Biogas guzzlers: Karachi’s public buses to run on cow poo

Cow poo-fueled buses are part of an effort to clean the city’s air. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 02 January 2019

Biogas guzzlers: Karachi’s public buses to run on cow poo

  • New bus system will start operating in 2020
  • Clean bus network will cater for 320,000 passengers daily

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to freshen its air and cut planet-warming emissions, the Pakistani port city of Karachi will introduce cleaner-running buses powered by a decidedly “unclean” fuel: cow poo.
With funding from the international Green Climate Fund, Karachi will launch a zero-emission Green Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network, with 200 buses fueled by bio-methane.
Locals said the new bus system — due to start operating in 2020 — would help reduce air pollution and street noise, but doubted whether it would have enough buses to resurrect the city’s ailing transport system.
“(Karachi’s) public transport system has totally collapsed and most people have to use online taxi-hailing services (and) auto rickshaws,” said commuter Afzal Ahmed, 45, who works as a medical sales representative.
After management problems forced the Karachi Transport Corporation to fold some two decades ago, Chinese-imported buses running on compressed natural gas fell into disrepair and were taken off the road, worsening public transport woes, he noted.
Malik Amin Aslam, adviser on climate change to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, said the BRT system was the first transport project the Green Climate Fund had approved, and would bring “multiple environmental and economic benefits.” It would not require operating subsidies, he added.
The cheap, clean bus network will cater for 320,000 passengers daily, and will reduce planet-warming emissions by 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over 30 years, according to project documents.
The BRT will consist of a 30-km (18.6-mile) corridor that will benefit 1.5 million residents, adding 25 new bus stations, secure pedestrian crossings, improved sidewalks, cycle lanes and bike-sharing facilities.
The Green Climate Fund, set up under UN climate talks to provide finance to developing countries to help them grow cleanly and adapt to a warming climate, will provide $49 million for the Karachi project out of a total cost of $583.5 million.
The other major funders are the Asian Development Bank and the provincial government of Sindh, where Karachi is located.
WASTE ON TAP
The BRT system, to be rolled out over four years, will have a fleet of 200 hybrid buses that will run on bio-methane produced from manure excreted by Karachi’s 400,000 milk-producing water buffaloes, and collected by the authorities.
The project will prevent about 3,200 tons of cow manure entering the ocean daily by converting it into energy and fertilizer at a biogas plant, and will save more than 50,000 gallons of fresh water now used to wash that waste into the bay, Aslam said.
Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CEO of Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Pakistan, a policy think-tank, said calculating the overall impact on the environment was complex, as the buses would be introduced in stages.
Pakistan’s authorities often lack maintenance budgets, he noted, highlighting the risk the buses could break down and not be repaired.
“Pakistan has a history that it does not utilize donors’ project funding at an optimum level,” he said.
But if all goes well, Sheikh said the project, as the country’s first green BRT system, would lay the foundation for “climate-smart urban transportation systems” in other places.
It could shake up approaches to public transport among policy makers and planners, serving as a model for other cities, including Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Faisalabad, he said.
CLEANER AIR
Pakistan needs to launch such projects in big cities to discourage personal vehicle use, thereby easing traffic emissions and smog, and improving air quality and public health, Sheikh added.
He recommended setting a target for 70 percent of the urban population to use public transport.
Another way to ease air pollution would be to import better-quality petroleum fuels for vehicles, he added.
“We are importing low-grade fuel, and our refineries have capacity to refine only third-grade fuel,” he said.
Ahmad Rafay Alam, an environmental lawyer, said previous BRT projects in Pakistan’s large cities had not focused on environmental sustainability.
Planners should start connecting transport systems with wider urban development, Alam said.
“We need to introduce transport-oriented urban design by encouraging the use of public transport and discouraging the use of private vehicles to reduce emissions,” he said.
Zia Ur Rehman, a Karachi-based journalist covering civic issues, noted that the Sindh provincial government had run less than 50 buses in the city in the last 10 years, while private buses and mini-buses had dwindled from 25,000 to 8,000.
One reason is that buses were torched during strikes and at times of political upheaval, he said.
The new bus system alone was unlikely to resolve the city’s transport problems, but would be “a short-term relief for commuters and also help in reducing... air pollution,” he added.


Australian man survives croc attack by gouging its eye

Updated 16 November 2019

Australian man survives croc attack by gouging its eye

  • Wildlife ranger Craig Dickmann made a split-second decision to go fishing in a remote part of Northern Australia known as ‘croc country.’
  • ‘That noise will haunt me forever I think, the sound of the snap of its jaws’

CAIRNS, Australia: An Australian wildlife ranger has recounted his terrifying escape from the clutches of a “particularly cunning” crocodile, after wrestling with the reptile and sticking a finger in its eye.
Craig Dickmann, who made a split-second decision to go fishing last Sunday in a remote part of Northern Australia known as “croc country” last Sunday, said a 2.8-meter (nine-foot) crocodile came up from behind him as he was leaving the beach.
“As I’ve turned to go, the first thing I see is its head just come at me,” he told reporters on Friday from his hospital bed in the town of Cairns in Queensland state.
Dickmann said the animal latched on to his thigh.
“That noise will haunt me forever I think, the sound of the snap of its jaws,” he said.
The 54-year-old said he wrestled with the croc on the remote beach as it tried to drag him into the water.
Dickmann stuck his thumb into its eye, saying it was the only “soft spot” he found on the “bullet-proof” animal.
“Their eyes retract a fair way and when you go down far enough you can feel bone so I pushed as far as I possibly could and then it let go at that point,” Dickmann said.
After a few minutes, he said he managed to get on top of the croc and pin its jaws shut.
“And then, I think both the croc and I had a moment where we’re going, ‘well, what do we do now?’”
Dickmann said he then pushed the croc away from him and it slid back into the water.
The ranger had skin ripped from his hands and legs in the ordeal and drove more than 45 minutes back to his home before calling emergency services.
It was then another hour in the car to meet the Royal Flying Doctors Service who flew him to Cairns Hospital, where he is recovering from the ordeal.
“This croc was particularly cunning and particularly devious,” he said.
Queensland’s department of environment this week euthanized the animal.
“The area is known croc country and people in the area are reminded to always be crocwise,” the department said in a statement.
Saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to seven meters long and weigh more than a ton, are common in the vast continent’s tropical north.
Their numbers have exploded since they were declared a protected species in the 1970s, with attacks on humans rare.
According to the state government, the last non-fatal attack was in January 2018 in the Torres Strait while the last death was in October 2017 in Port Douglas.