The government has announced several initiatives to transform India into a green economy. The focused green growth actions aim to bring futuristic and sustainable reforms that will lead the country to ‘Amrit Kaal’. Several schemes such as the Green Hydrogen Mission, the MISTI initiative (Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats and Tangible Incomes), PM-PRANAM (PM Program for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment, and Amelioration of Mother Earth), and the “Atma Nirbhar Clean Plant Programme” were proposed to put the country on the path of green growth. Apart from the emphasis on the green economy, these schemes aid in achieving the government’s aspiration of doubling the farmer’s income. The government’s focus on green growth is significant in light of the climate concerns caused by depleting natural resources, increased use of fossil fuels, and exponential population growth.
The government’s push to encourage natural farming by promoting the use of organic fertilizers and limiting the use of synthetic fertilizers, aims to convert 10 million farmers to take up natural farming over the next three years by establishing 10,000 bio-input resource centres to create a national distribution channel for micro-fertilizers and pesticides.
The biogas industry can play a crucial role in India’s green growth as well as in increasing farmers’ income. Apart from providing clean and green fuel that can be used for multiple purposes such as heating, cooking, and as fuel for transportation purposes, the industry can also contribute to the production of good-quality organic fertilizers and organic pesticides. The bio-slurry, which is the by-product of the biogas digesters, can be used as the base to manufacture nutrient-rich organic fertilizers that can restore the biodiversity of the soil and improve crop yields.
A biogas plant with a capacity of 1 tonne of substrate per day can generate 0.15-0.20 tonnes of solid manure. The soluble concentration of organic carbon, along with other components, including nutrients, can help in sustainable farming. Replacing one tonne of chemical fertilizer with organic digestate can save one tonne of oil, 108 tonnes of water, and seven tonnes of carbon emissions.
India imported fertilizers worth 12 billion USD for 2021–22. The import bill is expected to reach 20 billion USD by 2030. Given the amount of organic waste generated in India, the biogas industry has the potential to produce about 658.42 million metric tonnes of bio/organic fertilizers annually, which can reduce the import of N, P, and K fertilizers by 27%. Even if the 5000 plants, included in the SATAT scheme are installed, they can produce about 50 million metric tonnes of organic fertilizer worth USD 1.5 billion.
India’s government started the SATAT (Sustainable Alternative towards Affordable Transportation) scheme in 2018 to turn biomass waste into compressed biogas and bio-manure. The goal of the scheme is to turn organic wastes like MSW, food waste, agricultural waste, animal waste, and industrial waste into a clean fuel that can be used in cars, factories, and businesses. The government planned to set up 5000 CBG plants in a phased manner through independent entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs can sell the fuel to oil marketing companies and also market the by-products such as carbon dioxide and bio fertilizer. The SATAT scheme generated interest among investors and attracted investments in the biogas industry.
To encourage the use of bio-slurry, the biogas industry needs a SATAT-like umbrella scheme for bio fertilizers.
With the benefits of biogas dig estate in mind, the National Dairy Development Board has set up NDDB MRIDA Limited to help with manure management. The goal is to pay attention to the manure value chain and give dairy farmers more ways to make money from the sale of digestate. This new company is supposed to provide structured impetus to manure management efforts. Such efforts can result in lowering synthetic fertilizer usage, promoting organic cropping, and lowering India’s import bill.