TOPICS: Harmful practices

People in the Terai region use cattle dung (guitha in Nepali) as fuel wood. There are harmful consequences of burning cattle dung cakes.

By using this as fuel, people from rural areas suffer many health problems. The poor in the Terai do not have access to modern facilities like LPG, electric stoves or solar power. They cannot afford them or they are not easily accessible.

Cattle dung cakes are perhaps the cheapest burning fuel used for purposes of cooking. According to health experts, smoke released in the burning process contains hazardous gases. Studies show that by breathing in these, people suffer from diseases.

There are specially made cooking stoves (chulo in Nepali) for using dung cakes. Usually these cakes consist of husk, straw and dry leaves are also used. When the cakes are burnt, dangerous gases are released, which are then inhaled by people, especially women.

Typically, poor women are victims of these toxic gases. They have no alternative to dung cakes, and thus they are forced to use them. When the dung cakes are burnt, hazardous gases are released and women sitting next to these chulos inhale these gases. In many villages, a kitchen is a small room with no ventilation.

The chances of women being affected with respiration-related diseases and disorders are high. When people burn dung cakes, over 25 per cent of the arsenic in fumes could be absorbed by the respiratory tract, and this leads to lung cancer and other diseases.

Cattle dung helps in reduction of salinity of moderately saline soil and provides nutrients to the polluted soil which is the decent method for treatment of saline soil. Cattle dung is the best manure and soil fertilizers throughout the world.

The crops grown in soil using cattle manure have high yield and better quality grains as compared to chemical fertilizers. In addition to providing nutrients and habitats to organisms living in the soil, organic matter also binds soil particles into aggregates and improves the water holding capacity of the soil.

Most soils contain 2-10 percent organic matter. However, even in small amounts, organic matter is very important.

There are solutions to this problem. One of them is the construction of Gobar gas plants. The government offers a huge subsidy for Gobar gas plant construction, but there is a lack of commitment in implementing the scheme.