Chulha trou­ble

While cook stoves in In­dia are be­com­ing fuel-ef­fi­cient, they are not im­prov­ing air qual­ity, finds study

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - MANUPRIYA

Cook stoves in In­dia are be­com­ing fuel-ef­fi­cient, but they are not im­prov­ing house­hold air qual­ity

TO THINK THAT some­thing as ba­sic and age-old as cook­ing is also a cause of air pol­lu­tion and dis­eases, is not easy. Our tra­di­tional chul­has burn biomass and re­lease small par­tic­u­late mat­ter and car­bon monox­ide ( CO) in the air. The In­dian Na­tional Cen­sus 2011 shows 780 mil­lion peo­ple use solid cook­ing fu­els.

In the Global Bur­den of Dis­ease 2010 as­sess­ment done by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (who), around 1.04 mil­lion pre­ma­ture deaths and 31.4 mil­lion dis­abil­ity-ad­justed life years were at­trib­uted to house­hold air pol­lu­tion re­sult­ing from solid cook­ing fu­els in In­dia, ac­count­ing for 6 per cent of the na­tional dis­ease bur­den. For the last 25 years, the In­dian gov­ern­ment has run and sup­ported ini­tia­tives to build solid fu­el­based stoves with lesser emis­sions. In 2009, the gov­ern­ment started the Na­tional Biomass Cook­stoves Ini­tia­tive (nbci). Till to­day, it has ap­proved 17 cook stove mod­els for do­mes­tic use.But till date, their im­pact on re­duc­ing air pol­lu­tion has not been as­sessed.

A unique study

A study pub­lished this Oc­to­ber in the jour­nal Eco Health by a group of sci­en­tists in In­dia and the US has looked at some ad­vanced cook stoves for their abil­ity to im­prove air qual­ity in com­mu­ni­ties where they are used. The study is unique since not only did it mea­sure the level of pol­lu­tants in the houses where the ad­vanced cook­stoves were used, but also sur­veyed ex­ten­sively to as­sess the ac­cept­abil­ity of th­ese stoves in the com­mu­nity and iden­ti­fied the chal­lenges faced by their real users.

Six com­mer­cially avail­able mod­els of cook stoves were se­lected for the study— three mod­els of nat­u­ral draft-rocket stoves (En­vi­rofit-B1200, En­vi­rofit-G3300 and Prakti-Leo), a nat­u­ral draft mi­cro gasi­fier stove (Philips-Nat­u­ral Draft) and two mod­els of forced draft mi­cro-gasi­fier stoves (Philips-HD4012-Forced Draft and Oorja). The stoves were dis­trib­uted in seven vil­lages in three dis­tricts of Tamil Nadu and Ut­tar Pradesh be­tween May 2010 and De­cem­ber 2011. The study was con­ducted in three

phases. In Phase I, base­line mea­sure­ments of pol­lu­tants over a pe­riod of 24 hours in the kitchen were made, when chul­has were in use. Phase II and III were con­ducted one month and six months after the test stoves were in­stalled.

Of the six stoves that were stud­ied, none came close to meet­ing air pol­lu­tion guide­lines pre­scribed by the who. The stoves did not even meet in­terim stan­dards (see in­ter- view). Us­ing ad­vanced stoves re­duced the re­quire­ment of fuel by 30-40 per cent but the time spent near the stove re­mained ei­ther un­changed or in­creased in com­par­i­son to tra­di­tional stoves. The rocket stoves al­lowed charg­ing the stove with the re­quired quan­tity of fuel for a full meal, whereas the Phillips and Oorja stoves re­quired re-charg­ing within a sin­gle meal pe­riod. This re­sulted in spend­ing ever more time close to the stove.

Sur­pris­ingly, the stoves with best im­pact on air qual­ity were found to be least cus­tomised for us­age in ru­ral set­tings. For ex­am­ple, the Philips-HD 4012 Forced Draft stove was the only one to show sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in PM 2.5 (62.7 per cent) and CO (78 per cent) but was very cum­ber­some to use. Clearly, user re­quire­ments were not un­der­stood well enough be­fore de­sign­ing the stoves.

Around 780 mil­lion peo­ple use solid cook­ing fu­els, in­clud­ing wood, like this woman in Tamil Nadu

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