By Luis Ángel Reglero
India is the country in the world that has made the most progress in the last two decades in reducing polluting solid fuels, but it is still the most dependent on archaic energy sources such as manure.
The Asian giant is by far the nation that has been most concerned, according to a United Nations report, that clean energies such as electricity itself reach the largest possible part of its immense population, of about 1.25 billion people.
This effort has resulted in 20 million people who each year since 1990 have been able to replace wood or manure with non-solid fuels for cooking or heating, as this study entitled "Sustainable energy for all" collects.
An achievement followed a short distance -16 million annually- by China, the most populous country on the planet with about 1.35 billion inhabitants.
However, still some 700 million people in India and just over 600 in China lack energy sources such as electricity or gas and depend on wood, coal or manure.
Like Devender Jatana, a farmer who uses cow dung to cook and heat the humble adobe house where he lives in the countryside with his wife and two children near Noida, one of the satellite cities that surround New Delhi.
Jatana, 34, explains to Efe that from January to March or April, depending on the weather, his family is dedicated to making a kind of cakes with these feces, which once dry, they store in piles to dispose of the The rest of the year.
The reason for making these dried round shapes in winter is that the rest of the year the presence of insects causes the cakes to spoil.
The peasant recognizes that he prefers this ancestral resource to other cleaner energies, since although he has gas, he uses dry manure: "We do not like to cook in any other way; this is pure food."
"We have eaten food cooked with this since childhood and although we have the gas, we use it only when someone we know comes from outside, but not for our food. Our whole family also prefers it that way," he declares surrounded by his cows and buffalo.
"It is the custom of a long time, because the elders of the family have always used this and the entire society where we have grown up uses it," he concludes while touring his modest farm, to which the large blocks of flats are increasingly close under construction in this dormitory city of the Indian capital.
One of his neighbors, Mohammed Shahabudin, 53, agrees that even though there is gas in the village, most people prefer cattle dung for cooking, so their houses are surrounded by piles of these dried cakes.
"It has been like this for centuries," emphasizes Shahabudin, who explains that care must also be taken so that this fuel does not spoil during the monsoon, the rainy season in the summer.
However, this and other traditional fuels, on which 85 percent of the rural population in India still depends according to the report, are much more polluting than it may appear at first.
Its smoke contains particles that are harmful to the health of those who breathe them, with up to 3,000 harmful microorganisms per cubic meter, more polluting even than pollution from traffic or industry.
The United Nations warns that if these antiquated fuels were left behind and replaced by gas or electric stoves, the standard of living of the peasants would be significantly improved, starting with their health.