Around 8 a.m., Puqung, a farmer in Zongxia Village in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, turns on a methane stove in the kitchen to begin preparing her family’s breakfast.
Looking at the blue flame, she seems happy.
“We used cow manure for cooking and heating before, but the smell it gave off was so suffocating that I couldn’t open my eyes.”
The family now has access to methane. A pipe connects the stove to a methane pit in the backyard.
Since the innovation, the Puqung’s kitchen has been clean.
“Life is much easier since we don’t have to collect livestock manure and firewood any more,” said Puqung.
Like her family, almost all households in the large farming village are interested in building methane pits which are covered holes where waste can ferment and create useable gas.
“We are benefiting from the new fuel,” Zon’gar, a villager said. “It turns wastes into treasures.”
A cleaner environment and economic profits have made methane pits increasingly popular in rural areas of Tibet.
Jo’nga Cering, an inspector of Tibet’s agro-pastoral department, said the regional government has been researching a practicable method of using methane fuel in plateau areas.
“If we build a greenhouse on the methane pit, it ensures the required temperature for fermenting stalks and straws,” Jo’nga Cering said. “It proves efficient.”
An eight-cubic-meter methane pit can provide 80 percent of the annual cooking and heating energy used by a five-member family. That can save a family about 1,000 yuan (146 U.S. dollars) a year.
It’s estimated more than 100,000 Tibetan households now use methane gas.
The government began promoting the new fuel in rural areas in 2006.
This year, the government plans to build 39,468 methane generating facilities. At the end of 2010, the figure is expected to reach 200,000 across the region.
Methane gas not only improves living conditions for farmers and herders it also saves coal and firewood, Jo’nga Cering said.