The Terai Arc Landscape Project (TAL) - Biogas

 / ©: Simon de Trey White / WWF - UK
More than 80 percent households in the Biogas Village of Badreni, Chitwan have installed biogas plants.
© Simon de Trey White / WWF - UK

Combining health with conservation

Biogas (which is actually methane) - is also known as natural gas that can be used for cooking in a gas stove. Access to biogas saves huge amounts of firewood. Research has shown that an average-sized biogas plant can save 4.5 metric tonnes of firewood annually.
As the need for firewood is a major cause of deforestation in Nepal, biogas helps conserve forest cover directly. Moreover, collecting firewood is one of the most toilsome tasks for rural women, often taking several hours per day. Replacing wood with biogas has enabled many women to learn how to read and write, as they have finally got enough spare time to attend literacy classes.


Eliminating a major health hazard

There are also health aspects involved. Cooking with firewood causes chronic respiratory diseases, as there are no chimneys in traditional rural houses in Nepal. Installing a biogas system in the house often improves the health of the family, especially that of women and children, who spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Another health benefit is the improved hygiene thanks to toilets that are usually linked to a biogas system.

Biogas is produced from cattle manure and toilet waste. Each household can produce their own biogas by installing a biogas plant. The technology is simple: the manure and toilet waste are mixed with water and dumped in an airtight underground pit of about 6 cubic metres.

In these anaerobic conditions, methane starts forming, and it is led via a narrow pipe into the gas stove in the kitchen. A valve is turned on whenever the gas is needed for cooking. The gas in itself is pure methane, clean and odourless. It burns more effectively than wood, increasing the efficiency of cooking.

Sima Devi Chaudhary with her child, and the new biogas stove. / ©: WWF-Canon / Helena Telkanranta
Sima Devi Chaudhary with her child, and the new biogas stove.
© WWF-Canon / Helena Telkanranta
Saving time and improving sanitation
Ram Singh Daguru, 22 years, and Sima Devi Chaudhary, 20 years, installed a biogas system in their house just a month ago. They had previously seen biogas being used in other people's houses, and they wanted to have the same benefits at home, too: to save firewood and to install a toilet at the same time, to have a cleaner environment and better sanitation.

"It saves a lot of time when cooking", Chaudhary tells happily. "It gives me more time to sell my field products, to get extra income for the family."

"Since the dishes do not get stained with soot any more, as they did while using firewood - they are easier to clean, thus saving us time there too", Daguru notes.

The TAL program encourages installation of biogas systems by giving information and advice and financing a part of the costs especially for the construction of a toilet and linking it to the biogas plant. The total cost for an average sized biogas plant of 6 cubic meter is Nepali rupees 20,000 (USD 280), of which TAL financed Nepali rupees 5,800 (USD 82). The  government subsidizes a part (USD 80) and the remaining part needs to be contributed by the individual household who is installing the biogas plant.