One Step Closer Towards Cleaner Cookstoves in Afghanistan
Kabul (Afghanistan), 28 February 2012 - In Afghanistan's Central Highlands, local metal-smiths, engineers and environmental experts have teamed up to design prototypes for clean cookstoves and other low-cost energy solutions which are now being tested by villagers.
Getting the designs right could potentially save lives and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on wood for fuel.
Indoor smoke from traditional Afghan tandoors, or drum-shaped ovens which are used for cooking and heating, is a major health issue.
More than 95 per cent of Afghanistan's estimated 30 million people burn wood and other solid fuels in their homes, making Afghanistan among the 10 countries worst affected by indoor pollution, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
The inefficient use of dung and fuelwood is also adding to stress on the environment. For example, at the current rate of deforestation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that all Afghan forests will disappear within 30 years.
UNEP is partnering with the Government of Finland and the Conservation Organization of Afghan Mountains on the clean cookstoves and ecological restoration project in Bamyan province, a high-altitude region where rural communities have limited employment prospects, despite the region's significant ecotourism potential.
The project is expected to improve indoor air quality for thousands of families as well as providing employment and reducing the degradation of rangelands.
Speaking from the design workshop in Bamyan, the project leader for the Conservation Organization of Afghan Mountains, Eoin Flinn, said: "As the project's approach is to develop a range of affordable, "cleaner" energy solutions for cooking, heating and other household needs, it will also help Afghanistan in adapting to, and mitigating, climate change."
Based on findings from recent detailed local energy surveys carried out in and around Bamyan - which involved a complete review of power sources, fuel usage, investment costs and daily run rates - the design team has so far developed four prototypes: a tandoor (called the "Sutra" meaning clean), a bhukari (called the "Foladi meaning iron), improved briquettes and a solar water heater.
At the suggestion of one of the Afghan blacksmiths, the team is now experimenting with connecting the new cookstoves to vents, which takes fumes outside of the home. Villagers are involved in testing all of the prototypes.
The project is part of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which is calling for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020 to cut the estimated 1.6 million to 1.8 million premature deaths each year linked to indoor emissions from inefficient cook stoves.
UNEP has been a founding partner of the Global Alliance since its launch in September 2010.
Inefficient cooking stoves are estimated to be responsible for approximately 25 per cent of emissions of black carbon, particles often known as soot, of which 40 per cent is linked to wood burning. The Alliance is aiming to overcome the market barriers that impede the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves in the developing world.
As the stoves and other products are produced, they will be traded, rather than given away, as part of providing income sources and empowering Bamyan communities, according to the Officer-in-Charge of UNEP's Afghanistan Programme, Andrew Scanlon.
"As Afghanistan moves from conflict and humanitarian crises to a development-driven agenda, practical programmes focusing on economic development, labour creation and the sustainable management of the environment are a high priority," said Mr Scanlon.
UNEP marks its 40th anniversary in 2012, and it is also 10 years since UNEP began taking an active role in supporting sustainable development in Afghanistan.
UNEP works with a range of government partners, civil society and other UN organizations including the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MAIL), the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the World Food Programme, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.
In November 2011, UNEP released a report outlining a package of 16 measures to reduce emissions of short-lived climate forcers, including black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone.
If fully implemented worldwide, the range of measures, such as improving the recovery of natural gas during oil production, could save close to 2.5 million lives a year, avoid crop losses amounting to 32 million tonnes annually and help slow the rate of climate change by around 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2040, according to the UNEP study.
Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, in which UNEP is a partner, to fight against climate change, promote energy security and protect health by promoting cleaner cooking stoves, thereby reducing emissions of black carbon.
As well as the United States, the coalition includes Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Ghana. Its primary tasks will be to mobilize resources, assemble political support, assist countries in developing and implementing national action plans and raise public awareness of short-lived climate forcers.
2012 also marks the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. The UN system-wide initiative aims to bring about concrete action to achieve universal access to modern energy services and double both the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the global mix by 2030.
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