The Chinese government will fund 2.6 million more rural households to build methane pits in 2007, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Wei Chao’an, vice minister of agriculture, said the 2.6 million households would be selected from the western and major grain producing regions.
The government will grant a subsidy ranging from RMB800 (US$103) to RMB1,200 for each household to build one pit, in view of their location, Wei said. Pits and methane capture systems cost around RMB3,000-RMB4,500.
Government statistics show 18 million rural families had built a methane pit by the end of 2005.
An 8m3 methane pit can provide 80% of the energy used by a four-member family in cooking annually. The 18 million methane pits produce energy equivalent to 10.9 million tons of coal and save 3.96 million hectares of forest.
Since the 1970s, China has been promoting the use of methane pits to process rural organic wastes, with once-common dunghills no longer seen where methane technology has been introduced.
Wei said, methane pits changed human and animal wastes into “treasure”– the gas generated in the pits is piped out for cooking, heating and even for lighting. According to a June 2006 Blue Skies China report, for example, the use of biogas in Shaanxi Province has liberated families from the chore of cooking using inefficient wood-burning, as well as keeping the air clean in the fuel-starved region.
In the mean time, methane pits also serve as an important method to control spread of schistosomiasis and pig-borne bacteria streptococcus suis as well as other diseases in rural area, Wei said, adding that test shows methane pits can completely kill schistosome eggs.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there would be 50 million methane pits by 2010.