Frontispiece: Biogas promotion poster produced by the Khadi and Village Industry Commission Introduction Mahatma Gandhi, in his

vision for India, envisaged a system of devolved, selfsufficient communities, sustaining their needs from the local environment, and organising income generating ventures around co-operative structures. Fifty years on, and Gandhi's vision of Swadeshi (self-sufficiency) for India, despite interpreted by some as a romantic and bucolic notion, is perhaps more urgent than ever. Diminishing forests, and a burgeoning, mainly rural biomass-dependent population of 984 million, necessitates a co-ordinated effort of rural India to supply itself with a dependable and sustained source of energy. Biomass alone currently meets 57% of the national energy demand, (Tata, 1998) yet is rarely featured in any 'official' statistics of energy use, given perhaps its scattered nature, and its low status as fuel. Indeed, according to statistics, in 1995, 63.3% of India's energy production was from its reserves of low-grade coal, 18.6% from petroleum, while hydroelectricity, natural gas and nuclear accounted for 8.9%, 8.2%, and 1% respectively (EIA, 1998). India's overall energy production in 1995 was approximately 8.8 quadrillion Btu (quads), while consumption was 10.5 quads. India's energy demand is increasing, and its inability to step up production to meet demand, has increased India's reliance on costly imports, the gap between consumption and production projected to widen into the next century, as demand for energy is projected to grow at an annual rate of 4.6% one of the highest in the world (EIA, 1998). Energy for developing industries, transport, and a drive towards the electrification of India over the last three decades of an expanding residential sector, so that currently, a great percentage of villages in the subcontinent have access to the grid- as much as 90%, according to recent figures (EIA, 1998), have contributed to the energy production deficit. However, as mentioned earlier, the conventional statistics do not take into account the informal and unorganised use of biomass, which is reputed to account for 57% of total energy, therefore, effectively energy from biomass more than equals the marketable energy production of 8.8 quads (However, given the inherent difficulty in estimating such a figure, there must be a wide margin of error, potentially). Fuelwood is the primary source of biomass, derived from natural forests, plantations, woodlots and trees around the homestead (Agarwal, 1998). Alarm regarding the state of India's

forests, which were being lost at an estimated rate of 1.5 million hectares (Mha) in the early 1980's has kick started an intense afforestation and forest regeneration scheme that attempts to share management of forest resources between the forest department and local user communities. Afforestation appears to be showing up on satellite images on the subcontinent (Hall and Ravindranath, 1994), but whether ultimately, more fuelwood will be available to rural communities, will be more a political question.
Table 1: The estimated potential of various RES technologies in India (Tata 1998) Source / System Biogas plants (in millions) Improved woodstoves (in millions) Biogas (MW) Solar energy (MW / km2) Wind energy (MW) Small hydro power (MW) Ocean energy (MW) Approximate Potential 12 120 17,000 20 20,000 10,000 50,000

In an attempt to stem the projected deficit between production and consumption, particularly for the increasing residential sector, which accounts for approximately 10% of total energy use, and provide for an expanding rural sector, the government is pursuing alternative measures of energy provision. Renewable energy potential is high on the subcontinent. Table 1, above, lists the estimated potential of various renewable energy sources. Energy from solar, wind, hydro and ocean all have a significant future potential to play in a mixed energy production scenario. However, of particular interest here, in the context of providing a devolved, sustainable energy supply for the burgeoning rural sector in India, is the potential of biogas; the gas created as a product of anaerobic digestion of organic materials. The government views biogas technology as a vehicle to reduce rural poverty, and as a tool in part of a wider drive for rural development. Alternative energy options are promoted by The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), which operates under the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES). To promote and disseminate information about biogas technology specifically, the

1993). from construction of biogas plants.government has organised the National Project on Biogas Development nation-wide. cattle dung. Biogas systems also provide a residue organic waste. biogas may reduce the dependence on . Apart from the direct benefits gleaned from biogas systems. The gas can also be used to power engines. Anaerobic digesters also function as a waste disposal system. therefore. diesel. perhaps less tangible benefits associated with this renewable technology. after anaerobic digestion. particularly for human waste. and can aid in pumped irrigation systems. there are other. Why biogas? The enormous potential of biogas. to their long term functioning amongst the communities they are designed to serve. prevent potential sources of environmental contamination and the spread of pathogens (Lichtman. The capacity was derived principally from estimated agricultural residues and dung from India's 300 million cattle. Case studies from different parts of India will be considered. 1993). Active dissemination is also undertaken by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).000 MW can be seen from table 1. petrol. 1991). The gas is useful as a fuel substitute for firewood. there are thought to be about 2. with particular reference to the rural poor. Small-scale industries are also made possible. though table 1 estimates that 12 million could be usefully employed. and local supply conditions and constraints (Lichtman. followed by the biological and biochemical foundations of methanogenesis. as it is in the form of ammonia (Sasse et al. 1983).5 million household and community biogas plants installed around India (Dutta et al. and electricity. Introduced on a significant scale. notably wood. Biogas technology is a particularly useful system in the Indian rural economy. and can. Currently. By providing an alternative source of fuel. 1983). 1987) and diesel (KVIC. agricultural residues. from the sale of surplus gas to the provision of power for a rural-based industry. in the context of rural development from small-scale income generating opportunities. therefore. and can fulfil several end uses. and several NGO's have been active in implementing the programme on the ground. that has superior nutrient qualities over the usual organic fertilizer. Biogas technology may have the potential to shortcircuit the 'energy transition' Leach (1987) describes from biomass to 'modern' fuels. biogas can replace the traditional biomass based fuels. and the evolution of biogas technology. in a dual fuel mix with petrol (Jawurek et al. dung. 1997). estimated at 17. thus supplying energy for cooking and lighting. depending on the nature of the task. This essay will critically examine the drive to provide rural India with an 'appropriate' energy source. biogas may also provide the user with income generating opportunities (KVIC. The potential benefits of biogas in a rural economy will be outlined.

