RECENT studies conducted in Tanzania have revealed that about 71 per cent of urban households use charcoal while about 19 percent use firewood for cooking with just a fraction of them using other sources of energy such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and electricity.
The situation is even worse in the country's commercial capital of Dar es Salaam; a home to about five million people, where the study showed that 91 per cent of the households use charcoal whereas 3 per cent consumed firewood.
This is according to a policy brief by the Tanzania Traditional Energy Development Organisation (TaTEDO) released in the year 2016 titled; "Biomass Energy: Marginalized by an Important Energy Source for the Majority in Tanzania."
Findings of the report have pushed environmentalists to urge policy makers to change approach and consider focusing on alternative sources of energy for cooking, particularly in urban areas where consumption of charcoal and firewood is very high.
Another study conducted by the Department of Chemical and Mining Engineering of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), titled; "Environmental Burden of Charcoal Production and Use in Dar es Salaam", showed that over one million tonnes of charcoal is used for cooking annually in Tanzania's urban areas.
"This means that about 109,500 hectares forests are destroyed every year and its impacts include degradation of water sources, reduction in soil quality and hence decreases in agricultural productivity, damaged habitat and diminishing biodiversity," the report read in part.
It is on this backdrop that the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) is now pushing for use of natural gas for domestic uses. The source of energy is not only environmentally friendly but cheaper compared to other sources. Tanzania boasts of 57 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas onshore and offshore the Indian Ocean.
Some of the energy is now used for electricity generation, cooking in some homes, Serena Hotel and Keko Prison as well as running of machines in some industries. Some vehicles, albeit few, have also had systems converted to use the energy.
Just recently, the Minister for Energy, Dr Medard Kalemani, directed TPDC and its subsidiary Gas Company (T) Limited (GASCO) to speed up supply of natural gas for cooking to at least quarter of Dar es Salaam households in the next three years.
Dr Kalemani issued the directives in Dar es Salaam when visited some of the areas where connection of natural gas is being undertaken to provide homes with affordable and alternative energy.
At present, TPDC through GASCO supplies the energy through a network of pipelines to 72 houses at TPDC Estate as well as 24 housing units at Twiga Estate in Mikocheni, according to TPDC acting Managing Director, Eng Kapuulya Musomba.
Residents whose houses have been using natural gas told Dr Kalemani during the visit that the price of the energy is 40 per cent cheaper than other sources of energy like charcoal and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).
Eng Musomba informed the Minister that excavation of trenches for laying of pipes is underway to supply gas to 20 houses at Survey Mlalakuwa and 35 houses and three canteens at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) main campus.
According to the TPDC Managing Director, plans are underway to connect 200 houses along the gas supply network in Dar es Salaam by June, this year.
Dr Kalemani urged TPDC to work closely with local government authorities to smoothen and speed up connection of gas to houses in unplanned settlements.
The Minister pointed that out of the country's gas reserves 1. tcf will be supplied to homes, 10 tcf for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant, 4.6tcf for petrochemical and fertilizer industries, 9.1tcf for generation of electricity while 3.8tcf is for supply to industries.
Dr Kalemani instructed the state-owned corporation to extend the network of gas supply from Mlimani City to Changanyikeni, Makongo Juu, Tegeta and to as far as Bunju, Boko and eventually Bagamoyo in Coast region.
Another gas supply network will be extended from Keko to Temeke, Mbagala and surrounding areas while the network from Mikocheni will supply houses along the route towards the central business District.
"The government has allocated over 50bn/- for supply of natural gas to homes in Dar es Salaam, Mtwara and Lindi regions. We should work hard to at least start with 1,000 houses in the first phase of the project," the Minister instructed.
Dr Kalemani also visited Coca-Cola Kwanza Tanzania Limited, which is among factories in Dar es Salaam with connection to the gas supply network.
The soft drinks company uses the energy to run its boilers.