Turning waste into energy

Turning waste into energy

To address the need of managing municipal solid wastes, various stakeholders including government partners have initiated efforts to convert wastes into energy. The Cabinet recently approved a large scale project worth eight million dollars to use solid wastes for energy generation through bio-gas plants.

Under the Extended-Biogas Project, which is set to be launched in January 2015 and implemented by the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC), interested government and non-government bodies , can fund the projects that use solid wastes to generate energy by installing bio-gas plants, said Sushim Man Amatya, programme officer of Biogas Energy at AEPC.

Feasibility study on baseline assessment of wastes and potentiality to generate energy through bio-gas has already been conducted in various municipalities, including Vyas in Tanahun, Biratnagar in Morang, Pokhara in Kaski and Janakpur in Dhanusha.

According to AEPC officials, the focus on establishing bio-gas plants to generate energy from solid wastes is being encouraged as the technology is home-grown and the expertise needed on the field is available in the country.

Similarly, under the AEPC’s National Rural and Renewable Energy Programme (NRREP) launched in 2012 , the government and external development partners have envisioned producing energy from municipal and domestic

wastes. For the biogas sector, NRREP plans to install 1,200 large biogas plants by 2017.

In India, the government invests a huge amount on waste management, as well as in thermal energy generation from the solid wastes. Thermal plants with the capacity of 20MW  have been installed in various Indian cities. “Although it is not possible to launch a large scale energy generation project in Kathmandu,” Amatya said, “We can set up small scale projects that can contribute in sustainable waste management.”

The major challenges of solid waste management in major cities and municipalities are lack of data and awareness, appropriate solid waste management technologies, and shortage of qualified human resource, said Rabin Man Shrestha, chief at Department of Environment under the Kathmandu Metropolitan City. He added that growing population and unplanned urbanisation inside Kathmandu Valley have compounded the problem. “In lack of proper measures and management approaches including the problem of landfill sites, sustainable waste management has come up as one of the major challenges in city development and to the environment of Kathmandu,” Shrestha said.

Sumitra Amatya, chief at the Solid Waste Management Technical Support Center (SWMTSC), said while some of the municipalities like Ghorahi, Pokhara, Hetauda and Ilam have successfully minimised the amount of waste production by adopting reduce-reuse-recycle approach, the Capital city has failed in the task. On November 9 this year, the SWMTSC and Central Department of Environmental Science (CDES) at Tribhuvan University signed an agreement on a five-year project to prepare a baseline assessment of waste characteristics of Kathmandu Valley, along with development and research on solid waste management technologies.

“We believe this study would come up with relevant information on quantity and quality of wastes generated inside the valley, and recommend measures to manage it sustainably,” said Dinesh Raj Bhuju, technical advisor with CDES.

Powering up factories

While solid waste management of Kathmandu Valley is seen as one of the biggest challenges for the government, the country’s private sector says that they can help the government in addressing the issue, given clarity over ways to work together. The private sector is of the view that solid waste can be utilised for generating energy and producing compost fertilisers.

According to Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Vice President Pashupati Murarka, a number of cities in India are utilising solid waste for generating electricity through a thermal plant. And solid waste can also be used in cement factories. “The process however isn’t as simple as we say,” said Murarka. “There are multiple aspects that need to be looked into.” He added that the government should actively work to collect solid wastes and segregate the ones that can be burnt from the ones that cannot be. The FNCCI vice-president believes that the utilisation of solid waste in cement factories can reduce coal imports. “I had tried to make use of solid waste in my cement factory situated in Bhairahawa. However, the plan could not materialise as the time for filing an application for the government tender had already concluded,” said Murarka, adding that a consulting company from India was hired for studying the possibilities in 2012. The consultant had come up with a statement that the cement plant could in fact be operated using solid waste.

Hari Bhakta Sharma, senior vice president of Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), said that the private sector could be involved in the task of solid waste management given a Public Private Partnership (PPP). Sharma feels that the private sector alone cannot work efficiently as it requires support from the government and locals to sustain the project. “If managed properly, even dust produced from solid waste can be utilised,” he said.

The other crucial aspect is the need of consumer awareness for the private sector to be involved in the initiative. The government should be able to impart knowledge on using separate dumping spaces for recyclable and non-recyclable solid waste. A positive attitude of locals is also considered an important aspect. “The locals should be prepared to bear the cost ofdevelopment ,” said Sharma.

Business wise, private sector leaders say that solid waste management is a difficult model to adopt. Therefore the government should help the private sector in someway or the other, they say. “The government should replicate successful models that have been witnessed in developed countries,” said Sharma. Business leaders have suggested that mega projects should be introduced in cities like Kathmandu, so that it can serve the interest of businesses by making multiple use of solid wastes and the interest of government and city dwellers in maintaining a clean city.

The Investment Board Nepal (IBN), a government agency authorised for developing major infrastructure projects, too, has been working on bringing in investors for solid waste management in Kathmandu Valley. In a recent development , the IBN has brought in two companies from India and Italy to prepare detailed project reports. The board has identified three different ways for accomplishing the task. The first plan includes collecting solid waste in Kathmandu and a few VDCs in the suburbs of the Capital. The second and the third plan include collecting waste from Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

Top five waste generators in fy 2012-2013

SN     Name of municipality     Quantity of wastes ( metric tonNEs/day)

1    Kathmandu Metropolitan City     457

2    Pokhara Sub-Metropolitan City     83

3    Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City     65

4    Kalaiya     52.1

5    Dharan     50.2

A total of 58 municipalities, excluding the recently added 69, generate 670 metric tonnes waste per day

Source: Environment Statistics of Nepal 2013 (Central Bureau of Statistics)

Source:  eKantipur