Biogas hailed as a ‘miracle’ in village life
THATTA, Dec 30: “At the first sight, I could not believe it. It was a like a miracle — the buffalo dung had helped produce a gas flame,” said Qadir Bakhsh smilingly as he recalled how he first reacted when the first biogas unit was successfully launched in his village six months back.
The rural settlement called Ramzan Hajib is part of Chatto Jin union council of Thatta district where a non-governmental organisation has set up 150 biogas plants under a project funded by the United Nations Development Program and the Japanese government for the rehabilitation of the people affected by 2010 floods.
“We could have never imagined that dung could be of so much benefit. The biogas has made our lives a lot convenient,” he added.
Although the cost-efficient technology has affected people in many positive ways, its impact on women’s lives is remarkable.
“We used to burn wood for cooking that was not only costly and time-consuming, but also harming our health as wood produced a lot of smoke in burning, besides blackening our utensils,” Naseema told Dawn.
Earlier the villagers were spending between Rs5,000 and Rs6,000 on buying and transporting wood every month to their homes.
This money is now being saved by the villagers while they are also experiencing improvement in crop productivity with the use of slurry, a by-product of biogas. “The slurry has replaced urea to a great extent as it is comparatively much cheaper and a lot more beneficial in terms of crop productivity. It has not only helped improve the quality of crop, but also reduced its harvesting period,” said Munawar Ali of the same village.
The villagers lost all their crops in the 2010 floods, but fortunately enough their houses did not face much damage as they were made on a higher ground.
However, this was not the case in Allah Dino Khaskheli village located in the same union council of Thatta district. The entire hamlet was flooded and people had to take refuge in relief camps from where they returned after about three to four months.
A total of 27 biogas units had been installed in the village.
“Earlier, we used at least three to four bags of urea for one acre of crop that could either be banana, wheat or sorghum. The price of urea has increased but a few months ago it cost Rs1,700 a bag. So you can well imagine how much we are benefiting even from the by-product of biogas,” said Wahid Dino, adding that banana plants grown with the help of slurry had matured 10 to 15 days earlier as compared to those given urea.
“Even their leaves are bigger and greener,” said Uma Baksh, another villager.
Sharing the country-wide experience of the NGO in setting up biogas plants, Dr Ijaz Ahmed representing the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) said that the organisation had achieved the target of setting up 2,000 biogas units in 13 districts of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“The purpose was to help improve lives shattered by the floods in a way that is not only sustainable but also eco-friendly. We have provided one biogas unit to one household as our experience has shown that the involvement of multiple families could create conflict and result in project’s failure.”
The biogas unit could be run by a family even if it has only one buffalo. One unit of an average size of six to 15 cubic metres costs from Rs70,000 to Rs80,000, according to Dr Ahmed.
Quoting the experience of a farmer in Punjab, he said he was using one bag of dried slurry where he was earlier using nine bags of urea. “We have not determined scientifically the reasons behind the slurry’s awesome advantages, but what one could say is that it is perhaps because of the decomposition of the organic matter in isolation.”
“Local people have been involved in its construction so that they could handle any problem in repair later. We visit them once in two months and are open to offer any technical expertise if more people are interested in setting up these units,” he added.
“It is a long-term investment as a biogas unit, a Chinese-make, had a life of 25 to 30 years. A few people in villages in Punjab were running generators on biogas after making changes in its design on a self-help basis,” Dr Ahmed concluded.