Bengal Tiger

News coverage and discussion of clean burning wood stoves tends to focus on their environmental and financial impact - improvement of air quality through reduced emissions, carbon footprint management and money saved through increased fuel economy. But there is another important aspect to this issue - the impact on wildlife occupying woodland areas.

A recent article in The Times of India describes an initiative to encourage residents of villages in the Valmiki Tiger Reserve to switch from traditional mud stoves to clean burning Chulha stoves. This will reduce the villagers' dependency on the local forest for wood fuel, supporting rejuvenation of the forest and increasing the security of the 11 tigers who live there. So far villagers who have made the change are seeing a reduction in fuel use of around 40%.

The initiative is also boosting the local economy, with a group of women trained as installers initially paid to install the stoves in their own homes to serve as demonstration units, then able to charge a fitting fee to people who decide to get a Chulha stove. The local potter also benefits from the new market for clay stove pipes.

As well as making for a safer environment for endangered animals, use of Chulha stoves offers significant safety benefits to their owners. Traditional cooking methods carry high risks of burns and smoke inhalation not just in rural Indian communities but in many parts of the world. The Chulha stove is one of many clean burning stoves designed to offer a safe, cheap and efficient alternative.

The tigers and other animals in the Valmiki Tiger Reserve are at constant risk from poachers, who earlier this year killed a male rhino in order to cut off it's horn. While poaching presents a direct risk to endangered animals such as tigers and rhinos, their continued wellbeing also depends on maintenance of their natural environments by minimising human disturbance to forest areas. Reducing consumption of firewood by changing to clean burning stoves immediately reduces the need for villagers to intrude into the tigers' forest home to gather fuel.

The world's wild tiger population has dropped by 95% over the last century. You can adopt a tiger through WWF for as little as £3 a month - an ideal Christmas present for animal lovers!

Image: anankkml /