For many communities in Karachi, the largest cosmopolitan city in Pakistan, firewood sourced from mangroves is the most accessible and affordable source of domestic fuel. However, it is unsustainable and gravely affects human and environmental health. Firewood drives deforestation and emits greenhouse gases in the atmosphere when burnt.
Burning firewood indoors causes chronic respiratory diseases, eyesight illnesses, as well as burn injuries, especially among women and children. Globally, indoor air pollution from unsustainable cookstoves and fuels kills 3.8 million people every year. In 2016, three coastal communities partnered with Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, WWF-Pakistan and the electricity supply company, K-Electric, to transition their communities to clean and renewable energy. In just over two years, 2,054 households installed solar energy systems and fuel-efficient stoves.
In addition to that, 42 households now have access to clean energy through 12 new communal biogas systems. Biogas is a clean and odourless fuel that uses cattle manure and toilet waste to produce methane gas. The switch to clean and renewable energy has improved the quality of life for residents, with children and women reporting more time available at night to study and work on additional income-generating activities. Over 50 residents, mainly women, have started new livelihood activities associated with the maintenance of biogas energy systems.
A resident in Gadap Town has noted that the community members using fuel-efficient stoves have seen an improvement in chronic diseases associated with burning firewood such as eyesight illnesses, skin rashes, and coughs. The biogas plants have also helped reduce dependence on firewood and marine pollution. Since the installation of the biogas plants, an 80 per cent reduction in the use of mangrove firewood at the household level has been observed. Manure previously disposed of in the Arabian Sea is now being processed for use in biogas plants.