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Reflecting on the Prospect of Biogas Plant in Nepal

Shaky fossil fuel price have at times posed threat to the core of every country’s economy. The recent nosedive of the oil price, for instance, has left the oil-based nations grappling with the fear of irrecoverable economic damage. While affluent overseas have been scrambling to offset the vicissitudes produced largely by the wobbly oil prices through the development of more sustainable energy source, progress has been at a snail’s pace. Developing countries, on the other hand, are holding firm to non-renewable source of energy, natural gas and oil, to meet the energy need and are in no situation to let go of these resources just for the sake of “climate change hoax”: skeptic’s word to smear the scientific evidence of global temperature rise caused partly by human-induced greenhouse gases.

In this scenario, the need of the hour is to pursue renewable sources of energy that could supplant the fossil fuel requirement as well as firewood demand. As the financially well-off countries are advancing toward producing alternative energy through redoubtable nuclear-plants and solar technologies, one of the alternatives to forest trees and natural gases such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), for the countries at bay, is biogas plant. Biogas refers to methane that is produced by the decomposition of agricultural waste and manure in a biogas plant which can be utilized as a source of energy. And it is as effective in countering the need of non-renewable sources as are any other technologies. There are justifiable evidences to vindicate the potential of biogas plant to reduce the consumption of non-renewable resources that contribute to greenhouse gases.

Over the past years, the biogas boom in Nepal has substantially reduced the demand of firewood as well as natural gas-imported entirely from India. The recent report by Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) suggests that the number of biogas plants in Nepal by 2014 was more than 320,000. And around six per cent of the country´s total clean energy is contributed by biogas. And there is this proven fact, according to a study by Biogas Sector Programme (BSP), that one biogas plant saves 1.25 trees a year.

This notion implies that Nepal is currently saving more than 400,000 trees every year. Similarly, a separate study by BSN suggests that the need of 800,000 litres of kerosene every year is compensated by biogas plant. Besides eschewing the emission of tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, biogas plant installation helps save a part of income otherwise spent on hefty fossil fuels.

Despite such positive side, the spurring biogas industry has suffered a severe blow in recent years largely due to lag in government’s incentives to lure urbanites to pursue it as the energy source. In the face of rapid transformation of suburbs into urban cities and the influx of rural population into urban community, the forests have been wiped out to exact the area required for the growing population and has left the installed plants in the rural areas in abject state. The trend of fossil fuel use among the rural poor is rising due to ever decreasing forest as well as subsidiary cut from government to install the biogas plants.

While the lofty ideals to deploy nuclear plants and carpet solar technologies across the country might someday serve the developed countries, the chances of it catering to the energy demand of least developed countries (LDCs) is fairly poor. Moreover, rather than expecting radical untested methods to stoke energy revolution-as envisioned by Bill gates with his “energy miracle” proposal-countries are better off embracing and reinforcing the renewable energy source that already proves to be realistic to rein in the prolific need of fossil fuels.

In order for countries like ours to tackle manifolds of burgeoning problems unleashed in the wake of fossil fuel use, investment in biogas plants can serve the purpose.  The donor organizations and the government should, therefore, focus on funding projects that seek to revamp the biogas plants in the rural community as well as introduce the technology among the urban dwellers in large scale.


Photo: A woman flushing cow dung into biogas plant . Courtesy