Friday, October 2, 2009

Biogas Fueling Nepal

This story illuminates both the reality and possibility of subsistence farmers. Biogas production is not high technology. It takes a cistern that can be made with a shovel and perhaps setting liner stones as is often done in a modern septic field. Capping this and drawing of the produced gas into a holding tank is simple and usage after that needs again fairly minimalist hardware that can be jury-rigged together.

The major requirement is to simply know that it can be done and that it will work. Recovery of the produced slurry later is unpleasant but no different than similar tasks attended to.

It is not a convenient way to produce enough gas for household heating, but certainly sufficient to support incidental heating for cooking and producing hot water in a healthy way.

All over Africa, people are walking to find firewood or buying charcoal. Switching to biogas producing cisterns that also collects human waste is a simple step forward in ones standard of living. Today that waste is simply left in the forest I am sure.

In fact for most of the third world collecting human waste is not done. This makes it happen while providing an essential source of energy displacing wood.

It certainly takes a program to make this happen, and it should be done easily and cheaply. Two billion people need to be doing this.

Biogas brings 'green revolution' to rural Nepal

by Staff Writers

Badrahani, Nepal (AFP) Sept 29, 2009

Nepalese villager Khinu Darai used to have to walk about five kilometres (three miles) every day to collect firewood so she could cook meals for her family.

Then two years ago, she bought a biogas plant under a government scheme to encourage villagers to convert to greener energy -- an event the 30-year-old mother of three says transformed her life.

"Biogas is a blessing for my family. These days I don't have to go into the jungle to collect wood," she told AFP outside her simple mud-brick home in the southern village of Badrahani.

"It is clean and safe, and we are healthier now as we are not breathing in smoke all the time."

In all, 82 households in Badrahani have bought biogas plants at heavily subsidised rates under the scheme, which is funded by the Dutch and German governments.

Biogas is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by feeding cow dung, human waste and water into an airtight underground tank known as digester and allowing it to decompose.

Environmentalists say biogas has huge potential in Nepal, where nearly 80 percent of the population of 27 million live in rural areas with no electricity, leaving them dependent on firewood for cooking and heating.

This means they live in smoke-filled houses, causing respiratory problems, particularly for young children, while the destruction of forests is also a major cause for concern.

Badrahani is situated on the edge of the Chitwan National Park, home to endangered species including the Royal Bengal tiger and one-horned rhino, whose habitat is threatened by villagers chopping down trees for firewood.

"Biogas has brought a green energy revolution to the country," said Prakash Lamichhane, head of research at the Biogas Sector Partnership (BSP), the government agency in charge of installing the plants.

"We have the capacity to build 1.9 million biogas plants, but we have achieved just 11 percent of our target so far. We still have a long way to go."

Over the past two decades, BSP has installed around 210,000 biogas plants at a cost of around 350 dollars each, with the government covering a third of the price.

BSP says each plant reduces the country's already low carbon emissions by around 4.7 tonnes a year.

"We are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 987,000 tonnes every year. It is helping us combat climate change," said Lamichhane, chief of the research department.

The biogas project has won plaudits as a rare environmental success in a country with one of the world's most polluted capital cities.

But BSP research and development officer Mahaboob Siddiki said it had not always proved easy to convert villagers.

"Because the gas is produced from cow dung and human waste, villagers thought it was impure, and that it would be shameful to cook food using it," said Siddiki, who has worked on the project since it began 26 years ago.

"Several times, we were chased away from some of the villages, but we never gave up," he said, calling the technology a "win-win situation" for villagers and the environment.

It is a view shared by Bibhimaya Tamang, a 45-year-old farmer from Badrahani who uses slurry -- a by-product of biogas -- to fertilize her crops, giving her higher yields and more income from the vegetables the family grows.

"Staying in a smoke-filled kitchen for hours was painful. It hurt my eyes and I used to cough a lot while cooking," she told AFP. "Using biogas has been so much better."

Sameer Thapa, coordinator of Nepal's Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), said the country made 600,000 dollars in 2007 by trading a million tonnes of carbon emission reductions from biogas plants.

