The traditional cooking stoves in India, known as chullas, are the best utensils for preparing delicious Indian food but they also have a negative impact on the health of the women who cook with it as well as others in the house. The black smoke the chullas produce darkens the walls and spoils the beauty of the house and poses a big danger to health because of the carbon monoxide contained in this smoke.
There have been numerous studies conducted which demonstrate that this kind of traditional cooking (using a mix of wood, hay, or cow dung) is resulting in a large amount of carbon soot covering the villages which is hazardous when absorbed into the atmosphere. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the particulate matter and the gasses contained in this smoke can lead to pneumonia, chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, low birth weight, tuberculosis and other diseases. Globally, an estimated 49 percent of deaths attributable to household use of solid fuel are cases of pneumonia in children aged under five.
To solve this problem, many projects have already been implemented worldwide. There are many simple tips and actions which can reverse this effect such as the use of a proper chimney and the appropriate construction of chullas can avoid the above-stated problems emanating from the traditional cooking stove. These solutions fall under the name of sustainable cooking.
Sustainable cooking: the why and the how
Why: the consequenences of indoor air pollution
- It is estimated that over 1.6 million people die due to smoke inhalation from indoor wood-burning stoves each year. India in particular is badly affected, accounting for 25 percent of such fatalities.
- Indoor pollution from smoke contributes to health problems. Household smoke, mostly from cooking stoves, is a major cause of childhood pneumonia and child death.
- Global Warming: a number of gasses and particles in smoke produced by stoves and cooking fires contribute to global warming. Several studies of the combined emissions from stoves suggest that household stoves typically emit gasses and particles that together have a net warming effect equivalent to between one and three tonnes of CO2 annually.
The use of efficient and pollution-free stove (which use less wood and run on biomass and renewable energies) helps both in improving the environment as well as personal health.
How: use stoves which run on biomass or renewable energy
Cook with your environment and health in mind and use cleaner cooking stoves. The cost of improved stoves can be as little as 3 USD for a simple improved bucket stove
The Sarai Cooking System. There is large number of sugarcane farms in India which generate a huge amount of trash. This unused trash can be used to manufacture briquette charcoal which can then function as a fuel for Sarai cook stoves. This kind of briquette charcoal is also available on the market for approximately INR 20 per kilogram. The technology is helpful in reducing pollution and is preferable for healthier cooking conditions that do not generate dangerous gasees at home. More information at ARTI can be found here.
Dream Stoves. It is possible to reach approximately 65 percent efficiency when using biomass energy for this kind of stove. These stoves cost between 8 and 12 USD. For more information check “Cost Estimates For A ‘Dream Stove’ For Asia”.
Some more examples of renewable and cleaner biomass cooking stoves:
- solar box cookers are cheap, simple and effective. These stoves have great potential but again they are only part of the solution; and
- parishad ovens. These high-efficiency wood burning stoves use at least 50 percent less firewood, saving 0.6-0.8 million tonnes of firewood a year.
Better Indian stoves for a better world
In India, several models of improved cook stoves have been developed.
- Udairaj chulla is optimum for cooking chapatti using firewood, dry dung cakes, crop residues, and other traditional fuels. The construction is easier and cheaper,l using better quality cement and bricks. The outer layer out of mud is good for skin protection.
- Laxmi Chulha are best for healthier air quality in the house because of the chimney construction as well as the multiple pot options.
- Sampoorna and Saral are the most economic, healthy and environment friendly chulha. There are two different versions, each offering different functions. Sampoorna cooks rice, lentils etc with the help of steam while saral offers a cooking block and other blocks for keeping the food warm.
Sources and links:
- Envirofit: envirofit.org
- The International Network Sustainable Energy: inforse.org
- Next Billion: nextbillion.net
- Venkataraman, C. et al. (2010): The Indian National Initiative for Advanced Biomass Cookstoves: The benefits of clean combustion.