Nepal wins hearts and minds with biogas boom

By Om Astha Rai

Villagers in Nepal are increasingly being persuaded that small biogas installations using human waste to provide fuel are not only desirable but are also helping to reduce deforestation of the Himalayas and carbon emissions. 

KATHMANDU, 2 July, 2014 − Sunita Bote, a 30-year-old housewife from the small village of Kumroj in eastern Nepal, was far from convinced when energy specialists from the capital city, Kathmandu, talked about the benefits of constructing a small biogas plant near her house.

“At first, I shuddered at the thought of connecting my cooking stove with a toilet’s septic tank,” Sunita recalls.

But she was eventually persuaded – and now realises the multiple benefits of the biogas system. The plant not only produces enough energy for cooking for her family of seven, it also gets rid of both human and animal waste.

“It is no longer seems disgusting to me,” Sunita says. “Instead, it has eased my household chores.”

Most of Sunita’s neighbours feel the same way, and Kumroj has now been named by the government as Nepal’s first model biogas village, with more than 80% of households having their own biogas installations.

Frequent blackouts

Nepal, a landlocked country of just over 26 million people, has big energy problems. Its cities and towns, reliant on imported fossil fuels for energy, suffer frequent electricity blackouts due to ageing infrastructure and shortages of funds.

With its mountain ranges and many rivers, there is great potential for hydropower, but tight budgets mean there has as yet been little investment in these big, capital-intensive projects.

However, the energy outlook is slowly changing. Instead of building big hydropower plants, local groups − helped by NGOs and outside funders − are constructing micro hydro projectsall over the country. So far, more than 1,000 such plants have been built. There has also been investment in developing solar power.

Meanwhile, thousands of biogas projects are being put in place in backyards and fields throughout the country.

Fuel needs

According to the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), a government agency responsible for promoting renewable energy, there are now more than 300,000 biogas plants providing for the fuel needs of nearly 6% of Nepal’s households.

“At first, people were wary about getting energy from their toilet septic tanks,” says Professor Govinda Pokharel, vice-chairman of the government’s National Planning Commission and, until recently, a director of AEPC.

“It was human faeces that caused the trouble. People, especially those who were not educated and were living in remote villages, were against the idea of using their faeces for cooking food. In some cases, those who installed biogas plants were even ostracised by their neighbours. But attitudes have changed. When animal dung is mixed with human faeces, greater power is generated.”

Traditionally, wood has been the main source of fuel for cooking and heating. But deforestation – with the resulting landslides and floods – has been a big problem.

Trees saved

The Biogas Sector Programme, a Kathmandu-based organisation that promotes the use of biogas, says every biogas plant can save 1.25 trees each year, That means that, due to biogas, nearly 400,000 trees a year throughout the country are saved from being chopped down.

Biogas not only replaces wood for fuel, it can also help reduce carbon emissions. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) calculates that a standard biogas plant saves greenhouse gas emissions of between three and five tons each year, compared with other energy sources such as wood.

The AEPC says that Nepal, through the use of biogas and by not cutting tree cover, is helping to reduce the country’s overall emissions by more than one million tons a year. “It may not be a huge contribution at the global level, but it is not negligible either,” Prof Pokharel says.

There are plans to install at least 26,000 biogas plants around the country each year. “The more we install, the more we save trees,” Prof Pokharel says, “And the saving of each tree is important in combating climate change.” – Climate News Network

• Om Astha Rai is a reporter with Nepalese national newspaper, Republica Daily.



Conservation of Mangroves for climate change mitigation

Conservation of Mangroves for climate change mitigation

Mark Spalding, principal investigator on the project and a marine scientist at the US-based worldwide conservation organisation The Nature Conservancy, says: “These results can help guide decisions regarding priority areas for the conservation and rehabilitation of mangroves for climate change mitigation.”

