For farmers who are faced with dwindling firewood, monthly electricity bills and difficulties in getting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)for cooking , the solution may just be around now. What’s more? Our farmers may even be able to contribute to a global environmental cause by not releasing even the negligible amount of harmful gas like methane into the atmosphere by using it for cooking and other purposes. With bio-gas programme just been launched in the eastern Bhutan, it is expected to have multiple benefits in the long run, at individual, national and ultimately at global level.
Covered from head to toe in cement powder and dusts are the livestock officials of Pemagatshel dzongkhag working shoulder to shoulder with village masons in constructing the first five pilot bio-gas plants in the dzongkhag. These officials are getting on the job training along with masons from the gewogs. The officials will be supervising constructions of bio-gas plants in the dzongkhag in future which are to be carried out by those masons who will be certified after the trainings.
“Of the 16 livestock officials in the dzongkhag, 11 of us are attending this training programme along with 16 other masons from various gewogs. This is an indicative of a preparation for the next big programme in the dzongkhag which we are expected to look after,” said Tashi Dubjur, an official in the middle of preparing concrete mix.
He said that, he and his friends have been attending theory classes and applying them in the field for the last several days. The training and the construction of five pilot bio-gas plants are taken up in Bartseri village where a thriving dairy group exists.
According to him there are three different sizes of Bio-gas plants depending upon the number of cattle and family size. A slurry tank with a capacity of four cubic metres (cum) can produce gas enough to burn a single stove for four hours in a day. For this, total of 20 to 40 kilogrammes (kg) of dung is required and this requirement is produced by two adult cows. “This size of bio-gas plant is ideal for a typical farmer in Pemagatshel,” he said.
To construct a bio-gas plant with the capacity of four cubic metres of slurry, the cost is expected to hover around Nu 30,000. Farmers are eligible for a credit facility of Nu 20,000 during the construction and a subsidy of Nu 11,700 after the installation of plant from Bhutan Development Bank (BDBL).
Prakash Ghimere, SNV’s international and chief technical advisor of bio-gas programme is conducting the training in Pemagatshel. He said that, the project in the east is in its second phase with first phase already having covered five dzongkhags in the south since 2011.
“We will be covering eight dzongkhags in the current phase. In addition to six eastern dzongkhags, two dzongkhags from the west will be covered in the current phase. With this we will b covering 13 dzongkhags. We have already installed about 1000 bio-gas plant already and intend to construct as many in the current phase,” he said.
A similar training had already been conducted in Samdrup Jongkhar recently and two more trainings are slated in the coming days. One in Trashigang will include participants from Trashiyangtsi and another in Mongar will include people from Lhuentse.
Explaining the cost effectiveness of the bio-gas plant, the expert said that for a family which uses about 20 kilogrammes of LPG in a month, the investment cost of installing bio-gas plant can be recovered in two-year time. “Bio-gas plants can easily be used for at least over 20 years. In many instances such plants continue to provide service beyond 30 years,” he said.
Some estimates indicate that an average family consumes about four cylinders of LPG in a year. Even by this estimate, the cost of investments can be returned in about six to seven years. And given its reported lifespan, bio-gas can be a better alternative fuel.
The consultant also reiterated Bhutan’s stance on environment and the role bio-gas programme can further that by reducing dependency on firewood and fossil fuel. What is even more important is that we will be reducing the emission of methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is several times more harmful than carbon dioxide and dairy animals produce them. “And when dependency on electricity for cooking is reduced, it can bring in additional revenue in foreign currency.”
He also said that, bio-slurry from the plant are far superior to ordinary compost in enhancing crop production. This is because micro-organisms in the slurry break down organic matter making nutrients readily available for plants.
Bio-gas programme in Bhutan is the result of collaboration among various stake holders. ADB is providing financial support and credits while SNV is providing technical assistance. BDBL channels fund in the form of credits and subsidies while department of renewal energy is the executive agency. And department of livestock plays the all important role of implementation.
“I am excited to have this bio-gas plant installed and commissioned to see the result myself before making the investments,” said Tshering, a farmer.