"We have huge potential to benefit from carbon trading as we lessen the use of firewood, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," said Thapa.

"Around 80,000 biogas plants are in the process of getting approval for carbon trading by next year."

Thapa said the proceeds would be used to install more plants, enabling the government to increase its carbon trading capacity further.

"Many developing countries in Asia and Africa have used our expertise to promote biogas, and many others are asking for our help," said the BSP's Lamichhane.

"Nepal has always been known as the land of mountains. Now, developing countries are calling us the land of biogas."

I am adding this newsletter to show a bit of Nepalese lifeway.

Hamro Gaun, our village!

The building of our new children home is in every respect a beautiful project. A small, but self full filling village in the Kathmandu Valley. We are going to built in 3 or 4 different stages, because there is not enough money yet to built it at once. There are several smaller projects, with another subject than the care of our children. Beside the house has to give the children a comfortable living environment, we will also build it ecological friendly.

The house will be built in traditional Nepali look. So it won't be a concrete building, but an old fashioned Newari style house with big isolated walls. The house will be comfortable cool during the summer and in the winter it will be relatively warm. The first stage is made from concrete, with heavy foundation which will make the house strong, in case of an earthquake. One meter above the ground, the brick-work will be from clay. That is an old and proven technique, which is perfect when you use the good loam. The house is flexible, which is perfect for the expected earthquake. They expect a big earthquake in Nepal between now and fifty years. More than 50 % of the houses in the Kathmandu valley will not be flexible enough and will be collapse. Our new house is flexible enough, and will be all right. Another advantage, the price of concrete is expensive now, so we can reduce the costs in this way.

Hamro Niwas;

The first phaze is to construct the head- of main building for Hamro Niwas on the right part of the big field. On the ground level will be two sleeping rooms for the disabled children. On the first floor are two sleeping rooms for the small children. Beside the dining hall, computer classroom, library and an office there will be kitchens which use the sun to prepare food. This is done by the big Scheffler solar-cookers. But on a rainy day this will not working, but for that we also have a very good solution, see further down!

New Contact Centre;

On the small ground, left from the small river will be the Contact Centre. That is a school for the poor children from the neighbourhood who can get their first education for free. The children also get tea and dhal bath everyday while attention class. The building of this Contact Centre is possible thanks to the big devotion of Foundation Maha Mata from Rotterdam, Holland.

Second stage;

The second phase is to build near to the head-building, two small houses for the big children. One for the boys and one for the girls. In every house will sleep a care taker. In each house are four sleeping rooms, with two bunk beds, which make 16 children in one house. On top of each house there will be a solar heater with 300 lt. of water. The douches are with a water sparing shower. So there will be enough hot water on the roof and all the children can get a good hot shower. Our houses will be extremely basic, but with the things we think is needy.

There will also be a small technical building, where we put our installations, like water-pumps, water filters, current supplies and a fire pump etc. There will be a technical boy or girl from our job trainings project Jyoti in Pokhara, who will keep everything running.

Job training for young girls and women.

We planned a job training centre behind the Contact Centre. Especially for girls, disabled people but also for young women to learn a job. We have also planned a farm with cows, oxen, goats and chickens. These animals help us with the biogas production. There will also be a field with vegetables with lots of vitamins. In Nepal we call it “Kitchengardening”. And off course without chemical insecticide and pesticide. We also plan to cultivate flowers and beehives and lots of other things. The agricultural products like milk, eggs, potatoes, cauliflower etc. are for using at Hamro Niwas, but also for sale. So we create a money generation program. We can earn a part of the yearly exploitation costs back and we are not that much dependent from donations anymore.

A small water power station, hydropower!

The small river, which is in the middle of our field, gives us almost the whole year a certain amount of water. The river is hundred meters long and the difference between the highest and lowest part is more than five meter. With the water we can generate power with the hydro power generator. It looks like a big bicycle dynamo. Free power, from the water. Great, isn't it? And we also have energy saving lamps here in Nepal, so we don't need much extra energy.

