Alpine Club of Canada

ACC Gazette - Winter 2020

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24 The Alpine Club of Canada | Gazette | Winter 2020 The next big challenge Ma ny remote communities in Nepal do not have access to relia ble sources of electricity or na tural gas, a nd the majority of the popula tion (~77%) relies on biomass fuels – mostly wood – to meet their da ily cooking a nd hea ting needs. Prolonged smoke exposure a nd the dema nd for wood has ma ny adverse consequences on both huma n health a nd the local environment. According to Rya n Allen, a professor of environmental health in the Faculty of Health Sciences a t Simon Fraser University, household a ir pollution – a ir pollution from burning unprocessed fuels for cooking – is a n enormous public health problem tha t doesn't get the a ttention it deserves. Household a ir pollution, which ca n be thousa nds of times higher tha n typical outdoor pollution levels, contrib- utes to hea rt disease, strokes, chronic lung disease, respira tory infections, dia betes, a nd ca ta racts. Globally, household a ir pollution is responsible for over 1.5 million dea ths a nd nea rly 2.5% of the total disease burden a nnually. Women a nd children a re disproportiona tely a ffected by the consequences of cooking indoors with wood. In Nepal, women a re prima rily responsible for domestic chores. ey spend hours nea r the fire inhaling the smoke tha t blackens the walls of their home, with their young children often nea rby. Traditional cooking a nd wood ga thering a re also having severe environmental consequences as a result of deforesta tion a nd incomplete ca rbon combustion. Fuelwood supplies 80% of Nepal's total energy consumption, a nd over 15 million tonnes of woodfuel a re consumed a nnually. e high dema nd for wood is contributing to increasing forest degrada tion, loss of biodiversity, increased risk of la ndslides, a nd lowla nd flood- ing ca used by soil erosion. In high-altitude a reas, forests grow slowly, a nd people need more fuel for cooking a nd hea ting beca use of the cold clima te. As wood collection becomes more time consuming a nd more difficult, food processing also becomes more challenging. Members of these mounta in communities recognize the ha z- a rds, but often lack the resources to cha nge their traditional cooking practises. Mountains of Relief's response Growing up in Nepal, Raj has first experience with the serious issues surrounding indoor a ir pollution. In June 2020, Moun- ta ins of Relief bega n work on a n energy excha nge stove pilot project to deploy energy-efficient cook stoves to rural commu- nities in Nepal. Raj a nd Sherrill tea med up with two engineers from Edmonton (Mike Nicol-Seto a nd Connor Spea r) a nd us (Freya a nd David), to begin working on this project. Our goals a re to exa mine why previous efforts haven't been success- ful, a nd then to work closely with community members to improve the design of culturally appropria te a nd a fforda ble cook stoves tha t a re more efficient tha n those traditionally in Mountains of Relief: Designing Improved Cook Stoves in Nepal by Freya Hik a nd David Hik N ew technology has made the high mounta ins of Nepal more accessible for mounta ineering a nd trekking, a nd the Mt Everest region alone usually a ttracts over 30,000 visitors each yea r. But for the majority of Nepal's popula tion, basic infrastructure tha t most Ca nadia ns take for gra nted doesn't exist. More tha n a third of the popula tion (over 10 million people) live in the hilly a nd mounta inous regions of the country, outside of the ma in urba n centres. Ma ny of these commu- nities were devasta ted by two la rge (magnitude 7.8 a nd 7.3) ea rthquakes in spring 2015. Approxima tely 9,000 people were killed, 4 million were left homeless, a nd 33,000 school class- rooms were destroyed. A bold idea takes shape Longtime ACC member Sherrill Meropoulis is a Jasper (AB) local, who has spent thirty yea rs working for Pa rks Ca nada in ma ny roles, most recently as the Jasper Indigenous Lia ison Officer. A yea r before the ea rthquakes, Sherrill had been trek- king in Nepal, falling in love with the country a nd the people so it was a shock to receive news of the widespread devasta tion from the ea rthquakes a nd lea rn tha t the fa mily she stayed with in La ngta ng village had been killed. Compelled to help provide relief, Sherrill combined forces with other Jasper residents, including Raj Ghimire, who was born a nd ra ised in Nepal. ey esta blished a new Nepalese NGO, Mounta ins of Relief (MoR), to identify a nd support projects tha t could provide short a nd long-term social a nd economic benefits for Nepalese villages. MoR initially ra ised money to provide immedia te fina ncial relief along with food a nd cloth- ing to over 150 fa milies a ffected by the ea rthquakes. ey also supported the reconstruction of the Shree Seti Devi School in Lisakha ni, Ra mechhap District tha t had collapsed in the ea rthquakes, a nd helped crea te a gravity-fed wa ter system for school a nd community use. Environment

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