Running on biogas in Bangladesh

Biogas provides a cost effective and low-pollution alternative to cooking with wood in Bangladeshi villages
<p>Using biogas leads to smokeless kitchens, a huge boost to women&#8217;s health who normally have to use traditional wood burning stoves like this one [image by: Abu Siddique]</p>

Using biogas leads to smokeless kitchens, a huge boost to women’s health who normally have to use traditional wood burning stoves like this one [image by: Abu Siddique]

Cooking with wood burners is common in Bangladesh’s rural villages, but the norm has been changing gradually over the last few years. Many women have been moving to biogas stoves, which allow for smokeless cooking and produce a useful by-product: bio-slurry, which can be used in agriculture and pisciculture. Some households also dry out the bio-slurry to sell as raw materials to others who are still using traditional burners.

Ashulia, only 50 kilometres from Dhaka is one such rural village in this energy-thirsty country where such transitions are being made. Out of around 50 households in the village, 35 have already converted to biogas burners, using waste from their cows and poultry.

Beauty Akhter was one of the first to make the change. She stopped using a traditional burner for daily cooking five years ago, and installed a 3.2 cubic feet capacity biogas chamber. She uses raw materials from her three cows.

Farmers with cattle find it easy to source raw material for the stoves [image by: Abu Siddique]
“Initially, I had to spend BDT 28,770 (USD 350) to set up the entire system – from the biogas chamber to the cooking stove. From there, I get adequate fuel to cook food for my five family members three times a day,” she told Akhter has also been selling dried biomass to her neighbours for BDT 150-200 (USD 1.80 – 2.40) a week.

Shahnaz Parvin, who has been using the biogas burner for last two years, uses the bio-slurry by-product as fish food in her family’s fishing pond.

“Since setting up the biogas plant in my home, I have been using the slurry as fish-feed by connecting a direct pipeline to the pond, from where my family earns around BDT 100,000 (USD 1,213) annually,” she said.

Dried biomass, a byproduct of the process, is then sold to others for use [image by: Abu Siddique]
Some 71,396 biogas plants are currently run in Bangladeshi villages, which offsets around 8.52 tonnes of carbon-dioxide annually, according to the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA)

With the aim of using biogas properly and reducing energy loss, Bangladesh opened the first biogas-based cooking plant in 1975, but the project only geared up in late 1990s.

The Bangladesh government is providing subsidies to set up 44,000 biogas plants through the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), which provides clean energy to around 200,000 people.

More interested groups

Many others, who are not yet using biogas burners, are planning to set up the green technology.

“My family is planning to set up a plant, because we feel that using the conventional burner is hectic and time consuming – a person needs to stand by the burner to control the biomass load,” says Laila Begum. “But in the case of the biogas burner, no one needs to be there while cooking as it’s nearly the same to the gas or electric burner.” The only problem is the space it requires, she added.

The area needed to create a biogas chamber and slurry runoff is not small [image by: Abu Siddique]
Grameen Shakti, one of the leading NGOs in Bangladesh, has been setting up the biogas plants in the village, under its Eco Village Development Project.

“Despite the interest, many of the households are unable to install the plant for their own household because of either inadequate space or the absence of poultry or a cattle farm,” Mohammad Mahmodul Hasan, manager of Grameen Shakti told

Plans ahead

Bangladesh plans to increase the stake of renewable energy production by 10% by 2030, and has prepared a year-based plan to achieve this goal. Wind resource mapping is happening in 13 places and several wind power projects are expected to start by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, SREDA has started piloting work in several areas, including solar irrigation projects, solar rooftop systems and surveys on biogas and biomass fuels.

Siddique Jobaer, a member of SREDA, told, “We have plan to continue the subsidy for setting-up biogas plants for more year as we want to increase the use of sustainable energy in rural Bangladesh.”

Abu Siddique is a Dhaka based journalist

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