Field visit to Biratnagar & Itahari

The end of November / start of December saw my first major field visit for work. Together with two colleagues from AEPC I travelled east to the towns of Biratnagar in the district of Morang, on the border with India, and a short distance north to Itahari in the district of Sunsari.

#1 First up the views from the outbound flight; to the north were clear views of the eastern ranges of the Himalaya – including potentially Everest somewhere at the back there. Then as we came into land in Biratnagar the seemingly endless, flat expanses of the Terai region. The Terai plains essentially run the length of Nepal along the border with India and make up the third major geographic regions – Himalaya, hills, Terai;


#2 The purpose of the field visit was to meet with the various stakeholders from both Biratnagar Sub-Metropolitan City and Itahari Municipality with regards to potential large biogas waste to energy projects in the region from municipal solid waste (MSW). This was my first chance to meet members of the local government in person and start to learn first-hand more about how local government works in Nepal;


#3 We visited various sites around Birtatnagar including one of the current municipal waste dumping sites and the potential site of a new large biogas plant for handling the organic fraction of the municipal waste;


#4 We also took the opportunity to visit various related, nearby sites including; a large institutional biogas plant built with help from the NRREP scheme at the Biratnagar City Jail; a nearby cow farm with over 200 livestock, their own medium sized biogas plant and extensive composting regime; a nearby entrepreneur innovatively utilising biogas slurry as fish feed and fertiliser;


#5 To give an impression of the different atmosphere of the Terai region we can first take a look at the transport. Amongst the usual buses, trucks and a few cars there was an immense amount of pedal power being utilised. Here the detailed artwork on one much loved, beautifully decorated rickshaw and my colleagues finally giving in to my tourist tendencies and agreeing to a short rickshaw ride into town. Bikes also came on the bus with us and rickshaw drivers were vying for business as people got off the bus;


#6 Making the most of the flat terrain the tricycle trailer drivers were moving some impressive loads. The local buffalo were also working hard to move some heavy and some extremely long loads. It all makes negotiating traffic jams a little bit more exciting;


#7 The flatness of the terrain was brightened up repeatedly by large scale, brightly painted adverts;


#8 Our last field site visit took us out of the city and off the main roads onto small, dirt tracks winding through small villages. It was a short but fascinating insight into the very different style of living in the rural Terai in Nepal compared to the rural hill areas I have seen to date. Flat, flat, flat as far as the eye can see, bamboo houses and many, many animals and their young including calves, kids, puppies, chicks – you name it;

terai 2

#9 From the sky I had been fascinated by the patterns of the fields and the neatly drying crops. Up close, I was intrigued to see dung sticks standing out in the sun to dry in the rural villages. This is apparently a common practice on the Terai of recycling cow dung, forming it into sticks for use as fuel for cooking at home or to gain a small extra income at the local market;


This field visit was only a few short days but it was a fascinating glimpse into a very different side of Nepal. As much of Nepal’s industry and large scale agriculture is on the Terai – I am quite sure I will be heading that way again soon in the search for large biogas plant opportunities…


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