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Clean cook stoves will promote clean household energy that can in turn help to achieve environmental sustainability as well as improved air quality within the household. A report on how smokeless stoves in rural areas can keep homes warm without causing indoor air pollution.

Smoke emitted from common rural stoves is a major health hazard as burning wood contains fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. Wood smoke also contains chemicals known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxin.

These stoves or chulhas mostly serve those people, who cannot afford a gas cylinder or even LPG in rural settlements. However, a smokeless chulha is cost efficient and fuel efficient with multiple uses as it also acts as heaters.


The smokeless stove comprises of four parts made of clay, each with its own significance. Clay curbs pollution and addresses one of the five United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Base: This part of the stove has two openings on the top with beveled edges so that there is no gap when the vessel is kept on it. It also has an opening on the back for the smoke to escape.

Collector: This is attached to the opening on the back of the base to collect all the smoke and directs it upwards.

Pipes: These are glazed pipes kept over the collector for the smoke to pass from the collector through these pipes.

HOOD: This piece is placed to ensure that the water due to rain does not enter the pipes and damage the stove or cause hindrance while cooking.

Steps of Installation

Step 1: Make the surface flat using different sizes of clay bricks. Since these bricks are very they absorb water very quickly. Soak these porous bricks in water. It becomes easier to break them and it also acts as a binding agent so that there are no gaps. If the ground is not too uneven it can be leveled using cement.

The stove should be placed at the corner of the kitchen so that the pipes can get support of the walls and should lead to an opening for the chimney. While mixing sand, water and cement the proportions should be correct for the cement to set well.

Installation of the stove is a meticulous job as clay can break easily if dropped down. While installing the ground has to be leveled, the collector must be placed properly in order to avoid leakage and finally, the chimney which is created using the pipes and the hood must be sealed properly with cement.

Step 2: The first piece to be fit is the base on which the vessels are kept. It is placed in the front portion because opening in the front for the fire wood to be placed. The ground under the front opening should be flat to ensure there are no gaps for the smoke to escape.

Step 3: Next comes the piece which collects all the smoke from the fire wood. This is placed on a slightly higher level diagonally behind the first piece. It is made in such a way that it fits into the first piece comfortably.

Step 4: Once all the pieces at the base are set, the frame of the stove has to be fixed using red bricks and cement. To the side of the first piece lay bricks using cement and create the frame of the stove.

Step 5: With the base and frame set, fill the gaps with stones and level it with cement. When the final platform is laid on the top, one stove top should be at a higher level than the other. This provides efficiency while cooking and the flame does not get wasted.

The stove is usually left for around two days to dry before attaching the pipes to the stove.

Step 6: The clay pipes for the chimney are glazed making it easier to clean. One end of the pipe should be narrow while the other broad. The number of pipes required depends on the height of the opening. Before placing the pipes use a plumb bob, a device to measure the exact vertical alignment of a structure, in order to make an opening for the pipes to create the chimney. Once this is measured, the roof is cut to make a hole to the width of the pipe. While placing the pipes, the first pipe should fit comfortably into the piece which collects the smoke. Use cement to seal the pipe to the smoke outlet.

If the width of the pipe is smaller than required, chisel the rim to the required level. The narrow end of each pipe fits into the broad end of the next pipe. The gap is then filled up using cement in order to avoid leakage of smoke.

Step 7: The gap between the opening in the roof and the pipe must be sealed. Use a cloth dipped in a mixture of cement and water and tie around the pipe near the opening in the roof. Once it dries it hardens and acts as a seal.

Step 8: At the end, place the hood on the top most pipe creating the chimney. It does not end with the installation of the stove. This stove works and is efficient only if it is used in the right way. There are a few rules which have to be followed while using this stove.


• At all times both the stove tops must be properly covered in order to prevent the smoke from escaping.

• The stick that are used to burn the wood must be small to make the burning efficient. A small fire is more efficient than a big fire.

• The ash must be cleaned out after every use, in order to ensure cleanliness.

• The chimney must be thoroughly cleaned from the top with a long broom from time to time (at least twice a month).

• The burning part of the wood must be under the stove top and never outside it.

• Keep pushing the wood in as it burns.

A local of Kodaikanal, Selvam has installed 2000 smokeless stoves in the last 10 years. “It feels really nice when I install a stove in somebody’s house. It is like I am giving them a new hope of life.” The families have to be educated about the harm caused by the smoke and made aware of all the toxins they are breathing, only then will they realize the importance of using a smokeless stove properly.

“Once the chulha is set up in a house, the surrounding families visiting get encouraged to do the same in their own houses,” says Rajeshwari, a local lady who works in a sewing workshop. This project is very popular in Kodaikanal and besides NGOs, many students from schools like Kodaikanal International School volunteer to help install these stoves or even fund them.

Rohaan Shah

The writer is a student from FLAME College Pune (Foundation for Liberal and Management Education) who took the study of smokeless stoves and also joined Selvam in installing these stoves in some of the houses in Kodaikanal In association with Soroptimist International Kodaikanal.

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