International Union of Conservation (IUCN) advisor on coastal ecosystem and famously known as father of mangroves, Tahir Qureshi said, “About 20 years ago, mangroves were at 5,000 hectors in Karachi but now its limited to less than 3500 hectors, Port Qasim, Karachi Harbour, Mai Kullachi, Boat Basin, Kaka Pir, Baba Bhit, Salehabad, Manora, Ibrahim haideri and all other areas at east and west coast of Karachi are witnessing shrinking mangroves deposit and as a result population of birds, fishes on decline while shrimps and lots of other species are alarmingly vanishing” he added.

Beside threats to nature, scientist believe that Sindh coast lies in a dangerous zone where storm surge could be dangerous and Karachi is one of vulnerable city where Industrial effluents, oil spills, municipal waste and land mafia are the real time threats for sea itself.

Worldwide study of mangrove swamps’ carbon storage capacity will help scientists identify where efforts should be focused to protect these rich resources for climate change mitigation.

Bangladesh will be the model of carbon emission reducer of the World

Published on: 03/12/2013

Bangladeshis are quite powerless to reduce the greenhouse gases being spewed out by more developed countries, nor can they hope to reverse what’s been done. The country has instead become a hotbed for adaptation strategies and experimentation, where some innovative models are being developed and explored. Aid agencies, donors and NGOs have begun pitching in to help Bangladesh prepare for a changing climate.

The majority of Bangladeshis may not be familiar with the catch phrase “reducing your carbon footprint”, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) are all the rage. From Dhaka to rural areas, people are switching their normal light bulbs to CFLs that can save 80 percent of energy consumption.

This light bulb trend got started by a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project that partnered clean development champions South South North and Grameen Shakti with a Bangladeshi CFL manufacturer in plans to replace 100,000 bulbs with CFLs in rural Bangladesh.

Energy entrepreneurs might like to note the success of Grameen Shakti (which means ‘village energy’). Set up by the Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank in 1996, this not-for-profit has been supplying renewable energy to unelectrified villages — almost 70 percent of homes in Bangladesh are not on the grid — that were formerly dependent on polluting kerosene or dirty diesel generators for lighting. Grameen Shakti has to date sold and installed 205,000 photovoltaic solar home-systems (SHSs). see details

Who owns forest carbon?


As the government prepares its national strategy on Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), a debate over the ownership of carbon of community forests has now cropped up.

Who owns carbon of community forests? Or, more specifically, who deserves the money made from forest carbon trade? This is one of the key questions that need to be answered before the government finalizes the REDD+ strategy by 2014.

The government, in line with the Forest Act – 1993 and the Forest Regulations – 1995, has handed over altogether 17,808 forests to community user groups. Both the act and the regulations state that Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) can use all the forest products but forest land. The land, though covered by community-managed forests, will always belong to the government, as per the act and the regulations.

“Communities enjoy ownership over timbers, firewood and even leaves but not carbon,” says Resham Bahadur Dangi, deputy director general of the Department of Forest (DoF). “But, unless our act and regulations are revised, carbon of community forests is the government´s sole property.”

However, the Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal (FECOFUN) says carbon, just like timbers and firewood, should also belong to communities. “We own not just the trees but even their roots,” says Ganesh Karki, general secretary of the FECOFUN. “If we own all forest products, why do we not own the carbon?”

When the forest act and the regulations were drafted, the concept of forest carbon trade was yet to be established. At that time, not even the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding deal that would force developed countries to reduce carbon emissions, was signed. In 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was signed, the issue of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation was still not touched upon. Only in 2007, the REDD+ was agreed upon, paving the way for developing countries to earn money by conserving forests.

Deforestation and forest degradation contribute up to 20 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Developing countries, like Nepal, are expected to offset carbon emitted by developed countries by preserving forests. In return, developing countries can earn money for sequestrating carbon.

“If you look at the issue of carbon ownership from a legal point of view, it surely belongs to the government,” says Hari Dhungana, executive director of Southasia Institute of Advanced Studies (SIAS). “But, we should look at this issue from the point of view of justice.”

