Keeping Pipe Dreams Alive

 |  October 29, 2009

It was a brilliant plan. About ten years ago there was a lot of commotion in the village of Ban Sop Sa Nhong Fhan in the Don Kaew district. The village residents were disgruntled because of a massive stench oozing out of a large pig farm with about 500 pigs. Flies, attracted by large heaps of stored, decomposing pig droppings, were pestering the villagers. When it rained, the faeces were flushed down into the main water supply and the villagers were struck ill with infections. It was all a big, stinky mess. But then a local government official got an idea: Why not utilise the pig poo/pee and turn it into cheap, useful biogas and valuable manure. The plan was carried out and soon a large dome well-system was set up for fermentation of the waste in order to separate the methane gas from the residue. A filtering/drying unit for fertiliser production was created, and 6756 metres of PVC pipelines were put in the ground. The pipes ran from the gas tank and straight into the small houses around the hamlet were they supplied gas for stoves. Households saved 50 – 120 baht per month on the gas bill, the flies flew off, and the malodour moved out. All was well in the village.

But! . . . as the years went by, as the pipes were not maintained and the system not kept up to date eventually the construction stopped working properly. The gas flow was low. And once again there was a commotion; the villagers were not happy at all and it degenerated into an immense screaming competition between the farm owner and residents.

Recently, lecturer Surasak Nummisri from the Faculty of Sciences at Rajabhat University, was conducting some research in the area. The struggling parties approached him and asked him to mediate in the quarrel. Surasak inspected the gas system and realised that the pipes were all clogged up with sludge. The whole construction was largely insufficient and needed to be upgraded and cleaned. He rallied up the villagers and handed out copies of an information booklet he had prepared, which explained the problem and the solution. The system was cleaned, the dome well was expanded, damaged pipes were repaired and a maintenance team consisting of the most technically competent community members was set up. Now once again all is well in the village: pigs poo, gas flow, and nourishing, tasty dishes are simmering on the gas fuelled stoves.