Publication date: 
February 28, 2014

Walk into the home of a low-income family in India and you are likely to see one of the leading causes of premature death and disability: a wood-fired cookstove.

Household air pollution is the third-leading risk factor for early death and disability for children under 5 in India. However, like many countries, India has not yet developed a successful plan to address the significant number of people still using solid fuel such as wood and dung as a source for cooking and energy. Many of the slum dwellings and rural households that use solid fuel the most are in extremely constricted and poorly ventilated areas.

In total, the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010 estimated that household air pollution is responsible for more than a million deaths in India annually. In response, an engineer, a cardiologist, and a diplomat decided to do something about it.

Rajendra K. Pachauri, K. Srinath Reddy, and Shyam Saran are calling on the government to provide a new clean energy option to protect the most vulnerable groups of society.

Pachauri, Reddy, and Saran coauthored recommendations to create successful and sustainable cookstove solutions. The first of these is to develop an affordable model that caters to the typical user, low-income women. The cookstove should be easy to use and maintain and suitable for local cooking techniques. They wrote in The Hindu:

“We believe that the government should formulate and implement a truly national scale mission, bringing together public and private sectors as well as non-governmental organisations, for developing the next-generation of household cookstoves…. Achieving success is critical to enabling the country to deal with its pervasive energy poverty [and] the debilitating health consequences for India’s women and children….”

A simple change like a better cookstove could yield massive health benefits.