Published on 2013-11-15 12:56:33

Evaporating Euphoria


“Save forest, make money.”
“Now forest carbon is on sale.”

These were the kinds of headlines that Nepali newspapers chose when they ran stories on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a United Nations program which offers incentives, among others, for developing countries to conserve forests.

When the REDD+ was reported by the Nepali media with such oversimplified headlines in 2007, following a deal was struck at the 13th Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to take meaningful steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests, thousands of community forest users in Nepal were delighted.

In Nepal, where nearly 18,000 forests have already been handed over to community use groups, the oversimplified message of the REDD+ spread like wildfire. A majority of Community Forest User Group (CFUG) members hardly knew what the REDD+ actually meant. They did not even know what carbon trade was all about. All they knew was if they saved forests, they would get monetary rewards.

“In villages, some people even mistook carbon for some precious herb,” says Dharma Raj Uprety, an expert on forestry and climate change. “And there were rumors that they went into the wood to collect carbon. They probably wanted to pack carbon into sacks and sell them in the market.”

Over half a decade has elapsed after the CoP-13 agreed on the REDD+. However, none of the CFUGs, except for a few selected for a pilot project initiated with the support of the Norwegian Government in three districts of Nepal, is ready to fetch money by selling carbon in the international market.

As a result, the euphoria of carbon trade among the CFUG members is now fast evaporating. The enthusiasm with which the CFUG members used to talk about the REDD+ until a few years ago no longer exists now. “There is no longer the same level of enthusiasm,” says Ganesh Karki, General Secretary of the Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal (FECOFUN), an umbrella organization of over 13,000 CFUGs. “In villages, people are getting disappointed.”

Worse, the dream of earning money by selling forest carbon is unlikely to come true even by the end of this decade. The government is now just preparing a REDD+ strategy which is expected to outline, in details, how Nepal can benefit from this scheme. “We’re expecting to finalize the REDD+ strategy by 2014,” says Resham Bahadur Dangi, Deputy Director General of the Department of Forests (DoF).

According to Dangi, preparing the strategy is just one of the three lengthy phases of implementing the REDD+. “It is called the readiness phase,” explains Dangi. “When this phase is completed, we will still have to go through two more phases – demonstration and implementation – to start earning money by selling forest carbon.” Dangi, who leads the REDD+ cell within the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC), says, “Even if everything goes as planned, we will be trading forest carbon only after 2020.”

“We are yet not ready to benefit from the REDD+,” says Bhaskar Karky, resource economist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), one of the four agencies that collectively carried out the REDD+ pilot project in Dolakha, Gorkha and Chitwan. “However, we have learnt from our pilot project that the local people are capable of and interested in implementing the REDD+.”

The road to realizing the essence of the REDD+ is not as smooth as it now looks. With fresh issues and arguments cropping up in every new CoP, it would not be surprising even if any of the upcoming UN climate talks ends up further complicating the REDD+. “At every new CoP, the realization of the REDD+ looks more difficult,” says Karki of the FECOFUN. “This is also adding to our frustration.”

However, even if no new obstacle emerges in any of the upcoming UN climate talks, as anticipated by Karki, and if the government smoothly sails through all phases of the REDD+, it will still not be easy for Nepal´s CFUGs to benefit from forest carbon trade, say experts.

Bharat Kumar Pokharel, an expert on governance of natural resources, says the REDD+ contains a few preconditions that make it almost impossible for Nepal to benefit from it. For instance, according to Pokharel, there is a condition of permanence in the REDD+ which means that a forest, selected for carbon trade, needs to be preserved continuously for at least 30 years. “In such a long period, if a wildfire destroys some portion of the forest, people will not get money,” he explains.

Likewise, there is another precondition of leakage, which means that forests, whether inside or outside areas handed over to community user groups, need to be protected. “If a community user group protects its forest area but deforestation occurs elsewhere, they will still be deprived of carbon money,” explains he. “There are several other preconditions that make the REDD+ not so applicable in our context.”

