Unlocking the rice husk potential

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 25 Aug 2017, 19:56:20
Protection of environment

Unlocking the rice husk potential

Unlocking the rice husk potential
Shishir Reza
Bangladesh is one of the densely-populated countries in the world. In our country, the big population has imposed a relentless strain on non-renewable and conventional energy resources like fossil fuel (coal, petroleum, natural gas) and mineral resources ? iron, copper, lead etc. The increasing consumption of fossil fuel for domestic and industrial purposes as well as for transports has generated air pollution, health hazards, forest insecurity and climate aggression. The Energy Policy (1996) supports "ensuring environmentally-sound sustainable energy development programmes causing minimum damage to environment".

In 2010, natural gas consumption was 14.2 per cent, oil 5.9 per cent, coal 0.6 per cent and renewable energy 0.2 per cent. Natural gas, oil, coal and renewable energy consumption will be more in 2030. Energy extraction around the world has been escalating rapidly, generally in the developing countries. Obviously, environmental security will be at stake.

In Bangladesh, rice husk has a great potential to be used as renewable biomass energy. About 50 new varieties of rice including the recently-developed one are easily available in Bangladesh.

Rice husk is unvarying; small in corporal size and it is a hulking substance. Fixed carbon has been found in different types of husks. Global annual rice husk production is 137 million tonnes. In Bangladesh, the production is 9.0 million tonnes annually. Out of 38.75 million tonnes of total biomass produced from agro-residues, rice husk is about 26 per cent by mass. The major portion of rice husk is consumed by burning in traditional rice parboiling boilers. A portion is used from a king briquette fuel.

Rice husk briquette is an alternative of firewood we use. It is a common belief that there is an extra pressure on forest resources due to the high growth of population every year in our country. It can be condensed by using rice husk briquette as an alternative of wood fuel substation, thus saving 25.41 thousand hectares of forest land and resources alike once a year.

To ensure stable environmental quality and human wellbeing, including poverty alleviation and prosperity, the ecosystem services of forests are essential. The economic value of carbon sequestration becomes increasingly recognised and qualified in the global marketplace. Forests are playing a big role in securing human health benefits through provisioning clean drinking water, maintenance of medicinal plants and prevention of various diseases.

In Bangladesh, 80 per cent of ethnic people (Bawm, Chak, Chakma, Marma, Murong, Thanchunga, Bhome, Pangkhoa, Kheyang, Rheyang, Lushai, Kuki, Khumi, Tripura, Garo, Monipuri, Santal) depend on medicinal plants growing in forests for their treatment of illness. Hill people depend completely on natural flows of streams in forests for their water.

The land use pattern in Bangladesh is changing very rapidly due to alterations in physiographic and socio-economic conditions, climatic change adaptation and population growth. Land use conversion affects both the amount and spatial pattern of forest habitat, which in turn can affect the ecological function and future development of remaining forest lands. Habitat fragmentation and transportation corridors have created migration barriers or inhospitable habitats for wildlife. But this forest acts a carbon sink by renewing 7.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per annum. If we use rice husk as a substitute for wood fuel, forests will be a bigger carbon sink and lead to sustainable development of forest resources in the country.

Bangladesh is a guiltless sufferer of climate change. People are facing land and water pollution, riverbank erosion and natural disasters like flood, cyclone, drought etc. Agro-ecology is currently under threat. Desertification is scaling up. People of coastal areas are struggling with salinity and toxic crops.  

In this backdrop, rice husk biomass use can create a big opportunity. It can be used as a bio-material for daily purposes and thus save forest resources to enhance capacities for ecological, climate and environmental security.

The writer is an environment analyst and associate member of Bangladesh Economic Association.

Email: shishiresrm@gmail.com
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