Biogas Plants in the Soon Valley

Dastak brings you all the details from the biogas development initiative ADP is funding in Soon Valley, Khushab, in partnership with Al Qasim Foundation.

1. Geographic background

Located approximately 300km south of the capital city of Islamabad, the beautiful Soon Valley is part of the Khushab (meaning ‘sweet water‘) District. With a population of approximately 70,000 divided amongst 22 villages, chief of which is Naushera, Soon Valley (from the Sanksrit word for beautiful) is bordered by the Salt Range to the northwest and cradled by the Jhelum River to the southeast. It is dominated by the 5,000 ft tall Mt. Sakaser which is surrounded by the saltwater lakes of Khabikki and Uchhali. A large forest, Pail-Piran, completes the list of major landmarks. The diverse surroundings make for a remarkably picturesque hill station, with a tourist-friendly mild climate throughout most of the year (with the exception of a broiling hot summer).

However, this diversity has also resulted in the Valley being comparatively underdeveloped due to smaller land holdings, ground water depletion and difficult topography.

The three basic means of subsistence employed by locals are:

1) Farming

2) Mining

3) Government jobs

2. The Problem

As previously mentioned, topographical constraints affect Soon Valley severely – especially in terms of the coal mining industry, one of the biggest in the Khushab District. As such, the community is based on agriculture and consists of many small farmers.

Soon  Valley  Soon ValleyCombine this with the fact that Punjab’s mostly well-developed road network falters as it approaches the Salt Range, and problem areas are easy to see.

One of the most significant issues is that of energy – without a basic gas supply in the area, most farmers rely on wood as a source of basic fuel. As a result, several areas of the valley have witnessed tremendous deforestation (especially in Pail Piran) and drought in the recent past. As the Thar desert already claims part of Khushab District, the threat of desertification is a serious one. Indeed, a major sustainability initiative is already underway in the area – the Pakistan Wetlands Project, focused on the ecology of the Salt Range Wetlands and others in Pakistan.

There is thus a pressing need to provide rural farmers with a renewable, locally available energy source for cooking and heating. This would provide both energy security to the residents of Soon Valley, reduce pollution, and slow down the dangerous deforestation currently underway.

3. The Solution

The Association for the Development of Pakistan is funding the development of 15 biogas plants in the Soon Valley to generate electricity. These plants provide an appropriate solution by disposing of manure and waste to produce gas that can be used as fuel.

C:\Documents and  Settings\user\Desktop\Biogas_plant_sketch.jpg  C:\Documents and Settings\user\Desktop\Biogas_plant_sketch.jpg

What is a biogas plant?

A very simple explanation is that it’s a tank where you put organic matter (manure, green waste, sewage) and these things basically ‘ferment’ and produces gas that can be used as fuel. As can be seen from the image, this environmentally friendly solution disposes of the need to incinerate or dump a great deal of waste, rerouting what was formerly waste into clean energy. There are three main components: the inlet, digester, and outlet.

1) The inlet takes in organic feed from various sources and transports it to the digester. 2) The digester stores the material in an airtight tank, producing methane gas, byproducts, and water. 3) The outlet redirects methane gas through pipes to homes, with water being released and byproducts available for use as fertilizer or reprocessing.

This Ashden Awards page highlights how the use of this simple technology has transformed the lives of millions in Nepal, India, and China.

There is of course a lot more to a biogas plants; this Wikipedia article and Youtube video might help explain further.

4. The Partnering Organization

The Association for the Development of Pakistan is partnering with the Al-Qasim Foundation to execute this project. Al-Qasim Foundation, headquartered in Naushera, Soon Valley, has been working on development projects for the last five years, with emphasis on projects on literacy, gender equality, environmental issues, and community mobilization.

Importantly, the organization has significant local experience in the installation of biogas plants. It is this irreplaceable experience and use of mostly local volunteers which sets them apart as the ideal choice for the project.

As of April 2010, the organization has made commendable achievements and delivered on its commitments. Two plants have been constructed, with the produced gas used for cooking and heating. Beneficiaries per plant exceed 30. Al Qasim Foundation has also laid the groundwork for future tranches by short listing and profiling towns in Khushab that meet ADP criteria for future development.

5. Project Details

In October 2009, ADP approved funding for the establishment of 15 Biogas plants.

Funding Process

Each bio-gas plants costs approximately PKR 50,000 (approx. 600 USD).

ADP is funding the project in three stages.

Stage 1: 2 plants will be constructed.

Stage 2: 4 plants will be constructed.

Stage 3: 9 plants will be constructed.

Project Goals

These plants are expected to meet the energy needs of approximately 360 people.

The key benefits of this project are:

  • Renewable energy source
  • Environmental preservation
  • Mitigation of health risks posed by wood burning
  • By-production of organic fertilizer

The local farmers who are the primary beneficiaries will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the plants thereby ensuring sustainable community participation.

You can get the latest updates on the project, including images and on-site volunteer reports, by visiting the Al-Qasim project page. You are also invited to generously donate to the cause! Thank you for making a positive difference.

Note: Project and technology details contributed by Umbreen Tapal.