Assessment of the Biogas Technology Potential in Reducing Indoor Air Pollution: A Review Through Cas

Assessment of the Biogas Technology Potential in Reducing Indoor Air Pollution: A Review Through Cas

Thilivhali Eugene Rasimphi (University of Venda, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7289-3.ch010
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Many of the rural communities in developing countries are forced to rely on the traditional energy sources such as firewood, dung, and crop residues. These traditional methods are often expensive and/or time-consuming. Today, more than 90% of energy requirements globally are met by burning coal and natural gases with resultant release of harmful pollutants with a serious threat to the environment and human health. Twentieth century has witnessed great challenge to the progress of human development because of scarcity of energy and the principal infrastructure for the development of technology. The chapter reviews the potential of biogas technology to solve the problem of indoor air pollution in rural households. Useful information on the project impact was collected through villages' questionnaires, interviews, field trips, and community engagement workshops, and all the viability demonstrated from rigorous socioeconomic and environmental benefits considerations. The results show that biogas technology is sustainable and provides energy security while combating climate change.
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In rural areas, increased desire for improved quality of life and growing population has led to increased energy demands from all sectors, for example; transport, industrial and domestic. Indoor air pollution (IAP), a significant proportion generated from traditional cooking stoves, is thought to be responsible for 2.7% of the total global burden of disease (WHO, 2011). According to Smith et al., (2013) indoor air pollution (IAP) is considered not only to be a threat in the cases of related disease, but also in subsequent death. The reduction in lives lost due to reduced incidence of IAP related disease has financial and economic implications. Indoor air pollution is considered to be a result of solid fuels use in household.

South Africa currently relies almost entirely on fossil fuels (approx. 90%) to satisfy its energy demand, with coal providing 75% of this energy supply (Amigun and Von Blottnitz, 2009). This dependence is due to its vast coal resources, making it an attractive and low-cost source of energy for South Africa (Austin & Blignaunt, 2008). The majority of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the country (85% in 2010) are produced by the Energy sector (World Energy Assessment, 2000).

In many rural areas there is still inadequate access to clean energy, thus negatively affecting household health, for example, indoor air pollution caused by burning firewood or charcoal on open fires and simple stoves (WHO, 2006; Singh and Sooch, 2004). Indoor air pollution levels in rural households are often much higher than outdoor air pollution because of burning especially firewood. For instance, typical levels of particulate matter i.e. PM10 in rural households range from 300 to 3000 micrograms per cubic metre (WHO, 2002) and these causes serious threat to the users thereof. World Health Organization has reported that almost 40% of acute respiratory infection and about 20% of chronic obstructive pulmonary illnesses are caused by indoor air pollution from the burning of fuelwood (Arcenas et al., 2010). This is a problem in rural areas because of indoor air pollution caused by using fuel wood. Also the use of fuel wood for cooking also causes deforestation.

Poor access to recent energy supplies and unsustainable practices of energy generation in rural areas of South Africa has been causing environmental destruction and health risk to users. According to Onguntoke et al., (2010) some of the prevalent health problems caused by the smoke of traditional fuels, particularly fuel wood include; coughing, headache, and lung illness. For example, WHO reported about deaths in South Africa due to indoor air pollution.

The Sub-Saharan countries have low electrification rates and have high poverty levels compared to countries from other continents highlighting the link between energy access and poverty (WEO, 2009). Thus, the development of new efficient methods of producing energy and the choice of the renewable energy technologies that suit the economic and geographical conditions for particular communities particularly in developing countries is required in order to solve the escalating energy problems. The problem requires urgent strategies to protect the environment, achieve economic development and to increase social well-being.

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