Time was when women of this village of 121 households had to daily trudge for considerable distances to gather firewood to light their stoves for cooking. Chulika, an eco-friendly stove, has halved the trips, apart from considerably bringing down the pollution caused by wood- and animal dung-fired stoves.
It could annually save 140 million tonnes of trees, says its developer, Bangalore start-up iSquareD.
"In simple terms, each Chulika stove saves 1,400 kg firewood per year, which is just half the quantity consumed by a mud stove (chulha), cumulatively bringing down the rate of carbon footprint, besides slashing indoor pollution by 80 percent daily," T Pradeep, who founded the iSquareD, told the IANS from Bangalore.
"So even if a maximum of 100 million village households switch over to Chulika, it could save 140 million tonnes of trees from the axe, annually, in India, benefiting our environment tremendously, and bring down the scale of deforestation," added Pradeep, whose NGO, Sahuha, is undertaking a pilot CDM (clean development mechanism) cook stove project with the union Ministry of New & Renewable Energy. The NGO has also adopted this village in Kushtagi taluk of northern Karnataka's Koppal district.
Animal-dung and wood-fired stoves are the primary source of indoor pollution and debilitating health hazards such as pneumonia and respiratory infections in the developing world, where they kill as many as two million people every year, including half a million in India alone, mostly women and children, according to World Health Organisation figures.
The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), based in New Delhi, has reported that chulhas from Juelkunti alone accounted for 93 percent of the community carbon footprint, amounting to 736 tonnes out of 838 tonnes per year.
If this is the contribution of a single village, then the aggregate footprint of the chulha-entric 600,000 plus villages in India would be enormous.
"Certified by the (Bangalore-based) Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) as one of the world's most energy efficient natural draught cook stoves, Chulika not only cuts down cooking time, smoke and use of wood but also halves the number of trips these women undertake to collect firewood in a month," Pradeep said.
The CPRI, an organ of the union Ministry of Power, has pegged the thermal efficiency of the latest improved version of the Samuha stove, officially known as Chulika Aadi Sri Shakti, at 40.29 percent, as against the 7 to 10 percent for a chulha. The Chulika needs only two pieces of wood for cooking, instead of several required by a chulha.
Samuha is also collaborating with the University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia on the cookstove project, looking at their impact on health, with Julian Marshal, assistant professor of environmental engineering at Minnesota, serving as its principal investigator.
Malamma Maidger, a daily wage earner in Deodurg taluk of Karnataka's Raichur district, who has been using two Chulika stoves, said: "Earlier, we collected three headloads of firewood for a week and now 1 to 1.5 head loads is enough. And the time which I had to spend for collecting the firewood is also saved."
Similarly, Mahadevamma, a labourer with a family of seven from the same area, also switched from three mudstoves to two Chulika stoves. She said: "With the earlier mudstoves, I had to keep blowing so frequently that there was more smoke and I used to suffer from headaches and burning of eyes. Now because of the Chulika stoves, there is less smoke and my headaches and eyes burning have also stopped."
"Some 8,000 Chulikas, the latest iteration of which is priced at Rs 2,200, have already been sold or distributed and demonstrated in Karnataka, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Samuha anticipates sales of 153,000 and 231,000 such stoves in two years, Pradeep said.
The current cost might seem steep, but dealers are at liberty to offer discounts. Chulika, with a shelf life of 10 years, compared to a year for mud stoves, pays for itself many times over, Pradeep said.
(Shudip Talukdar can be contacted at email@example.com)