Saturday, March 14, 2015

One solution to many problems

Bheemanna Patil of Marakhal village next to his gobar gas plant.

Bheemanna Patil of Markhal village has found a single solution to many problems. He has installed a gobar gas plant in his backyard that is connected to the toilet in front of his house.

“The toilet waste is taken care of, and my compost pit fills automatically. Our spending on fertilizers has reduced as we use the compost,” Bheemanna said. His younger brother is constructing a toilet so that it can be connected to the gobar gas plant.

The 12 square metre underground structure is built between the toilet and the compost pit. It has two inlet pipes, one to receive animal dung mixed with water and another is connected to septic tank. Methane gas released when the matter decomposes and is carried by a pipe to a stove inside the kitchen.

“We were not averse to having a human excreta-based gas plant. We had no idea about such units,” says Jnanadevi, Bheemanna’s wife. Her neighbours kept advising her that such a plant would give out a foul smell.

“But that was not true. We are happy now. I don’t have to haggle about firewood. All my routine cooking happens on the gobar gas stove. Only on festivals or special events when a large number of family members arrive, we have to set up a fire wood stove in the backyard,” she said. Similar is the experience of the Hiremaths from across the street. Ashamma, the family patriarch, is glad that she does not have to depend on “costly gas cylinders from Bidar.” She has already spoken to her friends in the weekly self help group meeting about the benefits of the gas plant.

These are some of the beneficiaries of the biofuel promotion initiative of the government, implemented through SKG Sangha, an NGO working in the field of renewable energy and hygiene. The NGO has built around 2,000 gas plants in the district. “Of these, around ten percent are connected to toilets,” says D. Vidyasagar, president of the Sangha. They have a target of building 6,000 plants Farm families are slowly adapting to the use of gobar gas plants connected to toilets. But the conversion rate is low, Mr. Vidyasagar said.

The NGO that works in 12 countries in Asia and Africa subsidises these bio-digesters. Each unit costs around Rs. 26,000 and beneficiaries need to pay only 20 per cent of the cost, in terms of labour and rough sand.“We will promote such units,” says Neelamma Wadde, Zilla Panchayat president. “We have a mandate to reduce the use of firewood in villages on the fringes of the forest. We request the Forest Department to promote the use of gobar gasThe ZP will organise a programme to create awareness about gas plants connected to toilets,” she said.

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