Climate Conversations – Curbing wood use in India’s salt pans
The salt pan workers in the Gujarat region of western India are used to working long hours under strenuous conditions. Making salt requires months of digging and raking to separate the salt from the rocks and facilitate the crystallization process. Workers stay in this barren landscape up to eight months per year and live in makeshift tents or mud huts. On a daily basis, they struggle against howling winds and a scorching sun.
India is the world’s third largest producer of salt after China and the US. About 70 percent of the 19 million tons it produces annually comes from Gujarat. It is not a coincidence that independence leader Mahatma Gandhi rallied the people of India around the boycott of salt production, one of the largest and most labor intensive export industries in the country.
But despite the many hardships they face, the salt pan workers are very clear about their energy needs, especially when it comes to cookstoves.
In a landscape where trees are hard to come by, efficiency is a must. “Most of the workers I met with were not only keen to purchase high quality cookstoves but also ready to put a down payment of 200 Rupees ($4.50) toward one,” says Radha Muthiah, executive director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, after she recently returned from Gujarat.