December 5, 2011


[Having emerged as one of the pioneers in producing biogas from cow dung, the Himalayan nation of Nepal is now successfully transferring its technical expertise to other countries.]

By Navin Singh Khadka 
Tailoring projects to local circumstances is vital for success
Several Nepalese experts have been travelling to countries in South East Asia and Africa to introduce the "clean", homegrown technology that helps reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels and saves forests.

Biogas from cow dung is mainly used for cooking in rural areas and also for lighting houses.

Renowned for displacing choking smoky ovens with clean cooking stoves, the Nepalese model of biogas has won the prestigious Ashden award.

The Biogas Partnership Project Nepal, a collaboration between the government, donors and non-governmental organisations, has already installed plants for nearly 300,000 households across the country.

The project says it helps reduce 7.4 tonnes of greenhouse gases per household per year and protects 250,000 trees during the same period of time.

And the expertise gained over the years has benefited many communities in different developing and least developed countries including Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, among others in Asia and around 10 countries in Africa.

"Nepal was the pioneer in the development of this technology and now it has also been successful in sharing its technical expertise to many countries," says Rem Neefjes, the country director of SNV, the Netherlands government's development agency, a major donor in biogas projects in many countries.

Nepalese experts are helping communities 
install biogas plants
"The success in Vietnam in particular has been outstanding; more than 100,000 biogas plants have been installed there."

Installations are growing in Indonesia too and the technology there has even been named "the Nepal model".

"They call it so because they know that it has been tested and proven in Nepal all these years," says Sundar Bajgain, a Nepali biogas expert now based in Jakarta to help Indonesians with the technical expertise.

In several African countries, Nepalese experts are not only helping the communities install biogas plants but are also conducting training in schools.

Theoneste Kaneruka was a simple mason in the northern province of Rwanda until three years ago.

"Then I heard about the biogas business, and after sessions of trainings and certification with the National biogas program, the SNV Rwanda team and the expert from Nepal, Prakash Ghimire, I started my own company.

"We now build 20 to 25 biogas plants in a month."

The waste is broken down in an 
underground air-tight, "digester"
But transferring their expertise to foreign countries has not always been easy for Nepalese experts. 

"It becomes more challenging when you are working in a country that is quite familiar with Nepal and its socio-political situation," says Mr Bajgain.

"In Bangladesh, for instance, it was a bit difficult in the beginning because many in that country know about the unstable political situation in Nepal and the setbacks in development works.

"So naturally it was hard for them to readily trust our capability, but in due course of time we proved that we were worth it."

Wim J van Nes, renewable energy network leader of SNV, is well aware of the differing local circumstances.

"It is important to stress that every country has its own context and the success of the programme is dependent on different technical, financial, organisational, institutional, political and socio-cultural factors," he said.

"Despite this, the BSP [of Nepal] was regarded as an inspirational example and many stakeholders from other countries made a visit to Nepal not only to witness biogas households but also to learn from key stakeholders how the sector had been developed."

One of BSP Nepal's biogas experts, Indira Shakya, says: "On one occasion, we had just arrived in Ethiopia and locals there were already complaining that the biogas plant they had installed was not working.

"They were asking how come the technology worked in a 'cold' country like Nepal while it was not working in their country that was so warm.

"So we went to the site to investigate and found that they had been using dry cow dung that cannot produce the gas. When we successfully demonstrated the technology with fresh dung, their faces lit up."

The technology is quite simple and natural: bacteria that comes with the dung from a cow's stomach break down the waste in an underground air-tight digester.

In the absence of oxygen, the mixing of cow dung with water leads to a reaction that produces a gas comprising up to 70% methane with the remainder being carbon dioxide.

The digested slurry flows to an outlet tank and ends up in the compost pit, while the gas is tapped from the top of the dome with a pipe that ends in the burner of the kitchen stove.

Until the last decade, the technology was largely confined to the rural areas of Nepal. Now it has travelled with Nepalese experts far and wide.

BBC News Science/Environment

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Madhukar SJB Rana <>
Date: Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 12:57 AM
To: The Himalayan Voice <>

Due recognition should be given to Dr Amrit Bahadur Karki for this. He is truly the Gobargas Technology Guru of Nepal.   

Madhukar SJB Rana,
Kathmandu, Nepal.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Naveen Johri <>
Date: Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 11:33 PM
To: The Himalayan Voice <>

I read with interest about the Biogas movement in Nepal. I would like to know the  email-id / contact number of the persons involved with it for further information like the size of the  'disgestor' / how many animals are required and how many households can be serviced by it.  
Leads in this regards would be appreciated

N K Johri


[As ministers begin arriving at the UN climate talks in South Africa, new science is showing the challenges they face in trying to curb global warming.]

