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close this book Development in practice - Rural energy and development
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Chapter one - Introduction


Policies on energy and the environment are overwhelmingly preoccupied with the production and use of modern energy forms. Thus they focus on private versus public ownership, global warming. acid deposition, urban smogs, and so forth. While all these matters are extremely important, and the energy. industry. policymaking. and environmental communities, including the World Bank Group, pay a great deal of attention to them, another aspect of energy production and use gives rise to developmental and environmental problems of equal, if not greater, importance: half the populations of developing countries lack access to modern energy forms.

Approximately 2 billion people depend on traditional fuels - animal dung, crop residues, wood, and charcoal - for cooking, and an equal number are without electricity.! We also know that fuelwood and dung are inefficient energy sources - gas. for example. is fully ten times more efficient for cooking - and that their use leads to environmental damage through the stripping of forests and woodlands, and to respiratory diseases and premature death for millions of people through smoke inhalation.

Dependence on such fuels is also an economic hardship. as in many parts of the world people spend excessive amounts of time gathering and cooking with these fuels. While using traditional fuels more efficiently and in ways less damaging to the environment and to people's health is possible, this is not happening in large regions of the world. while the shift to modern fuels (which most people in developing countries would surely count as a blessing) is not progressing as rapidly as it could.