How to Cook Without Gas
Posted 1,June

By Chehan Jayasuriya

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Cooking gas and kerosene oil are running scarce amidst the falling economy of Sri Lanka, which has made it nearly impossible for many to cook their meals. Queues stretching on for miles can be seen outside fuel stations as people camp out for days in search of cooking gas fuel.

The crisis, however, has sparked the creativity among a few Sri Lankans, who have gone on to discover alternatives for cooking gas and kerosene oil.

Shanaka Perera, a 48-year-old entrepreneur, is one such person. Annoyed and fed up with standing in long lines to obtain gas cylinders, Shanaka decided to try his luck at innovating an apparatus sufficient to cook food for him and his family without using any fuel.

He achieved this by building a do-it-yourself (DIY) contraption using a flower pot and a computer fan, with a bit of help from YouTube.

“With no gas, cooking has become a science project. We’re forced to find alternatives to get food on the table,” said Perera. “I watched some YouTube videos and made a cooker that uses a computer cooling fan to fan the flame when lighting the firewood,” he explained.

Shanaka, a former owner of a plastic recycling company, was forced to shut down operations at the plant due to the exorbitant prices of raw materials. He and his family are now dependent on his life savings.

He used a hexagon-shaped flower pot as the stove and a blower to provide air to fuel the fire on charcoal and firewood. He soon found out that the blower was too strong, and ash was coming out of the new burner when he started to cook. After experimenting with several items to blow air into the stove, he finally ended up with a computer fan, which could blow in just the right amount of air into the stove.

The project cost Shanaka Rs. 1,500, much cheaper than hot plates and kerosene cookers which are now being sold between Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000.

G. U. P. Malavige, another Sri Lankan with an ample supply of creativity and a thirst for innovation, made a cooker that uses scrap metal. Malavige collects scrap metal for a living in Colombo.

“I have made a cooker with scrap metal, a rice cooker, a computer cooling fan, and a clay pot,” said Malavige. “The total investment for the project was 2000 rupees. It cooks three curries in 45 minutes and takes up only a little bit of electricity,” he added further.

As a result of these innovations, demand for computer fans has doubled in Sri Lanka, taking the prices of fans to the sky.

“Many customers are coming in asking for cooling fans to make cookers and stoves. I had 20 fans in my stock, and I’ve sold all of them, and now I have nothing to offer until the supplier sends me my order. People are finding alternatives from all over,” said Suresh Jayathilaka, owner of Ace Technology, a store that sells computer fans and other such accessories.

As Sri Lanka’s ongoing forex crisis affects making payments for shipments of gas and fuel through Letters of Credit (LCs) amid payment delays by banks, citizens are forced to stand in line for hours to meet their daily needs.
Alarmingly, the death toll while waiting in queues has shot up to eight, pushing people more towards alternatives.