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WB Says Improved Stoves Crucial for Saving Lives, Protecting Environment

Xinhua News Agency, November 5, 2013 Adjust font size:

The World Bank is urging the use of advanced cooking stoves in developing countries to reduce harmful emissions and death from indoor biomass cooking smoke.

The World Bank said in a study released Monday it hoped to apply the success of the Chinese government's clean stove initiative and promote clean cooking solutions worldwide.

"If more clean cooking stoves - stoves that use less or cleaner fuel - would be used, it could save one million lives," said the study "On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution can Slow Warming and Save Lives."

An estimated 4 million people die each year from stoves: 3.5 million from indoor smoke exposure and another 500,000 due to stoves' contribution to outdoor pollution, it said.

Biomass cooking smoke produced by traditional stoves is associated with a number of diseases, including respiratory illness, cataracts and even cancer, with women and children mainly affected.

The black carbon particle, a by-product of inefficient stove burning which can fasten deeper in the lungs, is toxic and extremely difficult to cough out, said the study.

Nearly 3 billion people in developing countries who burn biomass or coal to cook and heat their houses are in jeopardy, as are sea ice, snow cover and permafrost around the globe.

About 730 million tons of biomass fuel is burned annually in developing countries as household fuel, contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including methane and carbon dioxide, according to the World Bank's 2011 report on household cooking stoves.

Scientists have observed the loss of albedo (the earth's solar reflectivity), permafrost melt and rising sea levels in five cryosphere regions, including the Himalayas, the Arctic and Antarctica due to the global warming caused by GHGs, according to the latest study.

In addition, atmospheric scientists also found that biomass sources can produce "light-colored" substances and black carbon particles that can form clouds and reflect sunlight, which is an uncertain and complex threat to the environment.

Therefore, the World Bank called for "early and urgent action" to replace traditional stoves with a 50-50 mix of stoves using liquid petroleum gas or fan-assisted stoves, since these two approaches were the most effective in solving the problem in developing countries.

However, most developing countries are still faced with technical and financial difficulties.

According to the World Bank's 2011 report, only China, among all the developing nations, has a high percentage of households that have adopted improved cooking stoves.

It said China's National Improved Stove Program in the 1980s and 1990s, which focused on energy efficiency and household smoke removal through a chimney, was "an enormous success by any standard."

"Although the program is no longer extensively funded, the private sector still produces stove components and is leading the way by producing more efficient and less polluting models," it said.

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