The Terai Arc Landscape Project (TAL) - Biogas
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.