Indian villages must be made ‘Smokeless’ to curb the rising indoor air pollution
On 6th July, 2017 CEED organised a stakeholders’ consultation on ‘Smokeless Village: Ensuring Energy Access in Rural India’ with an objective to develop clean and sustainable cooking solution for rural India. The consultation involved participation from energy practitioners, senior representatives from micro finance institutions, government agencies, think-tanks, renewable energy companies and social entrepreneurs. It aimed to explore different models of clean cooking solutions; and their financial viability for implementation in rural areas, particularly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where sustainable energy access for cooking is severely low. The consultation also analysed different policy instruments and schemes to improve energy services for clean cooking solutions in rural India, focusing the villages of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Evidently, the rural households of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (two most populous states along the Gangetic Plain) heavily depend on the use of solid fuels, including wood, charcoal and cow-dung as its primary source of fuel for household cooking. Currently, over 16 million households in rural Bihar lack access to clean fuel for cooking purposes. The dependence over solid fuel produces toxic smoke while burning. The exposure to this is especially high for women and children that makes them prone to increased risks of pulmonary diseases like asthma, tuberculosis and acute respiratory infections. Further, there are over hundreds of villages in Bihar that are still waiting to access modern electricity and are dependent on kerosene for lighting. The prevalence of diesel-powered irrigation pumps across these states adds to the already grim situation. The basic energy practices in the rural households, thus, are dependent on inefficient sources of energy.
“The concept of a ‘smoke-free’ model involves a shift from the traditional cooking fuel and other forms of air pollution sources at the household level, to a sustainable energy solution that has lesser environmental footprints and higher public health quotient. It is attuned to the United Nation’s sustainable development goals for clean cooking solution for all by 2030.” said Mr. Abhishek Pratap, Director-Programmes, CEED. He further added that “In order to create a self-sustaining model of smokeless cooking, it is crucial to understand the various aspects related to it, including its design, target audience, financing, marketing, etc. The joint collaboration and coordinated efforts of stakeholders engaged in clean cooking and renewable energy solutions are also very critical in the implementation of this project.”
Set in this context, eminent national experts participated in the consultation with an agenda to strengthen the existing best practices on sustainable energy access in rural areas, and to optimise and diversify the available resources for cooking and lightning purposes in rural areas. The socio-cultural, economical and physical aspects proved to be a major hindrance in ensuring sustainable energy access in rural India.
The consultation received participation from delegates representing eminent institutes and organisations including The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society – JEEVIKA, Nari Gunjan, CARE India, Aga Khan Foundation, Plan India, Pratham, SEWA Sansthan, Bihar Women Development Cooperation, Samridhi Foundation, BASIX, to name a few.
While summing up the highlights of the consultation, Mrs. Ankita Jyoti, Senior Programme Officer – Clean Air, CEED, elucidated that “The use of fossil based fuels and solid biomass in rural households needs to be discontinued immediately, since it adds to the existing levels of pollution. This is where the concept of a smokeless village plays a vital role. The model is multifaceted; and will not just help promote sustainable and cleaner cooking solutions, but will also help in improving the ambient air quality of villages and reducing women’s exposure to household air pollution.”