Father of Nepal’s gobar gas industry
John Finlay (3 October 1938 – 3 September 2007)
From Issue #366 (14 September 07 - 20 September 07), Nepali Times
John came to Nepal from Northern Ireland in 1973 to join the United Mission to Nepal (UMN). After some months of Nepali language study in Kathmandu, he was soon busy sharing his engineering skills with students at the Butwal Technical Institute (BTI). Another UMN staff member, a teacher from Scotland called Sheila Anderson, was working in the northern Gorkha village of Jaubari and as they got to know each other they decided to marry. After their wedding in Scotland in 1975, they returned to work in Butwal where they were also hostel parents to some of the BTI students.
At this time John got involved in the development of biogas as an alternative fuel and helped in the production of the very first commercial unit built in Nepal. His passion was always to use the skills he had to help those in need, and he saw biogas as a way to save many Nepali village women the daily chore of gathering wood for fuel from the country’s diminishing forests.
In 1975, UMN’s Development and Consulting Services built 95 gobar gas plants in Rupandehi, Nawalparasi and Kapilvastu districts. John later led a team to monitor how they were being used and how the designs could be improved.
In 1977 a company called Gobar Gas and Agro Equipment Development Pvt Ltd was set up and this was the start of the wider use and promotion of this eco-friendly source of energy in Nepal. Now there are several Nepali biogas companies and about 170,000 units in use across the country.
John himself was a champion of this technology both within Nepal and beyond, and it was in recognition of this that the Nepal Biogas Promotion Group recently honoured John with a special plaque of appreciation at their 13th Annual Meeting on 5 September. Sadly this was just two days after John passed away in Scotland, but Jennie Collins, UMN’s Executive Director, was honoured to be able to receive it on his behalf.
John’s career in UMN later led him and his family to Jumla for several years, where the Karnali Technical School was being built. The Finlay family returned to Northern Ireland in 1990, but after his wife’s untimely death there in 1994, John returned to Kathmandu to again work with UMN, bringing with him his valuable skills, commitment and attention to detail.
John became seriously ill a few months ago and had to return to the UK. Despite radiotherapy, he died peacefully on 3 September in Glasgow, Scotland.
John will always be remembered for his fun-loving ways and his open and transparent nature. He has left a legacy in Nepal that will remain.