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Sustainable Management of Animal Waste in a Rural Setting in India

Ghatoura, Rajbir
Fattah, Kazi Parvez
For centuries rural people in India have used animal waste as a source of biogas to be used for cooking purposes. The animal waste is usually shaped into cakes and dried in the open before use. However, this practice has both aesthetic and environmental issues. The open handling and drying of the cakes do not present an aesthetic view of the otherwise green land. Children are often exposed to these wastes that can expose them to diseases. In the rainy season, the water washes away the animal waste and guides it to the river or other water bodies and contaminates the water. This water is often the primary source of potable water. Even the energy obtained from the cakes is not sufficient enough for one family's cooking needs. This leads to additional requirement of expensive gas cylinders. However, families under the poverty line cannot afford gas cylinders and often fall short of gas. This study looks into the suitability, in terms of environmental, social and economic point of view, of a twelve-year old biogas plant in Akhbarpur, a village of Punjab, India, which has continuously provided cooking gas to a family of thirteen members. In addition to studying the technical requirements and present conditions, the owners of the biogas plant were interviewed to determine the effectiveness of the process from a social point of view. A cost analysis of the project determined a payback period of less than three years. This low-tech technology was found to be effective in providing sustainable source of energy in a small community. It was found that the main factor hindering the growth of such a project in a village community was mainly the lack of knowledge and personnel to handle the collection of animal waste and operation of the process. Lack of incentives from the government in the form of environmental credits was also determined to reduce the acceptability of the project.