more likely is that a woman's energy will be directed in other areas. the short term effects are the most critical. then. such as respiratory infections. and a greater role in decision making. which can. a regular supply of energy piped to the home reduces. Alternatively. characteristic of rural India. According to Sasse et al (1991). All the agricultural residue. Promoted by KVIC. but lower in males at 38%. Benefits can also be scaled up. are possible with the large-scale introduction of biogas technology. and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's). Therefore more is returned to the land. in areas of scarcity. total suspended particles (TSP's). both within the family. A clean and particulate-free source of energy also reduces the likelihood of chronic diseases that are associated with the indoor combustion of biomass-based fuels. while long term fertilizer effects are cut by half. Moreover. carbon monoxide (CO). the process of methane production serves to narrow the carbon:nitrogen ratio (C:N). significant reductions in emissions associated with the combustion of biofuels. the resulting slurry has double the short-term fertilizer effect of dung. the slurry that is returned after methanogenesis is superior in terms of its nutrient content. whereas previously. and dung generated within the community is available for anaerobic digestion. An increase in land fertility.taking more than three hours in some areas (Lewanhak. as mentioned earlier. is contestable). such as sulphur dioxide (SO2). is the impact on rural womens' lives. when the potential environmental impacts are also taken into account. in terms of energy can perhaps contribute to a reduction in the gender difference in terms of food intake and proportion of energy expended in labour. nitrogen dioxide (NO2).wood from forests. if not removes. and the wider community. 1989). as even the slow degrading manure fraction is quickly degraded. a portion would be combusted daily for fuel. Additional knock on benefits in this context. due to rapid biological activity. no small feat in the traditional gender power imbalance. lung cancer. apart from a positive contribution to the household economy. Freeing up energy and time for a woman in such circumstances often allows for other activities. and other bodies as 'eliminating drudgery of women' (see frontispiece). and create a vacuum in the market. be the single most time consuming task of a woman's day . in the tropics. which. asthma. can result in an increase in agricultural production. according to Revelle (1976) is higher for a woman (over 15 years) at 44%. However. bronchitis. The knock on benefits may include . at least for firewood (whether this might reduce pressure on forests however. What is more certain. ailments of the lungs. and nitrate (NO3-). some of which may be income generating. The use of biogas systems in an agrarian community can increase agricultural productivity. the form which is immediately available to plants. while a fraction of the organic nitrogen is mineralised to ammonium (NH4+). may be an increase in personal status. the daily task of fuelwood gathering. 1996). and increased severity of coronary artery disease (Banerjee. However. the saving.

and self-reliant communities to manage the systems. Ranade et al (1987) successfully maintained a biogas plant of 25 litres capacity. remains the same. amongst other reasons. Although this essay is more concerned with biogas in rural areas. biogas plants could also be usefully employed in an urban environment also. Although the designs have evolved over the last forty years since their inception which will be outlined later. or income generation from a higher output. and differently interacting species. Integral to biogas technology also. acidification and methane formation. With this in mind. animals. the example does. fed with market waste. involving many complex. the plants can be maintained with a variety of organic residues. . and consists of three stages. then. offer an integrated system that lends itself to a rural setting. demands the technology to be preferably generated from within the community. in Pune. preferably the plant owner. namely Swadeshi. but necessary nonetheless. western India and suggest such a system to be a viable option for solid waste disposal in areas of rapid urbanisation. Without this basic requirement being fulfilled. the government agencies involved in designing biogas plants have attempted to create plants that could be maintained locally. Methanogenesis Methanogenesis is a microbial process. Biogas systems. As will be seen later. The biogas process is shown below in figure 1. If not actually produced from the community it is to serve.improved subsistence. crops and domestic food waste. For biogas systems to be truly viable and workable in rural India. but most notably. then the technology must be amenable and possible to manage and modify by individuals within the community. and the philosophy it represents. methanogenesis. This may seem a rather obvious point to make. is the requirement of devolved. biogas technology will not be a truly viable option for meeting India's rural energy demands. Indeed. the microbial processes around which they are built. hydrolysis. nonetheless. demonstrate the potential of biogas technology and its multifunctional and flexible applications. increased local food security. from humans. the methane-producing bacteria. this may not always be possible logistically. and reliance on 'outside' assistance kept to a minimum.

