• 1 No Poverty
  • 2 Zero Hunger
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  • 5 Gender Equality
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  • 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
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  • 10 Reduced Inequalities
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  • 17 Partnership for the Goals
4 Quality Education 7 Affordable and Clean Energy 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities 13 Climate Action

Can cattle drive public transport in Pakistan?

$570,000,000 loaned by ADB

320,000 People served daily, when completed

100,000 cattle and 2,000 tons manure/day

While the BRT system is still not yet completed, the Peshawar government conducted a test run in March 2019.


“Imagine a megacity like Karachi with 15 million inhabitants but zero mass-transit system,” urges David Margonsztern, an ADB project officer for Pakistan.  “We have to put everything in place.” 

By “everything” David is referring to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects in Karachi.

But developing urban transport is not just a matter of supplying buses; in the era of environmental concerns a critical consideration is how to power the system. 

David (left) sitting on a new BRT bus in Peshawar.


Karachi’s huge cattle market, the “Maweshi Mandi”, hosts millions of vendors every year.  

But while most people come to view, buy and sell the cattle, David’s interest is the approximately 2,000 tons of manure produced at the market every day.

This waste is usually disposed of into the street, eventually finding its way into Karachi Bay and becoming a major pollutant and health risk. 

David’s insight was to see the manure as a resource, an opportunity to implement a waste-to-energy scheme that would not only help clear the environment but also provide power to the BRT system.

Caption: Cattle and their poops at Behns Colony farm in Karachi, Pakistan. A team of waste-to-energy experts will work on collecting cattle poops from this farm and send them to produce energy to power the BRT.


The key component of the solution is a biogas plant that uses the manure to produce compressed gas to fuel the buses. 



The process sounds rather straightforward. The design is to collect cattle waste from farms, send it to a biogas digester which produces methane, and then transport the methane to BRT bus stations. At the biogas plant the methane will also go through a “gas upgrading or sweetening” process to increase purity. 

The project will use 2,000 tons of manure per day to produce 2MW of power and 20 tons methane vehicle fuel per day. The initial methane required by the bus fleet will be 11 tons and will increase over time.

“So poops from 100,000 cattle will be able to power the Karachi BRT project,” said ADB’s waste-to-energy expert Steve Peters, who is leading the energy innovation in this BRT project. “To make this work, the key is to engage with local farmers’ associations to ensure smooth logistics and quality poops.”

The team also applied third-generation BRT systems in both cities. This means the BRT buses can operate outside of BRT corridors and go into mixed traffic in the city. This design increases the coverage of the system significantly. It also allows passengers to conduct point-to-point travel without having to transfer too many times, helping to increase ridership and the financial sustainability of the system. 

On top of all that the team incorporated smart technologies such as mobile payment into the BRT system. Passengers can use QR code on their smartphones to pay for their rides. “This might be common worldwide, but in Pakistan, it’s a big innovation,” added David.


Karachi’s BRT system will take up to four years to complete but once up and running will benefit around 320,000 people daily, delivering not only major time savings for BRT passengers but reduced carbon emissions which will improve the public health and mitigate climate change. It will also make Karachi safer, greener, and more inclusive. 

View project here


  • Steve Peters
    Steve Peters

    Senior Energy Specialist (Waste to Energy) at The Asian Development Bank

  • David Margonsztern
    David Margonsztern

    Principal Urban Development Specialist (Transport) at Asian Development Bank (ADB)