By David Fulford, Ashden Assessor
The Biogas Sector Partnership (BSP) in Nepal won an Ashden Award in 2006 for its innovative biogas programme. BSP works in rural areas to build biogas plants that use cattle dung to generate biogas for domestic purposes, especially for cooking.
I visited Nepal earlier this summer and found that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is now involved in the programme by providing a extra subsidy for BSP to install latrines alongside the biogas plants it has installed.
WWF recognises the benefits of large numbers of local people using biogas plants not needing to use wood fuel for cooking, thus reducing the rate of deforestation in an area. Where people are living in an area where forests provide animal habitats, the value of those forests is regarded as very high. WWF figures show that installing 1000 biogas units saves about 33 ha of forest from clear felling.
The effect is relative, so the same number of plants saves about 330 ha from 10% degradation. Also the installation of 10,000 plants in an area saves 330 ha from clear felling. If that area happens to be in a tiger reserve, WWF can justify the provision of subsidies for the support for the installation work.
The provision of latrines alongside biogas plants means that the latrine waste is processed in the digester and turned into biogas and slurry that can be used as fertiliser for crops. While the compost is not completely free of pathogens, the number is reduced by at least 95% and there is much less risk of infection than from the raw sewage that people previously deposited on their fields.
An unexpected benefit to installing latrines has been a huge reduction in snake bites. Without a latrine, women go to the toilet at dawn and dusk and hide behind bushes. Snakes often hide in bushes, especially at dawn and dusk, so the danger of being bitten is high. If women are able to use a latrine, this danger is much reduced.