The sunkitchen

There will be two big sun mirrors outside our kitchen, from 4 x 4 meter with a parabolic shape. This parabolic exists of a lot of small mirrors from 10 x 15 cm. All this mirrors together is one big reflector. All the sun they catch is one big sun beam on the kitchen wall and the cooking oven. The temperature in the focus is between the 600 and 1000 degrees Celsius. I think, they can make a big pan of rice with this. There are a few of this types built in Nepal yet. We buy a better version of this. These two sun cookers will be bought form the donations of our friend Malou van de Geest. She did a great action in her village Zoetermeer, the Netherlands.

Nice idea, but what if there is no sun?

No problem, look here….!!

Biogas installations have been based on methane gas that is released at the digestion of manure. In Nepal more than 30,000 farmers at their farm have biogas installations, in which the dung of cattle and the family members is mixed with water. With the methane gas that is released from that, the food is cooked. Shankar Charandy lives with his wife Baboe, their children, family members and staff on the farm, where especially rice is grown. Thanks to the biogas installations Ayah doesn't have to gather wood anymore to cook. That makes a difference of three hours per day and it helps to reduce the deforestation in Nepal. Biogas installations require fairly much manure. Collecting of it is time-consuming and sordid. The richer part of the population doesn't like to do this.

So beside our farm there will be a biogas installation. All the cow shit and the toilets end there. All this is mixed into to a fine pulp of shit. But also green garden detritus are possible in this well. The principle is fermentatation, and that makes gas. Methane gas, what otherwise disappear unused in the environment.

The sewer is drained un-purified on the Saint Rivers in Nepal. The rivers become black and stinky. Most of the villagers and highlanders have no toilet and do their needs in the forest or jungle, or when there is no forest anymore, they do their needs only 10 meters from their house, outside along the course path. You can smell this on a mile distance. And think of all the bacteria and sicknesses which result here. At our new child house we do that different. Our need goes directly from the French type of toilet, which is washed down with only two litres water, straight to the Biogas installation. There it is mixed with the cow shit from the farm and that produces ordinary pure gas, what we use on a rainy day to cook. Our kitchen is a little smelly as break wind, but that gets used! So we do cheap cooking with solar energy with biogas. The environment is the large winner, but it is also better for our wallet.

But what goes in must go out

Yes, this is correct. The Biogas well is filled, shit and dung changes to kind of “spinach soup” and loose its methane gas by too much pressure to the kitchen. On the other side of the well is a small hole, the spinach soup goes out here. From that moment we call it “Slurry”. It no longer smells like shit. With that it has been occurred that this gas charge the environment. This slurry now is an excellent fertiliser for the compost and possible bacteria have been killed in the fermentation process. This provides extra good and vitamin rich products on the field.

But we have more nice things to tell you. Behind our field is a river. We would like to make a small cage in this river and put some fishes in. Those fishes love the “spinach soup”. And then….after a while the children can eat the delicious fishes from there own river. What else do they want?

More water saving projects

The water from the shower is going to a small septic tank. The dirt will sink and the rest of the grey water is going through a Cane filter. This clean and filtered water is going back to the river. The dirt from the tank will be digested to fertiliser. So we even use the dirt.

The Cane filter, also called Helophytefilter

To be sparing with water is very important for the future generations. So the reuse of water is a priority for us. Certainly in Nepal, where a large part of the poor population has no pure drinking water at all. In a lot of mountain villages they have to walk more than two hours to a water source and that water has been frequently polluted. Stichting Veldwerk tries to do much as possible to keep the environment clean. So we also use the cane filter in our new children home Hamro Niwas, what is a new concept for Nepal!

Rain Harvesting.

We also save the raining water and use it when it is a drier period. We will build a big underground concrete tank, which we can close with a concrete top. We hope to save 100.000 litre of water in the rainy season. We can make a sport field on top of the tank. So we combine business with pleasure!

So, , this is it for now, our biological small village Hamro Gaun in Nepal. What do you think, nice, isn't it? Will be continued….

With Regards, Rene Veldt,

Stichting Veldwerk, actions speak louder than words.

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