In India, most people use firewod for cooking which is a major source of indoor air pollution
Today, the world is facing a huge challenge in providing millions access to affordable and clean energy sources. More than half of the global population lacking clean cooking facilities resides in India, China and Bangladesh.
Of these three nations, India tops the list as the country with the highest population lacking access to clean fuel sources for cooking.
It is estimated that globally 2.67 billion people rely on biomass for cooking purpose. Eighty per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa and 66 per cent in India relied on this inefficient and pollution-causing fuel in 2012 for cooking. This is roughly half of the developing world and 40 per cent of the entire world.
According to the 2011 Census, in India biomass burned for cooking in conventional stoves was used by 16.3 crore households (65.9 per cent) while liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and piped natural gas (PNG) were used by only 28.5 per cent of households. There are about 15.3 crore LPG and 27 lakh PNG connections in the country.
Use of solid fuels for cooking is a major source of indoor air pollution. It causes severe health problems in women and children, who are mostly exposed to toxic emissions from stoves. Emissions from stoves also add to the climate change burden of the world.
The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Report established that indoor air pollution from cooking stoves is a primary cause of diseases and death in South Asia.
As many as 1.04 million premature deaths and 31.4 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)—a measure of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death—are related to exposure to biomass burning in poorly-ventilated homes.
In April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Give It Up campaign, urging well-off people to surrender their LPG subsidies.
The government claimed that the step was necessary to provide a clean energy source to poor households, who usually use firewood and biomass for cooking.
Currently, consumers are entitled to 12 14.2 kg cylinders or 34 5-kg mini cylinders a year at subsidised rates. A subsidised 14.2 kg cylinder is available at Rs 417 in Delhi while a 5-kg cylinder costs Rs 155. The market rate of an LPG cylinder is Rs 625.50 and that of a 5-kg mini one is Rs 220. Giving up subsidised LPG will help cut government’s subsidy bill which stood at Rs 36,580 crore in 2014-15.
Since Modi’s initiative, as many as 6.5 lakh households out of 150 million have stopped availing themselves of the rebate, thus leading to a savings of around Rs 300 crore in subsidies. The government is planning to use the savings for giving clean energy access to the poor.
Focusing on LPG and keeping it affordable can be a good way to help India’s poor as at present using firewood is taking a toll on their health.
To make it more effective, what Modi can probably do is to think about bringing some Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds into it and ensure a timeframe, say 2019, by which clean energy access can be ensured to every household in the country.
This laudable initiative of the Prime Minister may go a long way in ushering Achhe Din for poor, particularly women and children.
Shekhar Chandra holds a B.Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering and two Master degrees in Mechanical Sciences from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. In CSE, he focuses on the use of cooking fuel in India and abroad.
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