The recent price hike in LPG, limiting the number of refills and proposals to link its supply to unique identification number has sent people into a tizzy. So much so officials had to issue reassuring statements asking people not to panic and widely publicise the measures to issue the cards.

But this has some positive spin-offs also. In the rural areas where getting a gas cylinder is difficult and the cost going up, people have started to looking at the alternative offered by New and Renewable Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh (NREDCP).

It is common for farmers to raise cattle in their backyard to supplement their farm income as well as for their own needs of milk and other dairy products.

The biogas plants are being promoted for a long time now. “But of late there have been voluntary enquiries from people in some of the areas of the district to set up such plants,” says NREDCP District Manager P.V. Rama Raju.Among the areas from which inquiries came are Tamaram in Makavarapalem mandal, Elamanchili, Parawada, Achyutapura, Koruprolu in S. Rayavaram mandal and Kotturu in Rambilli mandal.

Earlier we used to motivate people to go in for biogas explaining its efficacy and savings to them. Now, at least 10 per cent of the plants are being taken up on such enquiries, he says.For a plant with a capacity to produce 2 cubic feet of gas the cost is estimated at Rs.20,000 of which Rs.8,000 is the subsidy provided by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) of the Union Government. Besides, the cost is further reduced with villagers themselves working in the construction. “However, the construction is taken up by masons identified by the NREDCAP as the others who work in regular brick and mason work lack the skill. With the new mesh-type construction instead of the earlier bricks there hardly is any scope for leaks,” he says. Besides, 60 ft of pipe is given free and the customised stove is also provided on payment of cost.

For many villagers the biogas plant helps keep their surroundings clean and the slurry can be used in vermicompost or as manure for crops.

The 2 cu ft of gas is enough for a family of six to eight for cooking twice a day and even if only the cost of refill is taken into account it is a good savings for families in rural areas, points out Mr. Rama Raju.

The setting up of biogas plants has also received a fillip in the tribal areas particularly in Chintapalli mandal after a revival in 2010-11. Some girijans don’t keep their cattle at one place that makes getting inputs for the biogas plant difficult. But in 2010-11, after several years, five plants were built at Tajangi in the mandal. Now the number has reached 44, says Mr. Rama Raju. The plants were constructed for primitive tribal groups, Mr. Rama Raju said. What influenced them in favour of the plants is that the slurry proved a good fertilizer for turmeric they grow.With the involvement of an NGO there, 50 plants were constructed at Gattampakalu, 12 at Vantamamidi and nine at Rajendranagar.

A total of 750 units, including 100 for SC beneficiaries, have been constructed during the current year meeting the target fixed by the NREDCAP. The target is less than the 900 last year. The State-wise allocation is made by the MNRE.