Environmentalists have raised the red flag over a silent death-trap inside the walls of poor households in villages – indoor pollution.
Kenya Climate Working Group reckons that the extreme poor daily inhale indoor smoke equivalent to smoking 40 sticks of cigarette while cooking and lighting using firewood, kerosene and even plastics.
The group’s chairman John Kioli now says government efforts should be directed towards offering this lower-end segment of the population cleaner energy alternatives.
“The most abundant biomass fuels used by people in rural Kenya are wood and crop residues. With these, one has to burn roughly three times more biomass fuels just to get the same amount of heat as cooking gas, for instance,” Kioli said in an interview.
Kioli doubles as the CEO of Green Africa Foundation.
“Switching to biogas, for instance, is not only good for the environment but for households’ health too. So is turning to affordable solar energy solutions,” he said.
Household air pollution claims over 21,500 lives each year in Kenya, according to the Clean Cooking Study report released last November by the Ministry of Energy in partnership with the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya.
The findings indicated that solid fuels and kerosene in traditional and simple stoves are the leading sources of pollution. About 92 percent of rural Kenyans still rely on woodstove for cooking.
Kioli said the government bears the responsibility of transitioning the rural population to cleaner fuels through price discount incentives. This is because the high costs of cleaner alternatives like cooking gas, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), have long locked out poor homes.
The Department of Petroleum’s plan to roll out discounted 6kg cooking gas at half market rates in poor villages hit a snag over tendering malpractices.
Unlike villages, most urban dwellers use cooking gas for cooking and electricity for lighting, all clean fuels.
Still, the urban residents have to contend with their own fair share of pollution in form of industries, and smoke-spewing cars on roads during their commute, as well as sewage.
With the ever expanding middle class in towns with more purchasing power, more households today can afford fossil-fuelled cars, leading to more pollution, and harming their lungs.
Kioli reckons that the cleanup of Africa’s air requires a multipronged approach, including switching rural people to cleaner fuel sources, curtailing industrial emissions, and focusing on use of green energy sources for electricity, including shifting to cleaner electric vehicles.
Equally policymakers should do more to encourage efficient transportation ways, including carpooling, park-and-ride commuter train service and cycling, he says.