By Richard Black
Nepal-based ICIMOD calls for greater observations
of ice loss rates in the Himalayas
Using a new methodology, a Swiss team has calculated that about three-quarters of the warming seen since 1950 is down to human influences.

A second report says glacier loss in parts of the Himalayas is accelerating.

And an international research group has confirmed that emissions have soared despite the global financial crisis.

At the talks, the main task facing ministers and their negotiating teams is to find agreement on a 143-page draft text covering issues such as speeding up emission cuts, safeguarding forests and helping the poorest countries protect themselves against climate impacts.

One EU official suggested that the majority of governments favoured beginning discussions on a new legally-binding agreement as soon as possible.

But a number of important countries including China, India and the US are not persuaded.

Even if those discussions do begin soon, other nations such as Japan and Canada say their existing pledges on cutting emissions by 2020 will not be amended.

Observers point out that without tightening these pledges, global emissions will not peak before 2020 - the timeframe scientists think is necessary if the target of limiting the global temperature rise to 2C from pre-industrial times is to be met.


As delegates prepared to launch into the second week of talks, the journal Nature Geoscience published a new analysis of factors driving the Earth's warming since 1950.

Using information about the Earth's "energy balance" - the difference between the amount of energy it receives from the Sun and radiates back into space - researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich arrived at fresh estimates of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and other human-induced factors.

Environmental activists have been taking to the
streets in Durban to press delegates for action
Their main conclusion is that it is extremely likely that at least 74% of the observed warming since 1950 has been caused by man-made factors.

They also conclude that greenhouse warming has partially been offset by the cooling effect of aerosols - tiny particles of dust thrown into the atmosphere that can reflect solar radiation back into space.

"It's pretty convincing stuff," commented Piers Forster, professor of climate change at the UK's University of Leeds and a former lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's assessment of factors driving global warming.

"Observations and the physical law of energy conservation have been used to show greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming and that alternative scenarios violate this law of nature.

"Previous proofs have relied on complex climate models, but this proof doesn't need such models - just careful observations of the land, ocean and atmospheric gases."

Careful observation of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas region, an area where climate change could bring major impacts to people, have been relatively scanty, due to the difficulty of doing science in remote areas, compounded by political disagreements.

The Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod) has released a series of reports setting out what is known and what is not known about climate change in the region.

The number of glaciers identified has risen above 54,000, largely thanks to satellite observations.

But only 10 of these have been regularly and rigorously studied, it says.

In these 10, the rate of ice loss has roughly doubled since the 1980s.

But overall, the report's conclusion is that observations need to be stepped up to enable better projections of the future for the estimated 210 million people living in the region and the 1.3 billion living in river basins supplied by Himalayan meltwater.

"Up until now, there has been complete uncertainty on the numbers and area of glaciers and the present status of their environmental conditions in the region," said Basanta Shrestha from Icimod.

"This research gives us a baseline from which to measure the potential impact of climate change in the region, and to develop options for mitigating the impact of dynamic changes the region is expecting in the coming years."

'Triple whammy'

Meanwhile, Nature Climate Change journal has published a new assessment of how greenhouse gas emissions have changed in recent years.

Conducted by the Global Carbon Project, an international research collaboration, it confirms other analyses in showing that the financial crisis made but a small blip in the rising trend of emissions.

During 2010, emissions grew by 5.9%, they calculate - more than compensating for the fall of 1.4% seen in 2009, when the recession caused a dramatic downturn in developed countries (although not in the developing world's industrial giants such as China).

Even accounting for the 2009 drop, emissions have risen faster in the last decade than at any time in the last 50 years.

"Global CO2 emissions since 2000 are tracking the high end of the projections used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which far exceed two degrees warming by 2100," said co-author Prof Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor at the University of East Anglia.

"Yet governments have pledged to keep warming below two degrees to avoid the most dangerous aspects of climate change such as widespread water stress and sea level rise, and increases in extreme climatic events.

"Taking action to reverse current trends is urgent," she said.

Senior lecturer in carbon management at Edinburgh University David Reay said: "From this latest study we see that the [2009] drop was all too ephemeral, and even the limp economic recovery of 2010 has put us back on a high emissions trajectory,"

"We now face the triple whammy of distracted world leaders, a scarcity of carbon finance, and a fast-closing window of opportunity to avoid dangerous climate change.

"For those striving for a breakthrough at the climate change conference in Durban, things just got even harder," he said.

At the conference itself, many delegates seemed aware that if the broad thrust of climate science is correct, time is running out for an agreement that can curb emissions enough to give reasonable odds of making the 2C target.

Equally, few were underestimating the political difficulties.

"Every one of us needs to change our behaviour, business needs to change their investment patterns, everybody," said UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres.

"That is very difficult to do. But there is no other option."

@ BBC News Science/Environment