The news published in Kathmandu Post reported death of approximately 7,500 Nepalese annually due to disease linked to indoor air pollution. It highlights the deteriorating women’s and children’s health due to the pollution.The news also reports Nepal’s goal to make all households indoor air pollution free by 2022. This is a significant goal to keep women and children away from indoor pollution. At the same time I took liberty to doubt about the goal. I will mention why I am doubtful about it and why this can be a challenging task.
Soot particles and gas released from smoke after burning wood for cooking effects the lungs, eyes, skin. Long and repeated exposure to the smoke can have severe impact on health mostly of women and children. In the report published in Environmental Health Perspectives, you can follow more about air pollution and burden of disease associated with household cooking in detail.
Despite the impact of smoke caused by wood fuel, still 66% of household in country side use biomass as cooking fuel.
Who are working to replace wood fuel with clean cooking fuel?
A country where almost 2/3rd of population burns wood for cooking purpose should be a matter of concern for authority. There are plenty of organizations involved in clean cooking solution projects in Nepal. Few to name are Clean Cooking Alliance , HPR Nepal , SNV , Practical Action. They claim their major tasks is to replace traditional cooking practices using bio fuel.
What are the obstacles for minimizing indoor air pollution caused by wood fuel? What’s actually forcing people to stick to the wood fuel, let’s get into that.
Why making all households indoor air pollution free can be challenging?
The World Bank says in 2017 80.1% of total population resides in rural areas, which was 81.1 in 2016. Household in rural areas where forest is not that far might not have to pay for wood. The availability and affordability are primary reasons in case of rural areas.
I have witnessed some change in cooking fuel. LPG gas has replaced wood fuel partially in some places. Still in many household using LPG gas has wood fuel as alternative or for some occasions.
I have heard some gentlemen saying “food cooked using wood is tastier than cooked in LPG or electricity”. This thought also will never encourage women to shift to healthier cooking systems.
Another vital reason is technical challenges. Once the advanced or smokeless cook stove is out of order it barely gets repaired.
There are health problem in women and children but men are the one who makes decisions including changing the fuel used to cook. So, it is tough to eradicate wood burning as fuel.
The reason I shouldn’t miss is illiteracy. They can’t realize the depth of the problem unless it has serious consequences. Cough, sore throat, eye irritation is what is common to everyone and hardly relates it to household smoke. Income, employment status is also the factors help to decide cooking system.
I believe these points will help organizations and authority to study and solve the related issues and make Nepal an indoor air pollution free soon.