A stove that burns right
A relatively less known source of environmental pollution is the kitchen — that is, cooking fuels and methods of cooking that cause Indoor Air Pollution, leading to life-threatening respiratory diseases. The solution lies in improving cooking methods to reduce smoke in the kitchen. This includes better ventilation, use of dry firewood, construction of chimneys and, most importantly, use of improvised stoves that consume less firewood and cut emissions. This is an area of work in which the Shell Foundation, the UK-based charity established by the oil major Royal Dutch Shell, is involved.
Says Anuradha Bhavnani, Regional Director, Shell Foundation, “Using fuels such as gas or electricity would be healthier than traditional biomass fuels, but for most people in the developing world, these energy sources remain unrealistic alternatives due to lack of affordability or accessibility. The challenge is to design stoves that burn traditional fuels more efficiently, emit significantly less fumes, use less fuel… and then find a sustainable way to get these improved cook stoves into developing world homes.”
One such effort is a tie-up with stove manufacturer Envirofit, whose products promise environment-friendly cooking. At Avaragere village near Bidadi, in Karnataka, Ratna, 16, who has used this stove for about a month now, says it “saves time as I can cook faster and uses less wood as well. In fact, the usage of wood has been halved so it's a good investment.” Her neighbour Pooja, 21, agrees, “Not only do I need less time to cook but we can even use smaller twigs and pieces of wood instead of logs.”
Besides the savings on time and money, the stove promises to safeguard health too. Carbon monoxide and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) present in cooking fuel emissions penetrate deep into the lungs, leading to illnesses including pneumonia, chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, low birth weight and even tuberculosis. By cutting down emissions, the Envirofit stove also reduces exposure to these toxic chemicals.