“Hood Is Good With Cooking Stoves”

As Nepal is making efforts to provide clean energy to all, Vishwa Bhushan Amatya, head of program in Energy in Practical Action Nepal spoke to New Spotlight on various issues. Excerpts:

March 23, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 08 No.- 18 March. 20 - 2015 (chaitra 6, 2071)

How do you define technology justice?

This is all about whether the state is giving justice to the poor on the basis of technology. We all need fresh air to breathe. However, a poor person living in Nepal is cooking food in a traditional stove with smog in the room. How is it affecting the health of the rural poor? Rich people use good technology, good houses and good stoves and avoid smog and they are better off. The women of high class family are much safer than the poor because they have good kitchen and stoves. Even males are also helping their spouse. However, the situation is different in rural parts of the country where a large number of people use traditional stoves and women cook the food. They see it as a cultural role. Poor families, particularly the women, are the victims of technology injustice.

Who bears most brunt?

The women have to bear the entire burden from collecting fuel wood to cooking food in traditional stoves. There is a great injustice to the women in terms of technology and use of energy. As someone working at Practical Action and, individually, I believe that women suffer the most due to the gap in technology. Women are facing the burden of lack of fuel woods and smokeless stoves. I have been conducting many programs in the areas of improved smokeless stoves. I do believe that there is injustice on technology.

How do you see the state of access of women in improved stoves?

How to provide access of women in improved stoves technology is important. Practical Action has been working to increase access of women in the technology and provide justice to them.  Even Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) has launched programs throughout the country to improve the technology of improved stoves. We don’t have much difference on this. I have also worked for a long period of time with the involvement with AEPC for improvement of traditional stoves. For almost one decade in the past, we have promoted improved version of traditional clay stoves. Under AEPC, over 600,000 improved clay stoves have already been installed. The important part of improved stoves is how much smoke the stoves exhale in the room and how much smoke leaves the room? Practical Action’s approach of constructing the chimney is different as our improved stoves use a different technology.

What is the difference between other stoves and hood stoves?

We use hood to exhale the smoke which is more effective than the present technology used by AEPC.  Unlike other improved stoves linking the chimney directly into the stoves to exhale the smoke, we have slightly modified the hood to exhale the smoke. Our hood can completely exhale the smoke. The smoke which travels from stoves to hood up to chimney helps to heat the house in hilly areas. Our experiments and measurements have shown that the stoves with chimney can exhale up to 50 to 60 percent of smoke. However, hood stoves can exhale over 80 percent of smoke. If we want to have one hundred percent guarantee, it is impossible. This is not the last technology in cooking food.  For initial interim period, the improved stove of clay chimney was alright. After this, we have to go for more efficient metallic stoves. Beyond this we can also talk about hood stoves.

Which is the best energy source?

The best energy sources will be LPG, biogas and electricity. Biogas has less than PM 2.5 whereas electricity is hundred percent clean compared to LPG and biogas in cooking. For day to day use for light, we also need energy. For instance, we used to have kerosene lamp in Kathmandu forty years ago. There are no more such lights now. However, we use candle light during the load-shedding. Even invertors, which are charged from battery, generate solfodioxide which is harmful to health. We have been distributing the solar home system in rural parts of Nepal.   Although this is much better than kerosene, solar home system, which is run by normal acid, laid battery we need to convert it into shield led battery to make it better. It is a little expensive. This shield led battery is much safer and has a longer life. The life of shield led battery is over 7 to 8 years. As overwhelming Nepalese are poor, they cannot use energy for heaters and air-condition in their households for heating and cooling the house. Man can cope with heat but people in hill areas use firewood to warm their house. There are many technologies to reduce the air pollution. In many hill areas, people are using the technology in Lukla, Namchhe.

How do you see the possibility to provide clean cooking energy for all by 2017?

Three years ago, then Prime Minister Dr.Baburam Bhattarai announced to provide clean cooking energy for all by 2017. For this, AEPC has been making several efforts. When you review the process, it is unlikely that we will see clean cooking energy for all by 2017. The government thinks that providing any kind of improved stove will provide clean cooking. However, this is not true. It may be clean but not cleaner. Although it is impossible to install improved cooking for all, the slogan has at least generated enthusiasm. Now there is a slogan of clean energy and cocking.  The possibility to materialize this slogan, however, is less. UN secretary general Ban-ki moon is also stressing sustainable energy for all.

How do you see adaptation?

Hood stoves are a package. Local materials alone cannot build them. There is the need to bring zinc from the market. It will be durable for a long time. The price of hood stoves is a little higher.  We are considering making it affordable to all.  The question of affordability has also different experiences. For example, the concept of motorbike and car was different twenty years ago. Due to banking facilities, it is now affordable to all.  We are very cautious about affordability. Although Nepal’s per capita income has not changed much, there are more vehicles now. Our inflation rate is higher than the growth rate. Our affordability increases because our access to finance increases. Despite high cost, the hood stoves will be popular in case of availability of finance. Now each hoot stove costs about Rs. 8000.00. It gives so many benefits. It will save health and life.

Why is hood stove important?

In communities where people lack any access to grid electricity, wood and dung (biomass) is the main source of energy. ‘Clean’ fuel to cook food, light for study and power to run tools for earning a living is almost non-existent – and burning wood creates toxic smoke.

Is there any better solution?

Solutions are available. By working with women, battling the extreme problem of indoor air pollution in their homes, Practical Action has developed a simple smoke hood, which reduces indoor smoke levels by up to 80%. Working with communities in the developing world, Practical Action created a special smoke hood which is simple, cost effective and efficient, and is already helping save lives. In Nepal, Indoor air pollution results cause the premature death of 8,700 people annually (around 3.2% of total premature death).

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