Heaters cool demand for hazardous Kashmir fire pot

Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:52pm EST
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By Sheikh Mushtaq

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters Life!) - Modern heaters are cooling the appeal of a traditional heating pot used for centuries in Indian Kashmir to ward off the cold, but they're also making the harsh winter safer for many people.

The Kangri, a small earthenware bowl encased in a wicker basket, is filled with embers and carried by poorer locals under their flowing woolen gowns or "pherans" to fight the chill.

But the device is a fire hazard, causing scores of injuries every winter, and doctors say prolonged use causes skin diseases.

In recent years, shops in Srinagar have been flooded with gas or kerosene heaters mostly imported from China, Japan and Turkey.

"These heating gadgets are convenient and Kangri is fast losing out to these kind of heaters," said 56-year-old Abdul Sattar, a wholesale Kangri dealer in Srinagar.

"We have sold just 300 Kangris this month, while two years ago I sold 2,000 in the first 15 days of January alone."

In the Himalayan region's long winters, which last from November to February, temperatures can fall to minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 Fahrenheit) in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, and to minus 20 degrees (-4 Fahrenheit) in the mountains.

Sattar said nearly a million Kangris are manufactured a year in Kashmir, and they fetch between 40 rupees (80 cents) and 150 rupees ($3).   Continued...