By Kiran Stacey

Nearly half of the world’s population — about 3bn people — eat food cooked indoors on stoves fuelled by wood, coal or animal dung. In rural India the proportion of people cooking indoors with solid fuel is 64 per cent, and an estimated 60m tonnes of cow dung is burnt for cooking each year. In many countries of sub-Saharan Africa, including Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia, the proportion is 98 per cent.

The noxious fumes are deadly, especially in the small, enclosed spaces of village kitchens. A study in southern India found that levels of harmful airborne particulates in households cooking with solid fuels are well over 2,000 microgrammes per cubic metre — far exceeding the level of 100 considered safe by India’s pollution control board.

The World Health Organisation estimates that solid-fuel stoves contribute to about 4.3m deaths a year, with tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer common in areas where they are used. They also contribute to climate change and air pollution, even in big cities such as New Delhi and Beijing, where solid-fuel cooking is also common. According to estimates from New Delhi’s Energy and Resources Institute, nearly 40 per cent of India’s air pollution comes from domestic fuel burning.

For decades, researchers, charities and non-governmental organisations have looked for ways of persuading people in India and around the world to switch to more efficient cooking methods, which use less fuel per unit of heat and often cost relatively little. But time and again, people in rural areas return to their traditional stoves — though until recently it has never been entirely clear why. “Three decades of efforts to promote both modern fuels and improved biomass stoves have seen only sporadic success,” a World Bank report found in 2014…

Continue reading at Financial Times…

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Areas of Focus: Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
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