thereby creating the necessary anaerobic conditions necessary for methanogenesis. (CH3COOH. hydrogen (H2). and perhaps some traces of other gases. protease. notably hydrogen sulphide (H2S). Biogas has the advantage of a potential thermal efficiency. the obligatory anaerobes that are involved in methane formation decompose compounds with a low molecular weight. given proper equipment and aeration. of 60%. sometimes referred to as 'gobar' gas. acid-producing bacteria convert the simplified compounds into acetic acid (CH3COOH). 40-45% CO2. The resulting biogas. amylase and lipase externally enzymolize organic material. the extracellular enzymes of microbes. and carbon dioxide (CO2). lipids and proteins in cellulosic biomass into more simple compounds. when cattle dung is a major constituent of fermentation. During the second stage. Bacteria decompose the complex carbohydrates. the facultatively anaerobic bacteria utilise oxygen and carbon. CO2). the resulting gas will be between 55-66% CH4. compared to wood and dung that have a very low thermal efficiency of 17% and 11% respectively (KVIC.Figure 1: The process of methanogenesis (After GTZ. In the process of acidification. to form methane (CH4) and CO2 (Gate. consists of methane and carbon dioxide. but as an approximate guide. Its exact composition will vary. according to the substrate used in the methanogenesis process. In the final stage. plus a negligible amount of H2S and H2 (KVIC. 1999). In the first stage of enzymatic hydrolysis. H2. 1993). . 1999). 1993). such as cellulase.

the bacteria involved in the fermentation process are sensitive to a range of variables that ultimately determine gas production. and will decrease if loaded with more than its rated capacity (which may result in imperfectly digested slurry). in this case. therefore a plant should be designed for a retention that exploits this feature. In the KVIC model. such as heavy metals may inhibit gas production (KVIC. Improved nutrient content. such as mountainous regions. Other factors likely to affect methanogenesis are pH. less than 1mm. and it is worth briefly outlining these factors. Gasification is found to be maximised at about 35oC.). 1983). the digestion process is slowed. Human excreta. KVIC state that maximum gas production occurs during the first four weeks. due to its high nutrient content. which flourishes in eutrophic water . using techniques that can be similarly employed in a rural environment. The workers recommend that a physical pre-treatment. Understanding the process of methanogenesis allows manipulation. while toxic substances. and below this temperature. or winter conditions that may be more accentuated inland. and could also reduce the size of digester needed. there may be a similar piece of equipment already in use. as mentioned above will increase the digestion process. Retention period is found to reduce if temperatures are raised.Methanogenesis or more particularly. Loading rate and retention period of material are also important considerations. and have made strides in increasing gas yields. depending upon climatic conditions. until little gas is produced at 15 oC and under. or the addition of solar heaters to maintain temperatures (Lichtman. and can result from over-loading the plant. have shown that biogas generation is increased when the particle size of organic material is small. which may stimulate the more fecund acidophiles. Therefore in areas of temperature changes. Other workers have found that biogas production is accelerated by the presence of metal ions in biomass (Geeta et al. which can serve to maximise gas production in the field. Workers over the last twenty years have experimented with the digestion process. needs no more than 30 days retention in biogas plants (KVIC. The species principally researched was water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipesSolms. 1988). Sharma et al (1988). gas production is found to decrease with increasing acidity. mitigating factors need to be taken into account. also. retention ranges between 30-55 days. such as grinding would improve a system's performance. indeed. and can be manipulated by the addition of animal (and male human) urine. such as increased insulation (Kalia. 1990). 1983). or more nutrients are added to the digester. Temperature is perhaps the most critical consideration. at the expense of the more tardy methaneproducing microbes. A manual machine for physical pretreatment of material would be a viable piece of equipment in a rural environment. 1983). before tapering off.

