Decentralized Renewable Energy Technologies have helped in creating a sustainable and healthy environment across rural India over the years. They not only provide clean fuel but also help in minimizing health costs in the long run. One such health-oriented intervention was done by CSIR-NEERI, a member of CLEAN Network, a consortium of DRE Enterprises.
The inhabitants of Charanka and Fangli villages of Patan District, Gujarat always relied on traditional mud cook stoves for their daily cooking. This traditional method of cooking emitted hazardous pollutants and deteriorated the indoor air quality in non-ventilated kitchens, exposing the people in the house to various health issues.
It was in January 2018 when Mahindra Susten brought the matter CSIR NEERI’s notice. CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) is a national-level research institute funded by the Government of India’s Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR). Established in Nagpur in 1958, NEERI is a pioneer laboratory in the field of environmental science and engineering.
To understand the traditional cooking scenario that was negatively impacting the community, CSIR-NEERI started monitoring the micro-environment kitchen for PM2.5 concentration and noxious gases emitted from traditional cook stove for 24h duration in sample households (pre and post-improved cook stove intervention). The study showed severe concentration of pollutants inside the kitchen microenvironment, which indicated the need for an improved cookstove.
CSIR-NEERI developed an innovative multi-fuel improved cook stove ‘NEERDHUR’, which reduced fuel consumption and emissions was identified as a good fix for the demanding situation. NEERDHUR offered a high thermal efficiency of 33% with lower emission levels of CO: 3.78 g/MJd, TPM: 340.10 mg/MJd at a power output of 1.70KW. Today, it is rated among the best cook stoves in terms of thermal efficiency for domestic natural draft biomass stoves under the 2KW capacity.
Through the CSR initiatives of Mahindra Susten, CSIR-NEERI deployed 400 units of NEERDHUR cookstoves in the villages of Patan District. To help rural women realize maximum gains in terms of fuel-saving and reduced emissions, CSIR-NEERI trained them on using NEERDHUR as well.
A follow-up survey after a few months of usage showed significant emission reductions when NEERDHUR cook stoves replaced the traditional cook stoves. Substantial reductions in black carbon emissions were witnessed, positively impacting the lives of community members. Another survey found that NEERDHUR cook-stove adoptions were high at 53.3% and 54.3% in Charanka and Fangli villages. The adoption rates actually doubled in three months due to continued efforts of spreading awareness about harmful health impacts of exposure to solid fuel combustion vis-a-vis benefits of improved cookstoves. The adoption rate (despite sponsored NEERDHUR units) clearly suggested poor awareness levels of villagers about repercussions on health due to solid fuel-based cooking and the concept of fuel saving.
This innovative measure initiated by CSIR-NEERI not only offered efficient DRE technology solutions at the last mile, but also highlighted the need for building awareness in rural areas on how fuel-efficient cooking can ensure better health as well as save fuel. Apart from these interventions, CSIR-NEERI in association with CLEAN, also hosts an improved cook-stove testing centre at its laboratory at Nagpur, to help the cook stove developers gain more insights on their developed products with regard to its performance.