Decentralised household energy planning for selected villages in India

Decentralised household energy planning for selected villages in India
Authors (non HEDON members)
Chetan Kumar
This article is based on a household survey conducted in selected villages located near the forest area of Haryana Shivalik, India. The state of Haryana, which is located in the north-western part of India, has a meagre forest cover of 3.8% of its geographical area. About 40% of these forests are located in Shivalik belt, which lies in the foothills of the Himalayan range, and has been identified as one of the most degraded rainfed agro-ecosystem of the country (Mittal et al. 2000).

Since the early 1800s, the Shivalik Hill Forests have been used as grazing areas by neighbouring village communities. Agriculture being labour intensive, people kept large herds of cattle and grazed them in the forest. The open access nature of the forests led to severe erosion, which also affected agricultural production. Decreasing agricultural production led to increased pressure on the forest area.

The destruction of the fragile ecosystem of Shivaliks began as a result of fire, reckless felling to provide timber to the Royal Navy, and settlement by the people from the plains who brought large herds of cattle to the hills for grazing and cleared large areas for agriculture. This led to dense forests being replaced by bare hill slopes with scattered thorny bushes. Serious soil erosion became quite common and the once perennial streams became seasonal torrents washing tonnes of sand and boulders down from the hills. The sudden and violent character of floods was a clear indication of the complete denudation of the catchment areas. Degradation of forest resources in the region has been a matter of serious concern for more than half a decade.

Rural people in the area largely depend upon fuelwood, crop residues, and cattle dung for meeting their basic energy needs for cooking and heating. Meeting their energy requirements in a sustainable manner continues to be a major challenge for them. Almost 75% of the total rural energy consumption is in the domestic sector. The average daily fuel consumption per household/ family in the area is around 6.5 kg. The villages near the forest meet about 60% of their fuel requirements from government forests, about 30% from cattle dung and 10% from agricultural land (HFD, 2000). For meeting their cooking energy requirements, villagers depend predominantly on biomass fuels often burnt in inefficient traditional cook stoves. The inefficient burning of the biomass in traditional stoves creates high levels of indoor air pollution, which cause eye-related and respiratory diseases among women and children in the rural areas. To alleviate these problems, promotion is required for both efficient recycling of cattle dung, and the use of energy-efficient devices, such as improved efficient stoves, to conserve fuel wood and reduce domestic air pollution.
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