china's heating crisisWhile many in the developed world think of heat in the winter as a basic need, many people are impacted by China’s heat crisis and spend every long winter season without a central heating system in their home. A clear geographical line divides those who have basic central heating in their homes and those who do not. Heat was afforded to the northern portion of China whose occupants experienced the coldest and harshest winter seasons. However, though temperatures often dip below freezing in the southern region, many residents suffer from inadequate heating and thin walls that provide them sub-par protection from the frigid temperatures. More fortunate residents can afford to own and power a space heater designed for small rooms and short amounts of time for some comfort, but many without any heating devices report resorting to measures such as turning on their air conditioning since the air it will produce is warmer than the air in their home.

History of Heating in China

The decision to ration heat in China came in the 1950s when officials came to the realization that they did not have the resources or energy capacity to heat the vast and populous country. China’s heating crisis started when the north was perceived as in the highest need because the region experienced lower temperatures and higher levels of snowfall. However, the country failed to factor in the harsh conditions of cities on the east coast of China, such as Shanghai, where, while they don’t see much snowfall, rainfall and wind make for low wind-chills and blustery conditions.

For the homes located in the north, the government controls the heat and keeps every home at a consistent 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Lacking control over their heat consumption can lead to financial strain for the lower-class Chinese residents who struggle to afford the mandated cost of their heating bill. 

“Generally, a 70-square-meter apartment in Beijing costs around 2,100 yuan ($317.36) just to heat every winter, which is quite expensive for low-income families,” a Chinese journalist said when describing China’s heating crisis.

To make ends meet, this may leave them with no choice but to ration in other areas such as regular groceries and other essentials.

Updating the System

For the majority of its existence, China’s central heating system has been operated on a coal-burning based system. To accommodate every home in the north, a great deal of coal has to be burnt every year. Before the 2017 upgrade, in which many systems were converted to burn natural gas, China was one of the world’s largest consumers of energy with the amount of coal used being a large contributing factor. This has come at the expense of several negative implications to the environment which has directly contributed to China’s severe air pollution problem that worsens climate change and public health.

China’s Heating Future

Southern citizens are waiting on the government to construct a central heating plan to warm the homes in the south, but it never seems to be a priority. In response to the lack of government intervention in China’s heat crisis, wealthier Chinese residents have opted to install heating systems in their homes at their own cost. While it may take a while for the government to provide lower-income families with central heat, heat becoming the cultural norm is sure to shift public opinion and put pressure on the government to devise a way to provide every home with adequate heating. In addition, the Chinese government is planning to implement a “New Green Deal” that will make it more affordable to heat homes by using cheaper energy sources and providing government help to pay the bills.

– Samantha Decker
Photo: Pikist

housing conditions in India
Good quality, secure housing is one of the major end goals for many societies aiming to ease global poverty and ensure the provision of basic needs amongst economically backward groups. Out of the 7.8 billion of the world’s population, 150 million people are homeless and 1.6 billion lack adequate housing. In fact, India alone accounts for 1.8 million people of the world’s homeless. Data shows that 78 million people in the country do not meet their needs for decent housing. Furthermore, 52% of the country’s homeless live in urban areas, which emphasizes the severity of the problem. With 17% of the world’s slum dwellers living in India, the government revealed that the country’s slum population now exceeds the entire population of Britain. Here is some information about housing conditions in India.

Problems with Housing Conditions in India

For ages, the poorer communities in India heavily depended on mud or unburnt walls with bamboo or grass roof housing. However, these elements are not the most stable or safe building materials. According to the Population Research Bureau, nearly 110 million Indian households live in houses with mud floors and walls. This accounts for 72% of rural households. Mud walls are not the safest option in a tropical country like India, with monsoons stretching on for months. Bamboo and dried grass roofs pose a potential fire hazard, especially since most rural households depend on fire lanterns as a source of light and open fire stoves for cooking.

The Rise of Pucca Houses

Improving housing conditions of India’s economically backward citizens has long been high on the Indian Government’s priority list. Over the years, several governments, both state and central, have produced various housing schemes. These housing schemes aim to provide pucca houses for the poor. Pucca houses are stable houses comprising of materials such as burnt brick or cement.

Indira Awas Yojana began in 1996 and was one of the first major housing schemes with large-scale goals. The scheme aimed to provide pucca houses for people from lower castes like Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and also non-SC/STs below the poverty line. Renamed as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Gramin, the scheme works on the objective of housing for all by 2022. The scheme provides a 25 square meter pucca house with basic amenities to all its beneficiaries. As of March 2020, the scheme sanctioned 14,159,830 houses to the country’s poor.

Private Organizations

Additionally, many private organizations play a major role in alleviating poor housing conditions of the economically backward sections in India. Habitat for Humanity’s ShelterTech Accelerator program is one such program that is providing aid to for-profit business model startups. It is also giving aid to entrepreneurs focusing on developing solutions that aid low-cost housing. The year-long program supports the selected startups by giving them access to a network of over 300 startup founders, equity-free grants and seed funds up to 7.5 million INR. Another company investing in low-cost homes for low-income households, Brick Eagle, detects the limits of how much government schemes can provide. The company aims to build houses that are priced at 5-10 lakh INR. This price makes the houses more accessible for the economically weaker sections of India.

A Better Future on the Horizon

Housing conditions in India are improving slowly, but surely. The percentage of pucca houses has risen from 55% in 2011 to 71% in 2016. Ultimately, it is safe to say that the efforts of the government and private organizations are paying off as the housing conditions slowly change for the better in India.

– Reshma Beesetty 
Photo: Flickr