Monday 13 February 2012

Fuel for thought

Sirajganj/Rajshahi/Khulna, Bangladesh

Soon after we arrived in Sirajganj I noticed some lumpy brown stuff drying by the side of the road along the river Jamuna. Sirajganj is a bustling town in central Bangladesh and the river is a big magnet for people.

Hand pressed dung cakes
From the look of it my guess is that it is cow dung. The other domestic animals were goats.

Then in Rajshahi, a much bigger town, I saw dung being dried in the outskirts on the walls of a house which had a bit of land. In a nearby agricultural village, dung threaded on sticks was a common site.

Dung drying in a village
Still in this town, by the river Padma, there was threaded dung by a house.
Dung skewers drying by a doorway
These skewers looked much fatter than the village ones; this house had no front garden. 

Dung sticks being taken to market? Photo taken in Rajshahi.
Later, when we were travelling from Khulna to Jessore, along the road the trees were festooned with hand pressed dung patties. I managed to taker a passable picture from inside the car.
Dung with clear hand prints
So it seemed a widespread practise from the outskirts of towns to the countryside.

These sticks sell for 10 taka/kilo - the price of 2 cups of tea on a street stall.
However I never saw it being used as fuel on the street stalls. The stall workers used fire wood or some curious dark sticks which, at first, I thought were branches of some plant. See below.

Hollow fuel sticks
Their price is 80 taka/kilo. Much more expensive.

After a bit of research, I found out that these sticks are made out of rice husks and other types of waste like saw dust or even engine oil. These materials are compressed and heat treated in a sawdust briquette extruder. There is even a video about this process: Bangladesh Cooking Fuel From Rice Hulls: An Integrated Food-Energy, presented by Compatible Technology International.
CTI also has a page about this project: Biofuel from Ag-Waste heals the Earth & Bangladesh . Congratulations! I'm impressed with their work too.
Even though the sawdust briquette extruder seems to be quite expensive I hope that this bio-fuel will become afordable and replace the non-ecological use of dung as fuel.  

Apologies for posting a blog about dung, but to me not putting the dung back into the soil is s sign of great poverty and it made me rather concerned to see it. The soil needs feeding in order to maintain its fertility.

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