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 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 18:45 GMT
Dung heats chilly Bangladesh
Mother holds her warmly wrapped baby outside Dhaka
Temperatures in Bangladesh are unseasonally low

The current bout of cold weather experienced by the 130 million population of Bangladesh has meant that animal dung has become an increasingly valuable commodity.

The big winter chill has also led to the launch of increasingly innovative projects to provide poorer people with food, power and fertiliser.

These dung cakes now bring enough money to make a living

Farida Begum
slum dweller
Slum dwellers in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, already use cow dung for cooking and heating fuel.

But now they have come up with a cow dung cake - each selling for just under $2 - which is a useful fertiliser.

Chicken fuel

Man wrapped up travelling on a rickshaw in Dhaka
Those in the capital are feeliing the cold
Meanwhile, a United Nations funded power station which generates electricity from poultry waste has been officially opened in western Faridpur district.

The power plant runs on chicken droppings from 5,000 poultry farms. The droppings are stored, dried and turned into combustible fuel.

The scheme is partly funded by the United Nations Development Programme which says its an innovative project which will produce economically and technically viable electricity.

UNDP officials say that if the project succeeds, similar power stations will be erected throughout Bangladesh, which suffers chronic electricity shortages.

Dung cakes

The cold spell has meant that cooking fuel and heating materials are in short supply. It has also meant that any form of combustible dung has rocketed in value.

Every day, hundreds of poor people across the country can be seen collecting cow dung, and much of it is now been carefully crafted into a valuable fertiliser dung cakes.

"The whole day, from dawn to dusk, we collect cow dung in this market," says slum dweller Farida Begum.

"These dung cakes now bring enough money to make a living.

"We sell to those who use cow dung in fish cultivation and in their fields as natural fertiliser."

Every day women like Farida patrol hundreds of cattle markets where tons of cow dung is available.

Power shortage

Many dung collectors roam from house to house to collect livestock excrement, and some have been seen in fields collecting dung from bulls and buffaloes ploughing the fields.

Such measures are necessary in one of the poorest countries of the world where fuel and central heating are sometimes in woefully short supply.

While the current cold spell continues, the dung is likely to remain in hot demand.

That is especially the case while the country continues to suffer a dearth of electricity.

Plans have been announced by the government to produce nearly 10,000 megawatts annually by 2012 as part of a 10-year multi-billion dollar plan to revitalise the power sector.

But for the time being, poorer people will continue to rely on more organic sources of power.

See also:

07 Jan 03 | South Asia
31 Dec 02 | South Asia
05 Jan 01 | South Asia
06 Jan 00 | South Asia
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