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Biogas installed in Haiti by Viva Rio with technology from Brazil (O Instituto Ambiental)

February 13, 2011

Viva Rio, a Brazilian nongovernmental group, has begun operating a project in the Kai Nou slum in this city’s central commercial district that turns human excrement into a biogas used as fuel for cooking and electricity.

“This crisis can trigger innovation for Haiti, allowing us to move beyond the desperation you see now,” said Volmir Fachini, the director of the project, which the group hopes to emulate in a sprawling tent camp of about 3,500 families adjacent to Kai Nou. “The solutions to the waste problem are within our grasp.”

The Viva Rio NGO,  invited staff from The Environmental Institute (O Instituto Ambiental – OIA) to train local workers to replicate their technology in Haiti. In Brazil OIA see enormous distribution possibilities, especially for domestic bio-systems. Public and private companies are viewing the technology as a solution for poor areas, reducing pollution levels in local rivers. Latin America’s biggest sanitation company – SABESP – is an example. Also, Aguas do Imperador Company from Petropolis – State of Rio de Janeiro – is aiming to spread OIAs system to a great number of communities. The local River Basin Committee is financing projects with the technology representing an investment of about $USD 1 million, always with local workers.

The toilets being built by “Viva Rio” will come with a 1 cent charge, but the real benefit will come from what happens next.

According to TVCiencia, the waste will be collected in a large pool, called a bio-digester–an infrastructure where bacteria transforms human waste into methane which can then be used as an energy source. This reaction can produce 50 cubic meters of biogas per day and can generate three thousand watts of electricity for 24 hours straight.

The benefits of increased access to toilets for the slums of Port-au-Prince will do wonders for improving sanitation in the poorest neighborhoods. But perhaps more importantly, the methane the system will produce can be used as an alternative to coal, easing the serious problems of deforestation in a nation already plagued with daunting internal challenges.

Quotes from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/20/world/americas/20haiti.html?_r=2&ref=global-home 

and Treehugger: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/12/biogas-systems-arrive-to-haitian-slums.php

and the Webpage of the Environmental Institute (O Instituto Ambiental – OIA): http://www.oia.org.br/new/english_home.asp

Thank you to Gui Castagna from Brazil who provided this information!

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