Biogas: A sustainable solution for curbing pollution, improving livelihoods & enhancing quality of life

News: Pollutants emitted due to the burning of fossil fuels and biomass not only affect the health of people, but are also responsible for climate change.

The organic portion of the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) produces Methane, when dumped improperly, like in landfills.

Disposing of organic wastes in landfills or burning trash is an environmental as well as health hazard. Apart from causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such unscientific waste disposal leads to diseases like dengue fever and malaria.

Installing large-scale municipal biogas systems can help cities handle organic waste efficiently to overcome the environmental and socio-economic challenges posed by overburdened landfills.

How can Biogas prove immensely beneficial for India?

As per WHO, over four million people die every year all over the world due to high levels of indoor air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels and biomass.

The female members of a household are affected by indoor pollution as they spend more time inside the house. In this case, switching to biogas could be good for these women because they won’t be exposed to harmful smoke and pollution.

Only 26.53% of the total power generated in India is from renewable sources, according to estimates. The high dependence on non-renewable sources is the leading cause of the long-standing energy problems in the country.

Installing biogas plants at the micro- and macro-level can address the critical issues of handling livestock manure and agricultural wastes, deteriorating soil quality, water pollution and deforestation. 

Reduction of carbon emissions: A fully functional biogas digester, for every tonne of feedstock processed, can reduce approximately 2.83 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in a year.

Improving soil quality: Biogas also plays a crucial role in improving soil quality. The digestate, a by-product generated in the biogas plants, can be used as a biofertilizer as it is rich in organic content and revitalises the soil. The use of biofertilisers not only increases crop yield but also improves the nutrient content of the produce, thereby improving the health and well-being of consumers as well as that of soil.

Biogas can also help in reducing gender inequalities and empowering women. As rural households gain access to biogas as cooking fuel, women and girls do not need to spend time collecting firewood and other fuel and can utilise this spare time for education, acquiring new skills, and community work.

– As more and more women are educated and skilled, they have access to new employment and business opportunities. This can help them to be financially independent and have more decision-making power in the household. This will further help to improve the psychological and emotional health of women.

Biogas can significantly contribute to achieving several UN-mandated sustainable development goals (SDG) such as zero hunger; good health and wellbeing; gender equality etc.

As the country aims to provide energy security to every citizen, biogas can play a critical role in transforming the energy dependence of rural and agricultural communities, which majorly depends on burning wood, dung, charcoal, etc.

Thus, Biogas can be one of the best available and feasible options for addressing India’s socio-environmental issues.

Organic wastes can be turned into green fuel that would reduce the dependence on the use of biomass and fossil fuels. This can also save millions of lives. It can also lower the dependency on natural gas imports, as India currently imports a little over half of its total consumption of natural gas.

Source: This post is based on the article “Biogas: A sustainable solution for curbing pollution, improving livelihoods & enhancing quality of life” published in Down to Earth (DTE) on 7th Apr 22.

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