by way of controlling a pest. As the gas is consumed. upto 0. Water hyacinth. 1993). usually made of mild steel. which is kept at a relatively constant pressure. the drum gas holder consequently rises. The biomass slurry moves through the system. when mixed with bovine excreta upto 25 parts per million (ppm) was found to enhance gas production by 40%. the drum then falls. was more productive. and a floating drum. in 1961 the Khadi and Village Industry Commission chose to promote Patel's design. as the inlet is higher than the outlet tank. Such work is invaluable in enabling a sound management and manipulation of methanogenesis. so overall. and research was principally focused around the Sewage Purification Station at Dadar in Bombay. which. Desai and N.V. which. and can be of use to users in a rural environment. Indian Agriculture Research Institute. although more costly than other models. and contribute to environmental management. Joshi of the Soil Chemistry Division. Some of the early models were also prone to burst. fermented a range of organic materials from marine macroalgae to vegetables and discerned that carbohydrate and protein are the principal components utilised during methanogenesis. Only completely digested material can flow up a partition wall. Over the next twenty years.V. the technology was not viable for dissemination. which prevents fresh material from 'short-circuiting' the system.bodies. 1993). The use of E. Research in other areas has focused on the composition on the substrate. Habig (1985). and required minimal maintenance (KVIC. The evolution of biogas technology Biogas plants in India were experimentally introduced in the 1930's. As more gas is produced. creating hydrostatic pressure. Although other individuals and institutions were also designing biogas plants. however. had a longer life. New Delhi. envisaging farm labourers as the user.27 kg h/day. indeed the early models were not producing enough gas to supply a small family (KVIC. before flowing into the outlet tank. Dimensions of the plants depend upon the energy requirements of the . also concentrates nickel from eutrophic environments. Jashbhai Patel designed and made several small-scale biogas digesters. which came to be known as the KVIC model. and is therefore considered an environmental pest. The early plants developed were very expensive and were not cost effective in terms of the gas output. The basic plant. and its effect on gas production. crassipes in biogas systems can both increase gas production. consists of a deep well. The system collects the gas. which often leads to clogging. undertaken by S. The plant characteristically grows at high densities.

1983) .000 systems built by KVIC. Figure 2a: The KVIC floating drum model (Lichtman. The basic system can be seen in figure 2a. 1983).user (Lichtman. there were thought to be about 80. By the early1980's.

where similar designs are widely used. Anaerobic digester design has continued to evolve over the years. the inlet and outlet tank volumes are calculated for minimum and maximum gas pressures based on the volumes displaced by the variation of gas and slurry within the system (See figure 2b). The Janata system is about 30% cheaper to construct than a KVIC model of the same capacity with added advantages that there are no moving parts. 1991) Research into anaerobic digesters continued around the country. but systems are generally variations around the theme of the floating-dome and the fixed-dome . In china. 1983). northern India developed the 'Janata' fixed-dome plant. One disadvantage with the fixed-dome design is that gradual accumulation of sludge is likely within the system. which is highly toxic and potentially explosive. in contrast to the floating dome of the KVIC model. based on a modified design widely used in China.Figure 2b: The Camartec fixed dome model (Sasse et al. is the fixed-dome. With this design. and hence safe for humans (Lichtman. In a variation of the canary and mining scenario. if the canary lives. Lichtman (1983) notes that savings may diminish with scale with this design. small birds in cages are placed inside the digesters prior to human attempts at entry. and the Planning Research and Action Division (PRAD) based in Uttar Pradesh. Key features of the Janata model. so Janata may be more appropriate for small-scale users. it is assumed that there is no concentrated CH4. making local construction possible and maintenance easy. making periodic cleaning necessary.

while GATE. when the drive to step up dissemination was taken. Often construction materials vary. estimates the total potential number of plants that could usefully be employed to be 30 million household-size. shows some of the most common biogas plants that are recognised by the government. Dissemination of biogas systems: Since the 1960's. 4. Indian economy. Floating-drum plant made of pre-fabricated reinforced concrete compound units. but it was in 1981 with the beginning of the sixth 5-year Plan. is their application in the field. 6.000 community-size plants. 1. Table 2: Different types of biogas plant recognised by MNES (Ministry of NonConventional Energy Sources). Floating-drum plant made of angular steel and plastic foil (Ganesh model). . which includes biogas. an alternative energy NGO based in and nearly 600. below. New Delhi. the critical test of their appropriateness. it is not clear on what data these estimates are based on. Floating-drum plant made of fibreglass reinforced polyester. The Tata Research Institute. in 1991. 1997). Fixed-dome plant with a brick reinforced. only accounted for about 2% and 3% for rural and urban areas respectively. estimates that 12 million biogas systems in total could be installed over the subcontinent. According to MNES. Floating-drum plant with a cylinder digester (KVIC model). and the formation of the National Project for Biogas Development (NPBD). or loading positions differ. After Gate. perhaps also reflecting the alarm of fuelwood shortages at the time. The discussion so far has highlighted the potential contribution of biogas systems in a rural. 7. However. and sharply demonstrates the continued minority status of this alternative fuel. Table 2. biogas systems have been implemented in India.5 million biogas plants installed around the country (Dutta et al. Currently. and ultimate usefulness. 3. Fixed-dome plant with a hemisphere digester (Deenbandhu model). Although the systems evolve through a process of research and development. 2. the use of electricity for cooking. one for each village. Floating-drum plant with a hemisphere digester (Pragati model). 1999. 5. moulded dome (Janata model). though the potential of large-scale implementation of biogas technology remains unrealised. there are thought to be about 2.

