Cookstoves in Rural India Making Headlines

In the last 2 weeks, the headlines in India have been featuring a public health concern that we've been addressing for years: harm caused by cookstoves in rural India. 

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Our Field Operations Manager in India, Arun Selvaraj, first saw the headline "Cookstoves More Polluting that Thought" in India's Free Press Journal here. The article cites a study done out of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. We've since seen the same study publicized near Project Kodaikanal on IndiaTV, The Hindu, SwachhIndia, and AZoCleantech. The research done by Washington University was published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and made concludes that cookstoves used for cooking and house warmth have a greater effect on air pollution than previously believed. These conclusions coincide with our observations years ago when we first decided to help install chimneys in homes throughout Kodaikanal.

We began installing chimneys near Project Kodaikanal in 2015. We were prompted to start this program after observing a high prevalence of respiratory illnesses among children in the crèches. During community evaluations and surveys we noticed these homes were constantly filled with smoke from ovens - used for both cooking and warmth. This population of children is already at higher risk for poor health, thus we launched our chimney project to address their homes first. The project was immediately appreciated by the families within the community. Many non-crèche families even approached us to help guide them in constructing chimneys in their own homes.

With the help of community participation and FIMRC volunteers, we have created numerous smokeless cooking environments in homes throughout the village of Kodaikanal. In response to these efforts, we've seen the respiratory illness rates among our pediatric crèche population decline.

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We were just as excited to see rates of pediatric respiratory illnesses decline as we were to see the community's response to our initial chimney projects in 2015. We are now excited to see new headlines publicizing findings we can learn from and continue to improve the health of our community. 

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