Energy technology co-op helpful to ASEAN's rural development

Energy technology co-op helpful to ASEAN's rural development

Special Report: China-ASEAN Expo

NANNING, China, Nov. 2 - The cooperation in energy technology between China and the ASEAN will contribute to rural development of Southeast Asian nations, an official with China's Ministry of Agriculture said here on Thursday.

The Chinese government put forward the strategy to explore rural energy and develop eco-agriculture together as early as 1980s when agricultural environment began to deteriorate. Since then, China's eco-agriculture has expanded from rural households and villages to counties, Tang Shengyao said at a seminar on energy technology cooperation in rural areas between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

This is the first seminar of this kind since China and the ASEAN signed a memorandum of understanding on agricultural cooperation in November 2002.

From 2001 to 2005, the Chinese government spent a total of 3.45 billion RMB (about 431 million U.S. dollars) on developing the methane technology, producing 7 billion cubic meters of methane for Chinese farmers. Up to now, more than 18 million households in China's rural areas have benefited from the use of methane equipment, he said.

Meanwhile, Zhang Mingpei, an official in charge of agriculture in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, told Xinhua that the equipment generating methane had been installed in one-third of Guangxi's rural households.

Besides, some households in Guangxi's rural areas have been equipped with water heaters using solar energy, Zhang added.

"The use of recycling energy has reversed the deterioration of China's rural environment and guaranteed the sustainable development of China's rural areas," Tang said.

Though ASEAN countries are abundant in natural resources, some of them with agriculture as the pillar of their economies need to deal with the same problems that China faced in early 1980s. The problems include the decline of per capita resources and environmental contamination and deterioration, he said.

Huge potentials remain untapped in ASEAN countries to exploit the use of environment-friendly energy technologies, Tang said.

For example, Vietnam now has a livestock population of 27 million and the number is expected to reach 50 million by 2020. The methane produced from the domestic animals' feces could generate electricity of about 1 billion kwh in 2020, he noted.

Chinese and ASEAN leaders listed agriculture as one of the cooperation priorities at their fifth summit in November 2001. According to the memorandum of understanding signed a year later, energy technology exchanges in rural areas form a key part of the bilateral agricultural cooperation.

"China is willing to share with ASEAN countries the latest achievements and successful experiences in developing eco-agriculture and rural energy technologies," Tang said.

According to China's Ministry of Agriculture, China signed an agreement with Cambodia in April 2004 to help build 30 methane stations in the country, an aid project sponsored Guangxi.

"The success of the project has not only contributed to Cambodia's rural development, but also demonstrated that there exist a lot of potentials for Guangxi to explore the ASEAN market and carry out further cooperation in developing rural energy technologies," said Huang Wenxing, another official with the Department of Agriculture of Guangxi.