Taken from Indoor Air Pollution - www.iapnews.wordpress.com

DEFORESTATION is a rising problem in Uganda. It has led to very long drought seasons in central and south- western Uganda. Drought was unheard of about 15 to 20 years ago. In Uganda almost everybody uses firewood and wood charcoal, it is very scary and worrying that one day it may become a desert because of the deforestation going on everyday.

The significant part of Uganda’s population, especially those who live in villages, lack access to modern cooking fuels and technologies and breathe indoor smoke everyday. It is now scientifically consensual that women and young children are at the greatest risk, because they spend the most time near the indoor cooking fires daily.

Dumping of waste without proper treatment creates dangerous, unsanitary and unhealthy conditions in urban areas. Accumulation of waste also creates severe long term environmental problems like climate change and global warming.

It is now time that we started doing something to ensure scientific treatment and disposal of waste without causing any harm to the atmosphere. Otherwise the lives of the next generation will be affected adversely.

Where do we start to tackle this problem? Production of biogas is a bigger part of the answer.

Biogas is the name given to the gas produced through the process of anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is a naturally occurring process and it is the bacterial break down of organic materials in the absence of oxygen. This process produces biogas.

The biogas produced has two main constituents, about 60% methane gas used for cooking and 40% carbon dioxide and traces of hydrogen sulphide and nitrogen. Anaerobic digestion is not new; it has existed for a long time on earth. Biogas is a universally accepted and proven technology for bio-energy generation from bio-waste.

Biogas is a form of renewable energy. It is considered a source of renewable energy because the production of biogas depends on supply of grass, food and other agricultural plants, which usually grow back each year.

Animals that eat a lot of plant materials, particularly grazing animals such as cattle, elephants, goats, horses etc, produce large amounts of biogas. The biogas is produced not by the cow or elephant, but by billions of micro-organisms living in its digestive system.

The production of biogas involves using biogas digester plants (machines) which facilitate the process of anaerobic digestion. The plants can be built on domestic level, which can enable most households to own one.

These plants treat hygienically kitchen waste and other biowaste and produce gas for cooking instead of using firewood or charcoal. It also prevents the tendency to throw the waste materials on roads and in public places.

Statistics from the Ministry of Energy (March 2009) suggest that usage of biogas digesters is virtually untapped in Uganda.

There are only about 1,000 biogas digesters in the country. This shows how much the potential of biomass technology is underutilised for the population of 30 million people.

Uganda is richly endowed with renewable energy resources and has large quantities of non-woody biomass such as agricultural waste, animal and human waste and every home produces these wastes. There is a huge potential to develop biogas technology to reduce significantly the usage of firewood and charcoal.

Biogas technology is already successful in China, South East Asia particularly India, and some parts of Latin America. Like many other technologies; Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa still lags behind in using this technology.

Eco-friendly latrines can be built in almost every household in rural areas with a biogas producing plant attached to it, and most important of all it is affordable. That will mean no more digging up deep pit latrines. Instead of building septic tanks for the new houses in urban areas; at a cheaper cost, a biogas digester plant can be built and generate cooking gas for these households.

A family of five produce enough biowaste to produce biogas which can run a stove for two hours and above. Biogas has been used in Rwanda prisons since 2001, about six prisons are saving 50% of cooking costs by using human excreta to produce cooking gas for the prison population of about 30,000.

The biowaste produced in markets within the Kampala region have a potential of generating electricity of about 2MW plant capacity on a daily basis. It can even be bigger if you add on waste from surrounding hospitals, colleges, schools, Universities and Slaughter houses.

The Government has an obligation raise a massive awareness and promotion of the production of biogas and also give tax incentives and subsidies to those who are willing to invest in this ventures.