or high altitude areas in other states form the second category. socio-economic status largely determines the size of the allowance.5 million biogas plants installed to date. in what may be interpreted as a measure of intent to promote biogas technology. the mountainous north-east is where the highest allowances are paid. of which a percentage must be allocated in the provision of follow up services and monitoring. and perhaps the most critical instrument in determining initial uptake. and the remaining states make up the last category. Orissa. and agriculture is the principal industry in . and smallholders. subject to reaching certain targets. The extent of the allowance is dependent on the size of plant. Other allowances exist for bodies to establish and maintain an organisational infrastructure. to encourage uptake. This can be demonstrated in the size and type of digester opted for. it would be instructive to examine the implementation of biogas systems in rural India. Although there will be differences between states. the general approach to disseminate biogas technology is based on a system of subsidies and concessions. to every user and for every biogas plant that is installed. as listed in table 2. Here. Subsidies certainly appear to have encouraged up take.. depends not only on an effective dissemination programme. and geographical region. Landless and marginal farmers are entitled to higher allowances than farmers not in the fore-mentioned groups who have more than five hectares (GATE. and also NGO's. However. for biogas to be considered as a viable source of fuel.Nonetheless. public corporations. and the government continues in its drive for more widespread implementation. socio-economic status of the user. on the east coast. with priorities for scheduled caste and tribe. e. and extension.6 ha. Allowances are paid towards investment costs. how many are fully operational. Implementation of biogas technology is overseen centrally by MNES. which may be indicative of a lack of consequent monitoring. Subsidies are granted on plants upto 10m3 (a large family-sized system). there is still enormous potential for biogas technology. less than the average of other states. according to rules worked out by central government. but also upon the success of existing plants in the field. Mountainous. and characterised by smallholders of approximately 1. but actual dissemination is devolved to the individual state governments. such as KVIC. the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). Although literature could not be found regarding the success rate of the 2. 1999). and participation seems to be high amongst target groups.g. such as marginal and smallholders. and usually for the models recognised by the government. 1991). perhaps reflecting the commonly held notion that tribal communities are depleting forests (Maikhuri and Gangwar. to determine how the technology has been received on the ground. though there may be regional differences. is one of the poorest states in India. India has been divided into three areas according to altitude.

the same Deenbandhu model accounts for 85% of all systems constructed (GATE. 1999). who may not have the same resource access rights as others. due to a variety of reasons. More specifically. may also impose further constraints on the viability of biogas technology in a rural environment.. where there are 345. but critically. or general scarcity.000 biogas digesters. Maharashtra western India. However. Similarly. the most popular is the smallest capacity fixed-dome Deenbandhu model. then the maintenance of a biogas plant may not be possible. rather than the rule. due to an inability to fulfil the requirements necessary for operating the plant. which in many circumstances may not be available. from a distant source.g. However. as these groups fail the technical requirements to maintain a viable plant. three to four cattle are needed to provide the necessary quantity of dung. or difficulty in obtaining water. at 6m3. According to Moulik. considerable constraints may also exist in the provision of space and water that are likewise necessary for a biogas plant. Even if surplus land is available. Moulik (1981) maintains that of the early biogas plants installed a great percentage. a biogas plant requires feeding a mixture of cowdung and water. . Moreover. many were to remain inoperative. Less than this. perhaps as many as 70%. the workers note a correlation between decreasing land size and nonfunctioning plants. in the ratio of 1:1 or 4:5. Water scarcity. when area for the plant and a compost pit for the slurry is taken into account. Therefore. the smallest 3m3 family size plant requires about 27m2 of land. which accounts for 84% of all plants installed (Gram Vikas. particularly resonant for low caste groups in a village environment. and the plant is not economically or operationally viable. it is not surprising that of all the digesters. Similarly. for even the smallest-sized plant. and NGO's and other organisations had targets to reach. are inoperative. Chand and Murthy (1988) note that up take is no guarantee of a successfully operating plant. western India. e. If there is difficulty in obtaining water. 1991). The characteristic clustering of houses in a village between networks of narrow lanes may render land enough around the homestead to accommodate a biogas plant as the exception. in Sangli.Orissa. thus imposing a significantly higher daily water demand over domestic needs. Moulik explains that in the enthusiasm to promote biogas technology. To function properly. more than any other state. the biogas programme cannot cater to the needs of the poorest and marginalised. issues of land tenure and ownership may prohibit the construction of a plant. as full subsidies were given. From studying installed systems in Maharashtra. Moulik states that however well intentioned. many 'marginal' farmers and landless were hastily provided with plants.

