Adivasi Awaaz Creator Sulakshana Jamatia writes about the financial and cultural factors behind the use of firewood in the villages of Tripura. Policy makers need to take these in to consideration while making policies to fight climate change.
In my village of Narifang, situated in the South District of Tripura, temperatures fluctuate between 14 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees Celsius in the winter months of January and February. Chilly winds blow on the hills making it feel much colder. These are also the months when my family shifts from using LPG to using firewood for cooking our meals. Lighting firewood in the kitchen stove is the only way we can stay warm . It allows the family members and our guests to sit together and chat while the food bubbles in front of us.
While governments all over the world are encouraging people to cease the use of firewood, these policies do not take into account the cultural and financial factors.
Collecting and using firewood is ingrained in the culture of my village. From December to March, women troop out into the forest to collect them and store them in the borung nog to be used for the rest of the year. The chopped wood is used for a variety of purposes. It is used to stay warm, to cook, and also to donate. We, Adivasis, always consider ourselves as part of a community. Every wedding and funeral is conducted as a team. During each function, every household in the village contributes groceries and firewood. Same is true for cremation rituals. The funeral pyre is made of wood contributed from every single household.
We collect firewood in winter, as it is the only time when the state is dry. Old trees and bushes die and the forest becomes their graveyard. Women from my village scavenge for these dried trees so they can be reused at home. Armed with tising (a basket made from bamboo that can be slung on the back) and an axe, women wake up at dawn to make the most of their mornings before the demands of cooking and cleaning set upon them. They enter the forest on the border of the village, search for fallen trees, and start chopping them down once spotted. Some women are naturally adept at spotting fallen trees. In this process, the women take care not to harm any living tree.
Women return home in two-three hours with their baskets filled to the brim with wood. On a typical day, our mornings begin by making a fire in the courtyard so we can heat water for washing ourselves. We also heat last night’s dinner to be consumed as breakfast. We have two kitchens, one in which there is a gas connection, and the other where we have built a mud stove where we cook with firewood.
The only other time of the year when additional wood is collected is during the monsoon. Tripura is frequented by storms which uproot several trees. These trees are allowed to dry for some weeks before being chopped to be used as fuel.
There are many reports available about the harmful effects of wood burning. It is said to cause indoor pollution, create health problems, and is considered the biggest contributor of harmful particulate matter (PM) emissions. The government has been encouraging people to shift from fossil fuels and firewood to LPG. However, such policies do not take into account the rising prices of gas that makes it difficult for people in rural areas to restock their LPG after the cylinder is over.
This article does not support the use of fossil fuel but is just an attempt to highlight its use among the people of my village.