Go green, cook clean
The perils of the poor
Cooking is not an easy task for Sajeda Begum. That does not say much about her culinary skills, though, and has more to do with the lack of fuel where she lives – it is difficult to find fire wood, or cow dung (commonly used as fuel by slum-dwellers as well as rural people), in and around the Hazaribagh slum in Dhaka.
With a paltry income of Tk3,000 every month, Sajeda cannot afford the low-pressure gas (LPG) stoves in her household, as that would cost her around Tk1,600. However, she would still happily spend that amount, but LPG is not readily available in her locality. Moreover, firewood and cowdung cost her nearly Tk1,000 every month. This is certainly more than what common households in the country pay for gas connections, which is Tk400 and Tk450 for single-burner and double-burner stoves, respectively. The less privileged have ended up paying more than the privileged ones, in this scenario.
Introducing the clean cookstove
The Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources has recently launched a Country Action Plan (CAP) for “clean” cooking solutions – meaning an alternative for the conventional cookstove that is cost-effective, safe and environment-friendly. The government aims to distribute these clean cookstoves among 50 lakh households throughout the country by 2017, and three crore by 2030, keeping people safe from potential health, fire and environment hazards.
The Washington-based Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC), Netherlands Development Organisation and German Development Cooperation are working with Bangladesh government to achieve the reach the households without government-supplied fuel connections, along with other development partners. GACC is also working with the Power Division to implement the CAP.
Why the initiative?
Power Division Secretary Monowar Islam said the age-old cooking practices in Bangladesh are prone to cause severe health hazards to the members of the households, especially the women, who breathe in the smoke which has a high content of pollutants.
A study conducted by GACC supports Monowar’s statement. According to that study, over 49,000 deaths are caused by household air pollution every year, with more than three crore families affected by it. Over 32,000 deaths are results of acute lower respiratory infections, and around 14,000 are the result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Women and children are the two groups most affected.
The study also states that an estimated 89% of the population uses solid fuels for cooking. The rapidly expanding population and heavy reliance on biomass have put pressure on the country’s limited forest resources, with 50% decrease in the forest area since 1970.
Monowar Islam also said: “Bangladesh has long been planning to provide clean cooking solution to its poorer population, mainly to those living in the rural area. This partnership with GACC is a strategic reflection of that long planning.”
Al Mudaddir Din Anam, regional manager for GACC, said: “Fire wood is becoming increasingly scarce and more expensive, which has pushed many consumers towards other forms of fuel, such as crop residues, rice husk briquettes and cow dung.”
Anam also stated that about 10 lakh stoves are thought to be in use at present – a penetration of 3% – and the market for these stoves are not sustainable yet. However, he added: “Grameen Shakti and GIZ operate two of the largest improved cookstove programmes in the country and have projected further growth in the years to come.”
Ironically, anecdotal evidence suggests that many other stove producers are struggling with the low demand for the improved cookstoves, as not many people are aware of it.