and was observed most . it may be instructive to briefly consider a case study. etc. north-western India. though even where participation is high. and according to Nag et al. Despite a well-intentioned attempt to cater for the energy needs of rural India. ironically.Given the above. and particularly the poor. As Nag et al (1986) note. Rajasthan. However. note a correlation between education level. which may be indicative of the inherent incompatibility of the technology with regard to marginalised groups. biogas technology appears to be associated with status and wealth. over 30% of the families with biogas plants sampled were found to be engaged in more than one service or business. 107 were registered as 'landless' or 'marginal'. does appear to be taken up more successfully by the more wealthy sectors of the agricultural community. though the survey discovered the plant owners were mostly the wives or sons. the biogas programme may be an unrealisable notion. through insurmountable constraints associated with their very marginality. as defined by 'scheduled caste' and 'scheduled tribe'. attributed to a greater exposure to biogas promotion through the media. the technology may not be truly viable. conducted a survey in eight villages of mixed caste and tribe. Biogas. the lack of a formal education in such groups is perhaps more indicative of their general marginality. and the Gandhian aspirations of Swadeshi. Nag et al interpret the results as a success for the NPBD. In this sense. Nag et al. and describe the scheme as a 'peoples' programme'. 114 samples of families who had installed biogas plants under the NPBD programme upto 1985. The data revealed some interesting findings. of landowners who owned between 6-20 acres of land. In the 1980's. the programme does not appear to be delivering to the rural poor. That participation amongst farmers is high is a positive sign of the potential role of biogas in an agricultural community. economically and socially. 8 were illiterate. however. Nag et al (1986). the biogas programme seemingly cannot meet these needs. then. Moulik estimates that perhaps only 10-15% of the rural population fulfils the technical requirements. as defined by scheduled caste and tribe. Only 10 were found to be scheduled caste or tribe with poor landholdings. to understand how biogas technology has been received in targeted areas. However. (1991). little more than a bucolic dream. 'adopted biogas plants only when told by their masters'. then is found to vary across the subcontinent. Uptake of biogas technology among scheduled caste and adivasi (tribal) groups. Of the 10 scheduled caste and tribe beneficiaries. in an attempt to assess the impact and effectiveness of NPBD in these areas. and uptake. which is usually an indication of entrepreneurship and solvency. notably the cheaper fixed-dome Janata were considered. however. according to Nesmith. Further.. Curiously. of the 114 beneficiaries. the NPBD was active in promoting biogas in low-caste and tribal areas of Udaipur. These family members had been encouraged to apply to make use of the higher rate of subsidies available for marginal and landless groups.

the entire daily dung load needed bringing from the nearest city. Although. Thus. have been ineligible for support. Larger sized plants. and usually performed by women. (This association with wealth may well be a hindrance to the wider dissemination of biogas technology amongst groups who may view themselves as perhaps not fully entitled to it). At the time of writing the paper. in theory. particularly the stigma associated with working with dung. competing demands with non-beneficiaries were evident. or indeed a whole village. by subsidising upto 6m3 plants only (and later upto 10 m3). for fuel. there was enough cattle to provide the required amounts of dung. Lichtman (1983). In this way. Singh noted two plants to be non-operational. such as low pay compared to agricultural labour. principally due to problems associated with the availability of labour. the volume of dung involved in the daily maintenance of the community plants. However. and discovered considerable technical. who collected dung for fuel. where community plants have been constructed. wealthier farmers have been able to apply for grants and loans to construct household size systems. However. servicing a cluster of houses. considered as a low-caste task. Gas production was also found to fall to 30% of its rated production in winter months. eastern India. economic and social problems. may overcome the seemingly insurmountable problems apparent regarding individual plants and the rural poor. was considered beyond the physical strength of women labourers. while supporting the wealthier farmers. In one case. in this instance. as discussed earlier. due to greater direct use of dung. while larger plants that may benefit the wider community. after the first year of operation. the government subsidy programme may be interpreted as discriminating against the poorer sections of the community. northern India. Singh found that all the plants were being routinely underfed with dung. However. 3000 kg. community size plants might be more appropriate. Social factors were also evident in the non-availability of labour. Singh (1988) randomly sampled half the beneficiaries of seven community biogas plants in Punjab.commonly in top income groups in a study in West Bengal. in the absence of crop residues. as shown in table 3. 1986) Name of Dung Dung fed Difference . states that the government subsidy system has discriminated against the provision of community-size plants. As household size plants may be generally non-viable to many scheduled caste and adivasi groups. by 30-50%. given its dispersed nature and Table 3: Daily dung requirements and dung fed (quintal =100kg) (Singh. Labour shortages were attributed to economic factors. many problems have been encountered.

