Problems in South Asia
Absolute poverty is linked
to lack of access to a number of basic needs, including clean, affordable
energy. WHO has estimated that more than a quarter of humanity depends
almost exclusively on burning biomass – wood, charcoal and dung
– mainly utilised for cooking and heating in traditional stoves.
In the project region the number is about 700 million, more than half
the population in the region.
Environmental Impacts: The unsustainable consumption of biomass
resources not only degrades the environment. The reduction of the biomass
resources results in a direct problem for the poor it limits their access
to biomass for energy and thereby energy as such.
Health Problems: This high dependence on traditional fuels and
lack of access to clean, reliable and affordable energy solutions has
several adverse impacts on the lives and health of people living in poverty.
In addition to the long time spent in collecting firewood, the use of
biomass fuels often utilised indoor in traditional stoves results in severe
health problems for the inhabitants. Common problems are: Acute respiratory
infections (ARI) in children, chronic obstructive lung diseases (such
as asthma and chronic bronchitis), lung cancer and pregnancy-related problems.
WHO estimates that 2.5 million women and young children in developing
countries die prematurely from ARI each year from the pollution produced
by indoor biomass stoves.
No Access to Electricity:
Over 1,6 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity,
and about 670 mill. of these live in the project region. Without electricity,
study and productive activities are limited to daylight hours and development
of local production is limited. This reduces the possibilities to increase
income and living condition. At the same time, lack of electricity results
in poor health care. Improving health and reducing death rates will
happen without energy for the light and refrigeration needed for clinics,
The Nepalese Example:
In Nepal, biomass energy (i.e. fuelwood, agri-residue and animal dung)
is used for cooking and heating purposes. Use of traditional stoves such
as "agenu" (open fireplace) and "chulo" (rudimentary stoves) consumes
more fuel wood and increases the burden on women. Women are mainly responsible
for cooking and collection of biomass, mainly fuelwood from the forest.
More than 80% of the energy needs are met by fuelwood thus exerting immense
pressure on the forest resources of the country with negative impacts
Use of biomass energy and low-grade biomass fuels lead to excessive levels
of indoor smoke/air pollution. Women and their children are generally
to indoor air pollution. The indoor air pollution due to the combustion
of biomass fuel is the main cause of acute respiratory infection, chronic
obstructive lung diseases, eye infection and pneumonia for women and
children. It also accounts for higher rates of infant mortality and morbidity
other unhealthy living conditions.
There are alternative
energy solutions for the poor, who would be appropriate, but often the
poor do not have the knowledge/skills to use them effectively and/or they
do not have the access to the technologies. The lack of knowledge and
skills is mainly due to a lack of information and training. The lack of
access originates from a lack of local market for equipment and local
service, and lack of local production that can reduce cost of equipment.
This is caused by a lack of interest and ability by private market actors
and other stakeholders to enter the market and start up local production.
This lack of interest and ability is due to a perceived low profit, high
start up cost and lack of knowledge. Another factor that contributes to
the lack of access is lack of appropriate financing. The study, Power
to Tackle Poverty from IT-Power, 2001 has identified that half of the
people that lack access to adequate energy today can get this via capacity
building and funding for local renewable energy technologies, while the
other half will need subsidies in addition. The World Energy Outlook 2002
(Chapter on energy and poverty) from International Energy Agency finds
that in much of the rural area the investments to meet these needs with
traditional energy supply is too high, and the report recommends decentralised
supply based on local resources.
The negative trends
can be reversed, by instead of treating Sustainable Energy Technologies
(SETs) as money making products, looking at them as part of socio-technical
solutions. When SETs are introduced as a tool to reduce poverty, it can
be good way of improving livelihood, also for rural women.
In most cases the NGOs work
in local areas and receive support on sectoral basis. NGOs can integrate
SETs in their activities with focus on poverty reduction and empowerment
of the poor.
To reach positive results,
capacity building of NGOs is one key factor. The lack of capacity of implementing
NGOs, national as well as local, is an important barrier for large-scale
implementation of energy solutions for poverty reduction. The partners
have found this a barrier in all countries, as only a smaller part of
the NGOs involved in rural development and poverty reduction have energy
in their programmes while the traditional energy sector does not have
the skills and capacity to deal with the dispersed SETs that can reach
the rural poor.