Pokharel dubs such conditions of the REDD+ as the ´dishonesty´ of developed countries. “We cannot benefit much from the REDD+ in such conditions,” says he.
Upreti, another expert, adds, “For a forest area to be selected for carbon trade, it should cover about 10,000 hectares of land, which is difficult to be found in Nepal. We do not have a block of such a vast area of forest land. Our forest areas are divided by human settlements, national parks or wildlife reserves.”

Upreti says Nepal, despite all these constraints, can still benefit from the REDD+. However, he adds, “We need to create conducive environment for the trade of forest carbon. The existing conditions are not conducive for the REDD+ to be implemented. We have a carbon trade-friendly police. We also need to sort out the issue of carbon ownership.”

Published on 2013-11-15 12:59:45

Nepal tackles methane emissions through trash recycling

By Saleem Shaikh
October 23, 2013
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Labourers work at the Biocomp-Nepal project site in Khokna, a village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Saleem Shaikh

KATHMANDU, Nepal (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nepal’s capital is recycling organic waste into compost in a bid to reduce methane emissions and provide cheap, environmentally friendly organic fertiliser to local farmers.

The scheme aims to tackle environmental degradation and reduce the health hazards from rotting produce.

Trash is a significant nuisance in Kathmandu, and organic matter accounts for almost 70 percent of the total waste generated daily in the city.

Many neighbourhoods in the capital are dirty and strewn with rubbish. Some markets look scarcely different from garbage dumps and streets are littered with discarded trash. Inadequate waste management in the Kathmandu Valley and a lack of dumps and landfills make the problem worse.

To address the problem, Biocomp-Nepal – a not-for-profit social enterprise –launched a year-long pilot project to recycle organic waste into compost in March 2011 in collaboration withmyclimate, a non-profit foundation based in Zurich. The foundation develops and supports projects around the world to reduce greenhouse gases.

During the pilot, the project collected organic waste every day from the Kalimat market, Kathmandu’s largest wholesale vegetable market, and composted it at a facility in Khokna, a village on the outskirts of the capital.

A total of 140 tons of fresh organic waste was collected and 15 tons of high-quality compost produced. The compost was sold to farmers who cultivate fields on the edges of Kathmandu, but local traders were pleased with the impact too.


“We are extremely happy that the surroundings of our vegetable market no longer get strewn with waste or rotten vegetables discarded in the open outside the market for want of proper dumping sites and … waste collections,” said Pitamber Gurung, a vegetable trader at the Kalimati market.

In January 2013, Biocomp-Nepal expanded its waste processing capacity to 20 tons a day, producing 3 to 4 tons of compost daily, to meet the demand for organic agricultural fertiliser in the Kathmandu valley.

According to Raju Khadka, Biocomp’s former project director in Nepal who now advises the project, the organisation is collaborating with myclimate to increase its collection capacity to 50 tons of vegetables and fruit by 2015, which will produce 7.5 tons of compost daily.

The waste will not just be sourced from vegetable markets such as Kalimati, he explained, but also from landfill sites and homes. The growing collections should help curb emissions of methane – a powerful climate-changing gas – and as well as reducing health problems associated with rotting trash.

Kathamandu Valley is a hub for agriculture due to its fertile and relatively flat land, and the majority of the vegetables sold at the Kalimati market are grown using chemical fertilisers to boost farm productivity.

Compost, a traditional fertiliser in the region, lost ground to chemical fertilisers as they became more widely available on the market, experts say. But the overuse of chemical fertilisers has caused soil fertility to decline globally, according to studies by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

In contrast to chemical fertilisers, compost feeds the soil through its nutrient-rich organic matter. According to Khadka, it maintains soil fertility, reduces acidity, and stops nutrients from being washed away by rain. The compost improves the soil’s ability to let water percolate, helping to recharge underground aquifers and prevent desertification of fertile land, he said.


