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Cow-in-pasture-283pxHaurngombong village in West Java has 5,000 people, more than 500 cows - and a lot of cow dung.

But far from being a stinker, that dung has been turned into a source of energy, used to fire up villagers' stoves.

 

Seven years ago, a dairy farmer put together a simple bio-digester, which mixed manure with water, allowing it to decompose to give off methane - producing gas that his wife could use for cooking.

There was even enough gas to share with two other households, and the residual sludge could be used as fertiliser for crops.

Today, this dung-for-biogas scheme has been scaled up. Half the village now gets free biogas, some of which is even used to generate electricity.

Such environmental initiatives are thriving in villages across Indonesia, as communities find new ways to make full use of their resources and cut wastage. These initiatives come at a time when local governments are struggling with trash management, clean water supply and air pollution, as Indonesia continues to modernise.

As former environment minister Emil Salim noted, people spearheading such projects have 'gone beyond just talking, to actually doing something for the environment'.

The bio-digester scheme at Haurngombong village is one of 13 environmentally friendly projects featured in a new book by Mrs Gouri Mirpuri, the wife of Singapore's Ambassador to Indonesia Ashok Mirpuri.

Entitled Indonesian Eco Heroes, recently launched in Jakarta.

In some cases, enthusiastic individuals and motivated social organisations have made the difference. On the tourist island of Bali, Ms Yuyun Ismawati and her NGO, Bali Fokus, have been running three waste management programmes for businesses, villages and poorer areas.

Instead of dumping trash in landfills or on the streets, thus polluting water sources, people are taught to separate their waste. This allows recyclables to be sold or turned into handicrafts, food scraps to be sold to pig farmers, and residual trash turned into compost for farming.

Several green projects have brought electricity to some of the country's 17,000 islands, while also reducing dependence on coal and kerosene.

Ms Tri Mumpuni and her geologist husband Iskandar Kuntoadji have built micro-hydro power units in more than 60 villages across Indonesia. These units convert the energy from flowing rivers to electricity.

'The beauty of these projects is not just in how general living standards improve automatically with electricity, but how they lessen the burden of women when doing their chores,' says Ms Mumpuni, 47.

Green warriors are also trying to nurture a new generation of environmentally friendly Indonesians. Two years ago, Canadian couple John and Cynthia Hardy set up the Green School on Bali to instil social and environmental consciousness into more youngsters.

The international school has 200 students from 32 countries aged between three and 16. Lessons take place in buildings made of bamboo and surrounded by organic gardens, and lunch is cooked over sawdust-fired burners, using locally grown ingredients. Students also get many opportunities to experience nature first-hand, for instance, learning how to plant and harvest rice.

 

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