Ujjwala scheme: Experts, govt officials mum on LPG cylinder refills

While researchers and officials applaud government’s efforts in reducing household air pollution, none talk about how hardly anybody is getting their LPG cylinders refilled

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Thursday 06 December 2018
In India, indoor air pollution is the second biggest killer after high blood pressure. Credit: Vikas Choudhary__

Household air pollution is responsible for 40 per cent of air pollution deaths in India, says a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.

Indoor air pollution is mainly caused by burning solid fuels for cooking and to some extent heating, which involve wood, dung, agricultural residues, coal, and charcoal.

While releasing the study on December 6, researchers and government officials said household air pollution is reducing and the credit goes to Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). The scheme, which aims at replacing dirty cooking fuels with a clean and more efficient LPG in rural India, achieved its target of giving LPG connection to five crore beneficiaries by last August. But, none of the officials and researchers had anything to say when asked about how people are not getting their cylinders refilled.

The study was conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

While releasing the study, the director general of ICMR Balram Bhargava said the government had done an incredibly good job as per Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana by providing household LPG connections to 5 crore households, a target that was actually set for 2019. However, he remained silent on ample number of reports clearly saying that many of them could not afford a refill

On being asked if the study has captured the number of refills, Lalit Dandona of PHFI said no while adding that the study mentioned that the amount of clean fuel usage has gone up.

The study did say that exposure to household air pollution due to solid fuel used for cooking is decreasing in India with the increasing provision of clean cooking fuel. While this effort needs to be sustained to address the still high levels of exposure to cooking fuel in several less developed states, the report doesn’t capture the issue of refilling.

Tushar K Joshi, advisor, environmental health, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said his own empirical survey in Gujarat showed that not everyone has gone for refilling. "Even if 50-60 per cent people are opting for it, it is an achievement," he added. On being asked if there was any record of 50-60 per cent people going for refills, he replied in negative and said studies are on to capture that.

The Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) rate due to household pollution was found to be the highest in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Assam in north and northeast India. The low socio demographic index states that in north India had some of the highest levels of both ambient particulate matter and household air pollution, especially Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand thus making a double whammy for them.

Other government officials, including Director General of Health Services, S Venkatesh, also did not touch upon the issue.

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