Clean Cooking: It’s a Right, Not a Privilege

May 23, 2022 By Pankaj Pandey

Household air pollution is a concerning global issue as majority of the people in rural areas still follow inefficient practices of cooking on mud or three stone cookstoves that produce hazardous smoke and pose serious challenges to human health and the environment. Without clean cooking solutions, rural homes will continue to be impacted by the worsening air quality rising from their own kitchens.

The Impacts of Cooking on Traditional Mud/Three Stone Cookstoves

According to a WHO report,

  • Around 2.6 billion people still cook using polluting open fires or simple stoves fuelled by kerosene, biomass and coal.
  • Each year, over 4 million people die prematurely due to household air pollution from inefficient cooking practices
  • Almost half of the deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 years are caused by particulate matter inhaled from household air pollution

The majority of the affected individuals are women and children who spend maximum time around household cooking fires. Replacing these inefficient cookstoves with clean cooking solutions is crucial to reducing harmful emissions, empowering countless women, and saving lives.

Clean cooking – including greater access to clean fuels such as ethanol, LPG and biogas; electric cooking; and cleaner, more efficient stoves – must therefore be a high priority today for governments across the globe.

Why We Need Clean Cooking?

Cooking without clean fuels and stoves releases toxic pollutants into the environment and endanger the well being of billions across the globe. The inefficient or traditional cookstoves emit black carbon and other harmful pollutants which contribute to climate change, deforestation and melting of sea ice. Women, in particular, are exposed to the unhealthy pollutants released by these inefficient and outdated cookstoves. The time and effort dedicated to collecting the biomass fuels (ex: wood, charcoal) increases the risk of musculoskeletal damage as well as interferes with their ability to attend school or generate income.

Black carbon and methane emitted by outdated cookstoves are powerful climate change pollutants. Many of the fuels and practices used by rural households for lighting, heating and cooking present safety risks. A large fraction of the severe burns and injuries are linked to household energy use and the ingestion of kerosene is the leading cause of childhood poisonings.

The highly efficient stoves can reduce fuel use by 30-60%, combatting harmful emissions. They also ensure the restoration of nature and biodiversity conservation through the reduction of deforestation and environmental pollution.

Efficient cookstoves are not only environmentally safer, but they also offer numerous social and economic benefits such as reduction in firewood consumption, climate action, forest and biodiversity conservation, good health & well being, employment creation, savings in health cost, savings in time invested in cooking and money invested in buying fuel, enhancement of indoor air quality inside homes amongst others.

Without a substantial policy implementation, the total number of people exposed to household air pollution will remain largely unchanged by 2030 and therefore hinder the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Priorities for Action:

  1. Incentivizing clean cooking transitions: This priority is key to reducing household air pollution and improving well being of billions of lives. Governments should consider implementing policies that encourage the use of improved cookstoves and fuels.
  2. Consumer-focused campaigns: They can help change the behaviour and perception of rural households. The campaigns should emphasize on the compelling benefits of clean cooking including cost savings, convenience and cleanliness in addition to health.
  3. Supporting flexible distribution channels and payment models: To ensure that consumers across the socio-economic spectrum have access to high-quality, clean fuels.
  4. Clean cooking as a public health imperative: Despite many negative health impacts of household air pollution caused by inefficient cookstoves, clean cooking still needs a more significant place as a public health imperative.

Clean Cooking and UN SDGs

Clean cooking is integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, it has a dedicated indicator under SDG7 – “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. In addition, controlling the health impacts of household air pollution is explicitly included as part of Goal 3, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

More broadly, it directly contributes to achieving 10 out of the 17 SDGs. The other 8 SDGs are Goal 1 – No Poverty, Goal 2 – Zero Hunger, Goal 4 – Quality Education, Goal 5 – Gender Equality, Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal 13 – Climate Action, Goal 15 – Life on Land.

An Effective Alternative for a Better Future

The link between household air pollution, poverty and bad health in developing countries is undeniable. However, with careful consideration and the implementation of inefficient cookstoves, we can create a better future for rural homes across the globe.

Community upliftment is the core focus area of our team at EKI Energy Services Ltd and we are replacing inefficient mudstoves and three stone fire cook stoves with improved cookstoves (ICS) to empower rural homes globally with a safer and healthier cooking alternative. Our improved cook stoves are about 30% more efficient than traditional cook stoves enabling a 45-55% reduction in the consumption of firewood as fuel with its added benefits of reduction of deforestation and generation of employment. Efficient cookstoves from EKI Energy Services Ltd enable backward integration of the carbon credit supply chain as it helps mitigate carbon emission in every home that is empowered with a free cookstove.

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