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Experts raise concern over biomass energy use

A baseline survey conducted by the Ministry of Energy and the University of Nairobi chemistry department reveal firewood and charcoal (Biomass) is the leading cause of severe respiratory diseases in the country.

Women the main cooks of the family and children who follow their mothers are most affected as they are mostly in the kitchen where these traditional modes of energy source are domiciled.

Speaking during presentation of the survey report in Kajiado, Assistant Director of energy Francis Mureithi said an average of 75 per cent of the sampled households had carbon monoxide (CO) poison concentrations above the allowed levels of 6ppm measure per day.

The survey revealed the average firewood fuel consumed per day was eight kilograms per day and one kilogram of charcoal.

The study aimed at demonstrating the impact of improved stoves on energy, health and environment where local populations sampled were issued with the improved stoves.

The report calls for urgent intervention by the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Health, Inter-ministerial Agencies, Research Institutions and Development Partners to address environmental health and energy issues observed

In the study, a substantial number of children suffered breathing difficulties, eye problems, headaches and burns while an average of 60 per cent of women coughed at the onset of cold or wet seasons.

The report further said though they were aware of improved cooking stoves, they were expensive and most respondents had no idea where to purchase the stoves.

The report revealed poor ventilation was exposing the household members to high level of pollutants recommending urgent interventions such as use of solar lamps, and improved cooking-stoves.

Other urgent interventions to address the health hazards associated with energy use include installation of chimneys to improve house ventilations calling for advocacy and awareness creation on dangers of emissions from stoves and fuels.

Biomass is still the primary energy source in Kenya. It is therefore imperative to increase research on improved cooking stoves.

The report encouraged planting of more fast growing trees to supplement indigenous trees that take long to mature and other bio-fuels on farms to arrest forest degradation and ensure sustainability of wood fuel resources.

By Joseph Kamolo

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