Krishna Hari has been buying compost from Biocomp-Nepal for the past nine months to use on his land in Kirtipur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

“Before I used the compost fertiliser, I earned 35,000 Nepalese rupees (about $350) a year from my one acre land,” Hari said.

“But using the compost fertiliser has improved my income to 60,000 rupees” by boosting his yields per acre, he explained as he put small packages of compost into a cloth bag hanging from his bike at Biocomp-Nepal’s project site.

The compost is effective for twice as long as chemical fertiliser, according to Hari, and is cheaper too, at a rate of around $70 per ton rather than the $180 per ton for chemical fertiliser. Hari adds that other farmers have noted his improved results and started switching to compost.

Apart from these benefits, recycling vegetable waste into compost reduces methane emissions, said Khadka. Food waste is one of three main sources of methane, along with emissions from livestock and the mining and burning of fossil fuels.

Composting vegetable waste at the expanded rate of 50 tons a day has the potential to reduce methane emissions by an estimated 40,000 tons between 2012 and 2021, according to Khadka.

Biocomp-Nepal hopes to seek carbon credit financing through myclimate to scale up the project and make it self-sustaining.

The organisation also plans to offer training and demonstration sessions to meet the interest of community organisations from other areas of the country that want to create their own organic waste recycling programmes to counter the burden of rising fertiliser prices and address health hazards from decaying produce.

“Waste is a major problem in many cities of developing countries. The project can potentially be replicated in different places in Nepal or elsewhere in South Asia or the Asia-Pacific region where waste is a problem,” said Krishna Chandra Paudel, former secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation.


Weeping sea : Documentary on climate change

Weeping sea 
 Duration: 21 minutes
 Language: Malayalam (Subtitled in English)
 Direction: K Rajendran
 Camera: K Rajendran, Rahul R Chandran, Muhammed Basheer
 Editing: Jayakrishnan


An investigation on
How does climate impact marine and fisheries sector?
How does it affect fishermen?

How does human intervention precipitate climate change impacts?

1. Depletion of Mussels.
Location: Elephant mussels hill, Thiruvanandhapuram.
Two varieties of mussels are found in Kerala;Brown mussels and green
mussels. This (September-December) is the season of mussels. Huge
depletion of mussels is being found this season. Depletion is being felt
during last 3 years. According to marine expert this is due to the climate

2. Fishes disappearing

Location; Kovalam beach, Thiruvanandhapuram
Many varieties of fishes are disappearing in Kerala sea shore.. Kilimeen (Mesoprion) is the best example. According to Central Marine and Fisheries research institute, it is one of the best examples of climate change impact on fisheries. Kilimeen is known as the ideal fish for poor. Because of it’s less
cost and good taste. So it’s depletion is widely effected the poor who doesn’t have enough money to purchase fishes of high cost.

3 .How islanders are affected?

Location: Lakshadweep
How lonely islander is being affected? .Lakshadweep is the best example.
Three islands in Lakshadweep, Pitti(Fastest sinking Island) ,Kavarathi,
Agathy are telling their stories.
Here 3 climate change impacts;
A . Water level is rising marginally.
B. Depletion of fishes is being felt
C. Corals are vanishing.
4. Salty water
Location; Mavilakadavu village, Poovar

This is a new phenomenon in many of the villages in Kerala. Water in the well became alty although it is situating 5 or 6 Km away from sea. According to marine expert this is an excellent example of climate change.

5. Human intervention expedites climate change

Location: Puzhikara beach
Once, the beautiful beach Puzhikara, was known for the varieties of fishes. Now it has become a “beach of Eagles”. The beach has been turned as a dumping place of waste. Eco system in the seashore is being scuttled.6. Encroachments

Location; Vembanadu backwater, Alapuzha
This backwater is converted as a lake of Tourism and encroachment. All existing laws are being violated. Encroachments are being done by big corporates. Authorities act as mute spectators.

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