Midnapur, West Bengal, India
Fellow Since 2005
This profile was prepared when Ashru Mandal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
By the end of 1990 India had about one-and-one-half million biogas plants in the country. However, more than half lies underutilized or entirely broken.Ashru has developed a package of remedies. To deal with the chronic problem of breakdown and failure to maintain the equipment, he has several correctives. First, he reduces the risk of breakdown (a) changing the design, (b) training local builders to do the job properly and giving them more incentive to do so, and (c) increasing the owners' motivation to use their biogas devices by improving their economics.One of the improvements he's demonstrated, for example, is a low-cost, improved, latrine-linked digestor that uses kitchen and poultry waste as fuel, thereby gaining 30 percent greater efficiency than the government-approved model. Another example he's developed is a system of rotationally pumping slurry from the biogas plant to villagers' fields to be used as fertilizer. He's also preparing an amply illustrated operating and maintenance manual in the vernacular. It will contain easy-to-follow instructions for troubleshooting and fixing commonly encountered problems. In the remote communities where many of these facilities are installed, such a manual will help newly motivated owners and, even more, the local builders/service repairmen he's encouraging have an easily accessible advisor when they are otherwise unsure how to proceed.