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Biogas technology beginning to make its mark

Nepal's biogas users play a key role in reducing carbon emissions.
(Naresh Newar/IRIN)

Over six million tonnes of carbon emissions could be avoided in the next five years by Nepal through large-scale use of biogas, according to climate change experts.

Biogas is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by fermenting organic matter like animal or human waste, biodegradable waste and municipal solid waste.

In Nepal, biogas systems are circular pits filled with cow dung. Constructed near to people's homes, the gas they produce is piped to where the cooking is done.

Nearly 85 percent of Nepal's 27 million people live in rural areas and around 95 percent of the rural population burn traditional fuels such as wood and agro-waste.

Biogas systems were first introduced in Nepal in the late 1950s and thousands of families now use them.

The carbon emissions thus saved in Nepal may be small in comparison to global emissions, but this is an example of how poor countries like Nepal can help combat global warming.

"Nepal's biogas use has received recognition on a global scale and hopefully the country's contribution will be given more prominence," said Sandeep Chamling Rai, climate change adviser to the Nepal chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Rai explained that every biogas system in Nepal avoids nearly 7.5 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. Poor Nepalese farmers and low-income rural families use the systems most.

Biogas partnership

Over 173,000 Nepali households now have biogas systems thanks to the Biogas Sector Partnership (BSP), the government's Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) and financial and technical assistance from the Dutch aid agency SNV.

Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Nearly 95 percent of rural Nepalese still use fuelwood in their homes

These agencies pay over half of the US$500 cost of building a biogas system and buying a gas cooker. Today, Nepal has the world's highest number of biogas systems per capita, outnumbering China and India, according to BSP.

Biogas has turned into an indispensable part of Nepal's efforts to mitigate global warming, according to WWF-Nepal.

"Biogas has already replaced the use of wood in tens of thousands of households and we can easily see how much it has helped reduce carbon emissions," said Saroj Rai, executive director of BSP.

Carbon trading benefits

In January 2007 Nepal started trading carbon emissions with the World Bank at the rate of US$7 per tonne, and recently the AEPC signed a deal with the Bank to sell carbon emissions at $10.25 per tonne, according to WWF-Nepal.

Nepal is already earning over $600,000 per year through its voluntary emissions reduction (VER), which unlike the Compulsory Emission Reduction (CER) of the Kyoto Protocol is not bound by any UN convention, according to the BSP.

"The government has already done its job of preparing a project design document and by 2012, Nepal will have traded a huge amount of carbon," said Batu Krishna Upreti, under-secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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