Supervision problems were also identified by Singh. an increase in the gas charges was necessary to cover costs. Sometimes closure of the plants occurred as a consequence. the entire 3000kg daily need was having to be imported (See table 3). and many disconnected themselves from the supply. Other workers have reported community biogas plants failing for reasons such as political feuds (Lichtman. and due to variable climatic conditions. between 15-30% of the expected revenue. and prices were raised from Rs30 to Rs50 per month. 24 of the 29 scheduled caste and tribe connections to the biogas supply were duly removed. It was found that dung was having to be purchased in substantial quantities to feed some of the plants. returns on the sale of slurry were considerably smaller than estimated. principally relating to low pay. and increasing. appear to be logistically difficult to co-ordinate. upto 1000kg in several. and. Labourers were found to complain about the logistical difficulties in collecting dung from diffused sources. weighing and recording it to the satisfaction of the donor.village Mehdoodan Peharkalan Ablowal Passiana Hambran Pandori Chabewal requirement 30 30 30 30 95 30 30 From village 14 16 10 12 45 12 - From outside 4 10 10 3 30 Total 14 20 20 22 45 15 30 16 10 10 8 50 15 - distance of some of the sources. then. Mehdoodan. The increased prices could not be borne by many of the scheduled caste and adivasi community. while in one. Community biogas plants. which resulted in an ad hoc arrangement and a high turnover of supervisors. Singh describes the experience of scheduled castes and tribes. and for the community records of dung input. similarly failing the sections of the community most in need of a reliable source of energy. . 1983). Four of the community latrines were also not functioning. 1983). that resulted in the forced sale of cattle (Lichtman. due to labour shortage. While dung purchasing costs were high. certainly in the Punjab. the targeted beneficiaries of the community biogas system. In one village. etc…. Consequently.

even when they were only used for cooking purposes and not applied to wider energy demands. Technically. ASTRA duly acted according to the village needs. and principally due to cattle being worked in the field. with 240 cattle. either by accident or design. a village of 430. estimated typically at 30-40% of the required capacity. and the project stopped in 1984. the programme is now a success. At the time of writing the paper. Factors hindering spread of biogas It would be worth briefly considering the problems associated with the alternative technology. Finally. which would also lead to a reduction in gas production. economic. Too large a plant was found to lead to under feeding. suitable for a community biogas plant. there have also been reports of community biogas plants successfully maintained by collective management efforts. In some areas. and management is possible by the tangible benefits enjoyed by the whole village. and suggest that the gas could be used solely for generating electricity for lighting. the occurrence of drought may reduce dung availability. the plant may not be technically feasible all year round due to low winter temperatures that inhibit methanogenesis (Singh 1985. rather than work to their own assumptions. by forced sale of cattle. (1992) report the eventual success of a community biogas system in Pura. the government's overall approach in disseminating biogas technology will be considered. southern India. and cultural aspects. which may potentially hinder its spread. Nag et al (1986) discovered that there was a general tendency for householders to construct an over-sized plant. ASTRA calculated that manure from the village could fuel a biogas plant sufficient to provide for all cooking needs. after several years of problems. but serious logistical problems became apparent.However. as gas would run out before the cooking of the second daily meal. which considered Pura. Hall et al. 1991). Interestingly. and generate surplus gas for lighting and pumping drinking water. problems have arisen from installing too large a capacity plant. and by all accounts. and a change in the end use of gas. and eventual failure of the plants to produce gas. Under feeding was also found to occur due to the under-collection of dung. . Sudhakar and Gusain. in areas of climatic instability. Conflicts ensued between villagers regarding contributions and share of benefits. Hall et al report that the success of the programme has encouraged residents to consider building a wood gasifier. when ASTRA attempted to revive the project. it was discovered to ASTRA's surprise. As mentioned earlier. Dung may also vary in its availability. in terms of technical/operational. to bolster their energy supply. that the villagers' top priority was actually the provision of safe drinking water. or even death of cattle. The standard of living has been raised. The plant became operative in 1982. The programme was implemented with the help of The Centre for Application of Science and Technology to Rural Areas (ASTRA).

to meet ambitious targets. such as wood and crop residues (Moulik. however. Moulik (1983) reports that a common complaint about the use of gas burners for cooking. Lichtman concedes. which comes pre-cast). or develop problems that lead to the non-functioning of the plant. due to shoddy construction (more relevant to the fixed-dome models. such as electricity. Bhatia (1990) notes that the macroenvironment which determines price structures of conventional fuels most likely acts as a disincentive to adopt renewable technologies. another point in prohibiting uptake may be the perceived unnecessary switch from the existing free source of energy. While finally. the 'macro-environment'. Traditional cooking practises may also need to be altered. 1987). women are not necessarily the decision makers in a household. biogas systems have been shown to be cost-effective (Nag et al. 1985). unless subsidies for biogas can be brought into line.Sometimes the plants are faulty in their construction. subject to the viable provision of an alternative energy source for cooking. due to their higher cost. will continue to make non-renewable technology the cheapest option. western India. and often encouraged local by the government agencies. The workers discovered that often. Biogas production could perhaps be linked to small-scale industries. such as the ineligibility of community size systems. or those with no training at all. 1988). is that the staple bread chapati. 1988). and . Chand and Murthy identified 50% of 1670 plants in the study as incapable of ever being made functional. Despite the positive cost-benefit of biogas technology. cannot be properly roasted. due to reluctance to adopt different behaviour. 1983). and for fodder. generally. such as woodlots (Verma and Misra. that it is more profitable to maintain a community-size system as a public utility and fertilizer plant. and localised in its approach. Lichtman (1983) modelled different energy use scenarios of village size plants in Pura. due to their size. Cultural practices may also hinder general uptake. specially trained masons in biogas plant construction were overlooked. in favour of cheaper trainees. also the cooking of dal (pulses) may be increased. This percentage is likely to decrease in the consideration of smaller. the village showed a net gain. The analysis was site specific. Subsidised conventional fuels. Chand and Murthy (1988). or prices of conventional fuels raised. household size systems (Sodhiya and Jain. than as a source of cooking gas. Further. Lichtman found that in 78% of the situations modelled. The system of grants and loans may hinder the correct choice of plant for different users. Economically. particularly regarding the use of latrines in biogas systems (Singh. than the floating dome. analysed factors in the non-functioning of plants in Maharashtra. along with free connection to the grid for farmers. may discriminate against the uptake of biogas.

