Sustainable Development in Northern India
Following on from the first blog post on alternative energy (https://conservenaturalindia.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/alternative-energies/) here is an update on one of the projects we are currently working on in Naddi: the briquettes!
A quick recap: plastic bags in Himachal Pradesh are forbidden; instead, grocery shops pack your items in newspaper bags. Those bags are then mostly discarded or burnt by the side of the road. The main objective of this project is to take the newspaper that was reused and made into bags, and move a step further in the sustainability chain by recycling it to make the briquettes. The briquettes can, in turn, be used for cooking or heating. This would, then, reduce the amount of wood cut or picked up, helping both the environment and the people in charge of the chore.
Back to the project: after a month of briquette-making I had enough to put them to the test. I started with two households from the Channi community, asking them to use the briquettes on the fire stove for their daily cooking.
In order to collect all the necessary data to assess the performance of the briquettes I needed some in-depth conversations with the local families, who speak mostly Hindi. EduCARE India and the Central University of Himachal Pradesh (CUHP) ran a short pilot for a cooperation program, thanks to which I managed to have some helping hands. Minhaj and Naushad, two CUHP students, came to Naddi for two weekends and helped me with the briquette project. The three of us worked, firstly, on identifying the specific research topic, and then we focused on designing the fieldwork activities. For the latter, we chose a participant observation approach and had lunch at Rekha’s house (Milan, Shikka and Rajat’s mum) and dinner with Surekha and Pooja. We went to each house in advance, before the meals were being cooked, we gave them the briquettes and asked if they were prepared to cook with them instead of using wood as usual.
Rekha used the briquettes for cooking… although not for the lunch we had together but, instead, she used them to cook dinner the night before! So, to avoid the same mistake, I personally stayed with Surekha while she was making dinner to make sure she would use the briquettes for that purpose. She was amused by the fact that I wanted to watch her prepare dinner, though certainly the funniest thing for her was that I kept giving her more and more briquettes instead of wood!
At the time it felt the briquettes were doing their job; this was later confirmed when both households told us that they were not only very keen on buying the briquettes but even showed interest in learning to make them.
The next step for this project is to start collecting larger amounts of reclaimed newspaper, design a new and more effective device to make the briquettes faster, and look into different approaches to introduce this technology to the communities.
Justin Casimir, France
Alternative Energies Project Manager