13 Feb 2018

District Energy to Help Coyhaique School Children Stay Warm

Renato Lema Hernández is an 10 year old boy born in the most polluted city of Latin America – Coyhaique, an isolated city in southern Chile with high energy poverty. He is excited to join his friends and enjoys learning at primary school, where he receives food and some warmth. Each classroom in Renato’s school is heated with a wood stove; his house also has a wood stove for heating, like most in Coyhaique. His family is poor, sometimes they can’t afford wood so they put whatever they find into the stove to heat... shoes, tires, plastic bottles... Coyhaique is cold. As cold as Switzerland.


But even with the wood stoves at home and school, Renato always has to keep his hat, coat and gloves on indoors during autumn and winters, which makes it hard to concentrate in class. He has been coughing as long as he remembers, but like most of his friends, his family cannot afford to see a doctor. In fact, air pollution is responsible for 4,000 annual cases of premature death by cardiovascular diseases in Chile and cost to the State US$ 690 million dollars per year associated to the medical expenses and reduction of labor productivity. 94% of this pollution in Coyhaique is due to the wet wood burning for heating homes. Concentration of PM in South of Chile is 5 times higher than the WHO standards.


UN Environment is helping children like Renato have access to the same quality of life and clean air as seen in countries like Switzerland. UN Environment is working with the schools and communities of Coyhaique to develop a district heating network which will provide clean heating so that people can stop breathing toxic air.

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