Workers stress the need for micro-planning (Lichtman. as such.the men of the household may not consider benefits. In this way. a common complaint articulated is that there is a lack of available technical support (Sudhakar and Gusain. Further. 1990). 1983). 1983). Compared to the biogas programme in China. so that the renewable technology is viable and sustainable in the communities it is designed to serve. that in a sample of 1670 plants. and proper extension and support services. a folly imposed from policy makers and NGO's. to the arbitrary fixing of regional targets. the government does not seem to be effectively organised to achieve such a goal. and may endanger further uptake. which should be available in every village. planning and monitoring. 1991). 1988). Other workers also propose co-ordinated management information systems as part of biogas development. Some of the problems discussed above may be overcome. in order for problems to be identified and remedial measures undertaken (Chand and Natarajan. though the social organisation may particularly facilitate the spread of new. has achieved widespread dissemination of biogas technology (Ruchen. Chand and Murthy. so that genuinely appropriate biogas technology is made available to rural communities. which are then pursued. though its application is logistically difficult. Moulik (1983) emphasises the importance in promoting the participation of local people in the whole process of education. China. which mainly accrue to women. when their functioning may depend upon adequate maintenance skills. Chand and Murthy (1988) discovered in study of biogas uptake in Maharashtra. and a high number of non-operative biogas plants are likely to continue. Conclusion Biogas has shown to be a useful component in the rural economy in India. when complications have arisen in the functioning of plants. 1987. community-focused technologies. through effective selection processes for the technology. to be of significant urgency (Moulik. 1981. through the creation of effective institutions and by placing an emphasis on training and education. where seven million household and community biogas systems have been successfully installed. India has a long way to go to realise the benefits of biogas technology. There is a danger that biogas may come to be thought of as a useless and inappropriate initiative. plants may be allowed to fall into disrepair. its status as a fuel remains marginal. 1086 beneficiaries were found not to qualify under the feasibility criteria. Ill-co-ordinated dissemination has led to high rates of non-functioning plants. By all accounts. . from the lax selection process. Daxiong et al. Criticisms of NPBD have been widely articulated.

(1988): District level management system for biogas programme. the biogas programme has not appeared to meet these needs on any meaningful scale. EIA (United States Energy Information Administration) (1999): Country Profile: India. who may experience a scarcity of the fuel once gathered for free.4. GATE (Deutsches Zentrum fur Entwicklungstechnologien)(1999): Biogas technology in Sangli. Shuhua. as biogas seemingly drops out of journals in the 1990's. Baofen.7. (1987): Management information system for biogas development.4. AD. S. Natarajan. though 'small steps' may have been achieved. Bapu's (Gandhi's) dream therefore remains largely unrealised. (1990): Diffusion of renewable energy technologies in developing countries: A case study of biogas engines in India.5. Economic and Political Weekly. R. Vol. Therefore. yet curiously. No. (1990): Diffusion and innovation in the Chinese biogas programme.Participation in biogas technology varies across socio-economic groups. the essential 'commodification' of dung. World Development. (1998): Myths about forest depletion. Vol. which has occurred since the introduction of biogas systems may impact detrimentally upon the poorest families. Q. as defined by 'scheduled caste' and 'scheduled tribe'.22. Economic and Political Weekly. pp555-563. No.18.23. Vol.22. pp27-32.doe. as a subject to be written about. Despite a well-intentioned attempt to cater for the energy needs of rural India. No. Gehua. though dissemination is still being undertaken. W. A. and particularly the poor. India. . the very current situation regarding the status of biogas technology in India is unknown. ppM80-M84. Down to Earth. paradoxically. Daxiong. (1996): The Enemy Within. through insurmountable constraints associated with their very marginality. World Development. G. pp575-590.18. No. Chand. Vol. Further. Limited success has occurred in other agricultural groups. No. References Agarwal. U.eia. Vol. Eschborn. N. Chand.4. L. Bhatia. AD. and across regions. www. Germany. ppM153-M160.48. this is not reflected in current literature.1. Down to Earth. Vol. The need to provide rural India with a viable and sustainable source of fuel has perhaps never been more urgent. pp2942 Banerjee. No.

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