We must eliminate use of charcoal - Energy minister

Monday August 23 2021
tech01pix

Government says there should be a paradigme shift in regard to the type of energy that Ugandans use for cooking.

By MARTIN LUTHER OKETCH

Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa has said Uganda must pursue a paradigm shift in regard to usage of charcoal, which is associated with health and environmental risks.
Speaking at the launch of the Shell Gas Safety campaign in Kampala at the weekend Ms Nankabirwa said there was no reason why people, who live in urban settings that have access to cooking gas still use charcoal, which has a number of health-related risks.
“We need a paradigm shift. Using charcoal is more expensive than [gas]. Apart from the expense attached, it has hygiene and health challenges. We [as Ministry of Energy] are more than ready to walk the talk. We have to shift, and we have to move with this paradigm shift,” she said, wondering why enlightened people in Kampala and in other newly created cities are still using charcoal.
By 2020, according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos), at least 70.9 per cent of Ugandans were still using wood fuel, which is comprised of firewood and charcoal.
This, Ubos said, had presented serious challenges to the environment reducing the country’s forest cover from 24 per cent in the 1990s to just 8 per cent.
Therefore, Ms Nankabirwa said, it was time for government and the private sector to  pursue a paradigm shift that will create safer forms of energy, especially in urban areas.
Government has been seeking to increase usage of liquefied petroleum gas , also known as cooking gas and electricity, which are mostly available in urban and some rural setups.
During the 2020/21 financial year, government implemented a number of tax reforms in which Value Added Tax imposed on cooking gas was scrapped with the aim of driving affordability.
The exemption, according to current prices, meant that rates of cooking gas were reduced by at least 20 per cent.
For instance, a 13 kilogramme cylinder of cooking gas, which prior to scrapping of VAT was sold at an average of Shs120,000, reduced to Shs90,000.
The price compares well with that charcoal, for which a sack is sold at an average of Shs120,000.
Cooking gas, which is a highly flammable mixture of hydrocarbon gases, is relatively safe for both human usage and the environment.
However, less than 1 per cent of Ugandans use it as a cooking aid.  
Speaking on the behalf of the Vivo Energy managing director, Mr Gilbert Assi, Mr Anthony Ogalo, the Vivo commercial manager, said the drive to promote clean cooking seeks to reduce emissions, which in turn decreases the burden of disease associated with household air pollution.
“We are losing our forest cover at an alarming rate. The reliance on wood fuels for cooking has greatly contributed to a staggering depletion of the country’s natural forest cover from 24 per cent in the 1990s to a shocking 8 per cent by 2019,” he said.
Uganda, he added, loses an estimated 100,000 hectares of forest cover annually, attributed to wood-based cooking energy such as charcoal, noting that cooking gas is not only better for the environment but also offers fewer gas emissions.
However, he said that whereas it was good that government had removed VAT on cooking gas, there was need for heightened investment to make it more accessible, efficient and affordable.

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