Thursday, September 15, 2011

The article on Good Stoves in The Hans India

Mitigating drudgery in deprived homes

A lot is cooking across the world when it comes to patenting new products and replicating it for mass consumption, with the bottom line being profits and more profits. But, here is a scientist from the city who wants to eliminate drudgery from kitchens in deprived homes by popularising affordable, safe, and environment-friendly stoves. The Hans India’s correspondent Venu K Kodimela meets the scientist to see what’s cooking in his lab.

Cooking indoors is a major cause of concern the world over. Indoor smoke kills more than 40,000 people, mostly women and children, every year in the country. 

According to a 2007 World Health Organisation report, indoor air pollution levels in some kitchens in rural India were some 20 times higher than permissible levels, with the situation being bad even in the national capital. Globally, more than 1.6 million people die prematurely due to indoor air pollution caused by burning of biomass – wood, dung, roots, straw, apart from coal in households.

With the aim of developing low cost and fuel efficient stoves, Hyderabad-based scientist Dr Sai Bhaskar Reddy Nakka converted his home at Ramanthapur into a lab seven years ago. He got down to brass tacks with a hammer and some tools to make stoves out of scraps and mother earth. 

After plumbing the depths of the relationship between fire and other elements, he zeroed in on workable models using, among other things, mud, cement bricks, tin, tin boxes and cement flowerpots.

Dr Sai Bhaskar Reddy built Good Stoves Museum, the first of its kind, at Peddamaduru village in Devaruppala mandal of Warangal district two years ago. He then purchased half an acre of land, after one of his friends donated money to put his ideas into practice.  

Today, Good Stoves, apart from removing drudgery in the kitchen,is the byword for increasing fuel efficiency of biomass, cutting costs on fuel, reducing indoor pollution, and taking the pressure off forests.

Dr Reddy also founded Geoecology Energy Organisation (GEO) to propagate Good Stoves and carry on his experiments with biochar. He has launched a ‘One million good stoves mission’ to facilitate the distribution of 1 million good stoves to the needy communities within the next five years. GEO proposes to do this by associating with community, institutions, governments, support organisations, companies, industries and philanthropists.

Dr Reddy, who doesn’t believe in patenting his inventions, is an ardent campaigner for Open Knowledge for common good. He draws inspiration from nature, beginning with the bank of Chinna Cheruvu in Ramanthapur where he grew up. “As child, I enjoyed life on the edge of the lake. But, over years I saw how the lake was turned into a housing colony,” says Dr Reddy. 

It probably influenced him to work at Patencheru, one of Asia’s most polluted industrial areas. His report on the Patencheru lake had helped environmentalists in securing landmark judgments in Andhra Pradesh.

After his graduation from the Saifabad PG College, Sai Bhaskar Reddy did double masters in Applied Geology and Geography from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Powai. For his Ph D, he pursued “Environmental Impact Assessment Studies of the Polluted Water at Patancheru Industrial Area, Medak District”. He was instrumental in moving Public Interest Litigation petitions against pollution in the city, along with environmentalist K Purushottam Reddy. 

Prese ntly, he is leading the project Good Stoves in 10 districts across Andhra Pradesh and in six other states in the country. His other field of interest is biochar (charcoal) production from crop residue and other wasted biomass. He has demonstrated advantages of biochar application, considering it improves fertility of soil besides reviving age old benevolent practices of famers.

Dr Reddy picks up low-cost material available in the market to design stoves, keeping in view the elements. These stove designs are kept in an open knowledge shelf for choice and adoption by communities. Users are given the options to use them as it is, change as per need, and bring same results through different designs. “There is tremendous response from India and abroad to his products on the website of Good Stoves. 

A stove designed by a student in Nepal has received wide publicity. He acknowledged that the stove is based on the concepts of the GEO. It is gratifying to note that people are following the developments and contacting me for advice,” says Dr Reddy. Dr Reddy takes every opportunity to promote his low cost and fuel efficient stoves.

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much response from the Central and state governments, though indoor pollution is the most pressing problem affecting the health of women and children. Some of the individual Good Stoves are priced at Rs 200 so that they are within the reach of the poor. 

The community stoves start at Rs 10,000. People have suggested that the individual stoves should be priced at Rs 500 for “pushing the file” so as to make huge profits. “I believe that knowledge should be used for the benefit of the common man,” asserts Reddy. Dr Reddy is demonstrating his models in India and abroad to make a difference to the lives of millions of people.

At last, there is light at the end of the tunnel for him. Some officials in his home state have come forward to install his stoves in schools and hostels. Maybe it is a small beginning, but it could be a giant step for womankind.