Boyd Williams N, Quilliam RS, Campbell B, Raha D, Baruah DC, Clarke ML, Sarma R, Haque C, Borah T & Dickie J (2022) Challenging perceptions of socio-cultural rejection of a taboo technology: Narratives of imagined transitions to domestic toilet-linked biogas in India. Energy Research and Social Science, 92, Art. No.: 102802. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2022.102802
Domestic toilet-linked anaerobic digesters (TLADs) recycle organic waste materials, including human excreta (HE), into a clean gaseous fuel and fertiliser product. Socio-cultural resistance is often used to explain local resistance towards TLADs due to the use of HE as a feedstock. However, through qualitative investigation utilising in-depth semi-structured interviews with potential TLAD users in Assam, India, the use of socio-cultural rejection to describe resistance towards TLADs was found to have homogenised local voices and framed them as resistant to technological change whilst ignoring diversity within groups. The narratives revealed resistance to be diverse and related to an individual's place, personal and social identity. Resistance to TLADs results from both socio-cultural as well as socio-technical concerns and is also potentially negotiable. Adoption of TLADs could be facilitated through opportunities such as technology demonstration, social group adoption and a greater perceived necessity. Inefficiencies in Assam's biogas implementation programme have been potentially overlooked due to too much attention being placed on household decision making and generalising socio-cultural resistance across the state. If TLADs are to be disseminated within Assam, authorities must work with communities and employees of the biogas programme to more widely renegotiate social norms around HE as a resource and not a waste product. More generally Assam's biogas programme is ineffectively identifying households with a need and motivation for domestic biogas and we recommend revaluating the use of local contacts to identify households eligible for the national subsidy as well as the bias towards households with large numbers of cattle.
Toilet-linked anaerobic digester; Human excreta; Domestic biogas; Waste-to-energy; Socio-cultural context; North East India
Energy Research and Social Science: Volume 92