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This project plans to bring 23 fluepipe wood efficient stoves (chulha’s) to the Jatoli region of the Kumaon Himalaya (India). The metal ‘jat’ burns fuel wood and is situated in the middle of the floor in an unventilated house space. Currently, open fire hearths are inefficient in the use of solid biomass in an environment of diminishing resources and biodiversity. Furthermore, indoor air pollutants from wood smoke are a known carcinogen, and the cause of illness and mortality especially amongst women and children in developing countries.
PeAk engaged in extensive research and then conducted chulha trials through the winter of 2013/14 at the behest of the local community. The engagement of women for design concepts was a significant component and one that will ensure sustainability of stove use. Though there are cultural barriers (especially the perception it is warmer if you can ‘see’ the flames) to the use of chulha’s, the community recently decided that the intolerable smoke and the time taken to collect wood may be significantly ameliorated with ‘new’ stove designs. The initial trial site is located at Jatoli with an altitude of 2400m and approximately 22 houses. Construction will use a combination of metal (doors and flu) and indigenous materials available (stone and clay). The combination of mixed mediums will ensure lower costs, increased efficiency and minimal maintenance. This enables most of the work to be constructed locally minimising outside inputs and facilitates householder involvement during the building phase creating the dual benefit of ownership of the unit with the knowledge gained being invaluable for future maintenance as required. This project will provide local employment throughout various aspects of the manufacturing and construction phase.
The sedimentary stone slab stove top will incorporate two spaces for a pot & cooker (rice, dhal & potatoes) & at alternate times a kettle and or hot water as required. Two plate steel doors with frames will allow front mounted wood entry and a side door allowing the staple of flat unleavened bread (roti) to be finished off on a bed of coals (pakhana). Both the front mounted door and the sheet metal flue will have a dampener to regulate air flow.
The project aims to reduce fuel wood consumption thereby preserving local forests whilst improving health outcomes.
Fuel wood is the main source of energy for rural households. The Himalayan climate is a stark contrast between long, cold winters and warm wet summers. As a consequence, women and girls (as young as 4 years old) in the village of Jatoli spend at least 3 hours a day collecting wood for the dual use of heating and cooking in the colder months and cooking only in the monsoon season. According to local women elders the time taken to collect wood is increasing with every year. Consequently, the surrounding temperate rain forest is under pressure from over cutting for housing construction, livestock fodder/bedding and significantly fuel wood. The 10 kilometre collection zone falls within the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve recognised by UNESCO as being rich in biodiversity. The scarcity of timber proximal to villages has led to the practice of green wood collection.
The burning of solid biomass in the current metal tripod or ‘jat’ (pictured above) is regulated only by the amount, quality and moisture content that is used. This process has inherent loses through lack of controlled air flow in combustion and poor heat sink materials leading to inefficient wood use. Stoves used in similar climatic conditions in India, Pakistan and Nepal have shown a 30 to 35 percent reduction in fuel wood use.
Further inefficiencies occur with multiple dishes such as the staples of dhal and rice with roti cooked on a traditional jat which accommodates only one cooking vessel at a time. This becomes increasingly problematic if guests arrive for chai. That said, recent gas cylinders (for cooking only during the monsoon) have made inroads into the area but refilling cylinders is time consuming, problematic – mainly due to the remote geographic location - and expensive. This witnesses the few houses that have access to gas revert to wood, especially during the colder months were heating is paramount and ‘why pay, my wife’s labour is free!’
Nearly 70% of rural Indian households are classified as ‘unventilated’. WHO estimates that “pollution in rural Indian kitchens is 30 times higher than recommended levels” (Times of India 2013) Jatoli is no exception with small doorways and windows in the traditional houses designed for minimal heat loss (read: also minimal smoke loss). It is also recognised “in poorly ventilated dwellings indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children whom spend the most time near the domestic hearth.” (WHO: fact sheets - 2013). PeAk staff note than when eating meals at local houses the air quality is so poor that it is frequently difficult to see the person sitting next to you, with the roof, walls and household goods (not to mention lungs) coated in black tar due to smoke.
The repeated exposure to household pollution from cooking with solid fuels (wood, animal dung, coal) is a major source of mortality responsible for 500, 000 premature deaths in India alone each year with most being women and children (approximately 3-4 million people globally). Wood smoke is a known carcinogen containing fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, sulphur dioxide and various irritant gases that scar the lungs. This indoor air pollution is a major source of acute respiratory infections, doubles the risk of childhood pneumonia, and is a leading cause of disease (stroke, ischaemic heart disease, lung cancer etc) and mortality. While morbidity and mortality statistics are difficult to quantify in the region, it is clear that significant health ramifications are a daily occurrence for the villagers with a high prevalence of childhood pneumonia, coughs, sore throats and wheezing being some of the most obvious effects of repeated smoke inhalation.