By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
Zainab bought a biogas unit, worth about $ 400, but paid 50 percent less, which is the price subsidized by the Non-Governmental Organization Network, of the Rural Support Program under the Pakistan Domestic Biogas Program ( PDBP, in English).
In this town of Faisalabad, in the province of Punjab and 360 kilometers from Islamabad, Zainab had to go to look for wood in a distant forest three times a week and transport it to his house in the head.
"Abandoning that routine is a transformative experience," he said.
The four cubic meter biogas plant needs manure from three buffalo every day to meet the energy demand of a family of four, to cook, heat the environment, wash and bathe for 24 hours. In addition, it saves almost 160 kilograms of wood a day, or about $ 20 to $ 25 a month.
Zainab, married to a small vegetable producer, said that she has had a cough and irritated eyes for 20 years.
“We do not have access to piped natural gas in our village. The rising cost of liquefied petroleum gas was not feasible for any of us who are poor. So we have no choice but to continue burning buffalo dung or wood, "he said.
In January, rancher Amir Nawaz purchased an eight-cubic-meter biogas plant for about $ 700 under the PDBP, thanks to a nearly $ 300 subsidy.
"Now I save almost $ 60 a month, which I used to spend on liquefied gas," he told IPS. His plant works thanks to the manure of six buffaloes, which is enough to cover the needs of the kitchen and warm the home environment.
Nawaz also uses biogas to power lamps at night, saving another $ 15 a month.
“More than anything, that helps our children to do their homework and for me to finish the housework by late afternoon,” said Shaista Bano, Nawaz's wife, smiling.
Some 5,360 biogas plants of various sizes were installed in 12 districts of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Jushab, Jhang, Chniot, Toba Tek Singh, Shekhapura, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Pakpatan, Nankana Sahib and Okara, between 2009 and 2015, preventing almost 43,000 people from being exposed to toxic smoke from wood or kerosene.
A 25 cubic meter biogas plant provides energy for a family of 10, who can cook, heat the environment and run water pumps for six hours a day.
Rab Nawaz, who has three children, bought one of these plants for 1,700 dollars, thanks to the fact that the PBDP subsidized him 400 in the framework of promoting biogas in the area.
"I use the manure of 18 buffaloes to produce almost 40 cubic meters of gas a day and run the water pump, adapted from diesel to biogas, for six hours and turn on the kitchen three times a day," he said, while cleaning with a shovel his corral in the Sargodha district.
Nawaz pointed out that eliminating diesel, which is bad for the environment and health, as well as being expensive, saves between $ 10 and $ 12 a day.
As part of the sustainability of the biogas program, 50 plant construction companies were installed. International experts trained almost 450 people in construction, maintenance and repair of biogas units.
The PBDP, launched in 2009 by the National Rural Support Program, received contributions from the Dutch embassy in Pakistan and technical support from Winrock International and SNV, which brings together several Dutch non-governmental organizations.
“The biogas program seeks to create a commercially viable sector. The main players on the supplier side are the Biogas Construction Companies (BCE, in English), which in addition to this service offer the sale to households, ”the general director of the Rural Support Program Network explained to IPS. , Shandana Jan.
"On the demand side, the rural support programs nucleated in the network will be the main partners in implementation, but will also include dairy and farmers' organizations," he added.
"The 5,600 biogas plants save almost 13,000 tons of burned wood, about two million dollars, and 169,600 liters of kerosene for night lamps," he said.
“At a cost of about $ 3.3 million, the biogas plants helped reduce the three to four hours that women spent collecting firewood. Now they have more time to socialize, carry out economic activities, as well as the health of the families has improved. They also offer instant gas for cooking and washing dishes, ”he highlighted.
Most significantly, the program prevents nearly 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being released per year, he calculated.
At present, about 18 percent of homes in Pakistan, mostly in cities, have natural gas piped in. But more than 80 percent of the rural population depends on biomass, wood, manure, straw, etc., to cook, heat the environment and perform other household tasks, said the Pakistan Alternative Energy Development Board.
"It is unfeasible for the rural population to have natural gas piped in," said the president of the board, Jawaja Mohammad Asif. "But biogas offers a promising and viable solution to meet the energy demand of rural households, where 60 percent of the people live and 80 percent of the more than 180 million head of cattle," he said.
He also highlighted that 80 million cows and buffalo, some 100 million sheep and goats and 400 million birds can provide the raw material to produce substantial amounts of biogas.
"Thus, biogas can be used to obtain economic benefits, as well as having advantages for health and the environment," he highlighted.
In Pakistan, there are more than 160 million head of livestock, whether they are buffalo, cows, camels, donkeys, goats and sheep. The manure they produce can feed five million biogas plants of various sizes, according to specialists from the National University of Science and Technology, based in Islamabad, and the Faisalabad University of Agriculture.
It is an alternative that contributes to reducing the abysmal gap in gas supply. According to official data, 73 percent of the 200 million people, the majority in rural areas, do not have piped gas and depend on liquefied gas and wood cylinders.
Photo: Nabela Zainab prepares tea in a biogas kitchen at her home in Faisalabad district, Punjab province, Pakistan. This alternative made it possible to eliminate air pollution and improve their health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh / IPS.
Translated by Verónica Firme
Inter Press Service - IPS Venezuela