Monday, November 30, 2015

COP 21: Can it ease the burden of Durga?

21st UNFCCC Conference of the Parties or COP21 has just begun. Its THE most important climate summit of our lifetime where we expect the world to strike a climate deal - one that will be "gender responsive". On the occasion, beginning from today, I am running a 2-week blog campaign, connecting the dots among COP21, Climate Change and Gender. 

I just met Durga Rajak in Kathamndu - the capital of Nepal. She is in her early forties and runs a roadside eatery with her husband. The most popular dish in their eatery is Choila - spicy, fried duck meat served hot with flattened rice which sells for 50 Nepali rupees (about $40 cent) a plate. It's not a lot of money since a kg of meat costs 650 rupees ($6) , so, Durga always kept the expenses low by working extra hard such as  buying produces from local growers and carrying things on her motorbike, instead of employing a person.

But these days, Durga is struggling. Normally, she uses Liquefied Petroleum Gas or "cooking gas". But since the end of September, cooking gas - besides petrol and diesel -has become hard to find. So, she is now using stoves that run on kerosene. Sometimes, when kerosene is unavailable, Durga uses diesel (which she buys in the black market) in her stove.

 Its very risky and  every time she lights the stove, Durga fears a blast.

But its a risk she must take. Only a few months ago, in April, Kathmandu was hit by a massive earthquake.At that time, Durga had to close her eatery for several weeks. She had also spent nearly a month under the open sky, on little little food and water. Today she is determined to keep her business running, come whatever may. "To be dependent on others is tough," she says.

But currently she is dependent on a number of people for her survival: the cooking gas distributors, the petrol& diesel stations and also the black marketeers. How long could she go on?  She was quiet, but I could sense her answer: "as long as I can."

A thought came in my mind as I heard her story: what would have happened if Durga had a stove that ran on solar energy?
Or, a bio gas stove? Or, a rooftop solar panel that produced enough electricity to run an electric stove? 

Her life would have been certainly different. To begin with, Durga would not have to worry so much about the fuel shortage. She would definitely not be spending so much money ( 250, instead of 81 Nepali rupees) to buy diesel from black marketeers. She would also not  choke every time on the smoke of the stove or close her eyes, fearing a blast every time she lit a stove.

So, why could not she? Surely her country has a renewable energy mission? Well, here's her answer: "nobody told me about a solar stove or where and how I could get one". The other answer is, as a small, least developed country" Nepal doesn't have the money or the means to give every citizen access to cleaner energy.

Now, today - the first day of the COP21 - in Paris, leaders from 19 countries just pledged to create a new energy revolution by by investing more into energy research. What this actually means is that in next 5 years, there will be more money - $20 billion to be precise -for researchers to find more energy-related innovations.

Will the benefits of these innovations be for women like Durga? Or, for that matter, women in a poor country like hers'? Would these innovation help them access fuel that is cleaner, locally produced and easily accessible?

I hope it does. 

Or else, it would be pointless to know that the world spent 20 billion dollar while the most disadvantaged women remained just as disadvantaged and just as dependent on fossil fuel for their survival.

1 comment:

For the practical work said...

This is a great read indeed ...