. With a $236 per-capita income, Nepal is also one of the world?s poorest countries. Only 10 percent of households are connected to the power grid. Most cooking is done using firewood and animal dung. The dependence on firewood has contributed greatly to deforestation.

Solution. The government has been providing support for a biogas program since 1992 with bilateral assistance from Germany and the Netherlands. The project disseminates and installs high-quality biogas plants at a reasonable price, bringing fuel for cooking and lighting directly into each rural household.

Policies and actions. A Nepalese scientist developed the biogas technology, which uses anaerobic fermentation to decompose organic waste into 60-70 percent methane gas. Biogas can replace both firewood and kerosene for cooking. A biogas plant for a family of six in Nepal requires the output of at least three head of cattle.

To promote the technology the government organized the private Gobar Gas Company in 1977 with three principle shareholders. But by 1990, only 6,000 units had been installed, realizing only 0.4 percent of the technology's potential. Planners estimate biogas plants are feasible for at least 1.5 million households in Nepal. In 1992, the Biogas Support Program was launched to develop quality control and standards, establish a base of trained technicians, make the plants more attractive for smaller farmers, and use the private sector more to distribute. The program is operated under the aegis of the government's Alternative Energy Promotion Center through the Ministry of Science and Technology. BSP-Nepal, a local NGO, is operating it.

World Bank financing will install another 60,000 plants over 21 years, generating a total of 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent during the first 7 years. The Bank's Community Development Carbon Fund expects to purchase a minimum of 1.43 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for a 10-year crediting period.

Where and when: Nepal, 1992-present

Initiated by: Various

Effectiveness: The project so far has installed about 100,000 reactors in Nepal, each one saving an estimated 250 kg of firewood and 32 liters of kerosene every year. Using biogas also significantly reduces indoor air pollution, produces quality fertilizer as a byproduct, and saves time dedicated before to gathering firewood.

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