Biogas Plants Improve Life in Rural Areas
Biogas plants can effectively bring power to rural and isolated areas, as has been demonstratred by the Indian Biogas Development Programme. Biogas plants turn dung and organic waste into a clean, non-polluting, low cost fuel. Since the government began promoting and aiding the installation of biogas plants, living standards for rural people have improved. Drudgery of women and pressure on forests have decreased considerably, sanitation has improved, and more than 30 million man-days of employment have been created. Biogas is now one the main sources of fuel in rural areas of India and may be relevant for all developing countries with large rural populations.
The Indian government has, in the past few decades, made considerable efforts to bring power to rural and isolated areas where connection to the grid would be too expensive and difficult. To promote decentralised solutions, the Indian government created the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), which develops, assists with, and promotes the use of alternate sources of energy. One of the main projects of the Ministry is the biogas programme. Biogas is a clean, non-polluting, low-cost fuel, which can be produced from cattle dung, human waste and other organic matter.
The MNES national biogas programme coordinates several projects, including the promotion of small family-type biogas plants. The fuel produced by these plants is used mainly for cooking purposes, but also provides rural households with organic manure. Biogas plants also often improve sanitation by being linked to toilets. The MNES also promotes Larger plants catering to the needs of village communities and institutions.
The Biogas Development Programme began in India in 1981-82 and is being implemented through state level departments and agencies in cooperation with the 'Khadi and Village Industries Commission' and several Non-Governmental Organisations. Creating awareness and providing training for the construction and maintenance of biogas plants is an important element of these programmes. The MNES also provides financial incentives such as central subsidies to users, support for training and public information, and job fees to entrepreneurs.
Research and development is central to the success of the programme, which supports large research programmes focusing on areas such as increasing biogas yield. Biogas Development and Training Centres have also been established at various locations around the country, and these are involved not only in research and training, but also in monitoring the quality of existing biogas plants.
The 2001 Indian census indicated that a total of 840,000 households use biogas as their main fuel for cooking purposes. The national biogas programme has taken a step towards improving living standards for rural people in India. It also provides employment opportunities to many rural people. It is estimated that the construction of one million biogas plants generates around 30 million man-days of employment for skilled & unskilled workers.