ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Persistence of Solid Fuel Use in Rural North India

Survey evidence from rural North India showing persistent solid fuel use despite increases in liquefied petroleum gas ownership is presented. Although three-quarters of survey households in these states had LPG, almost all also had a stove that uses solid fuels. Among those owning both, almost three-quarters used solid fuels the day before the survey. Household economic status, relative costs of cooking fuels, gender inequality, and beliefs about solid fuels were important contributors to high solid fuel use. To realise the full health benefits of the LPG expansion, attention must now be turned towards encouraging exclusive LPG use.

Exposure to air pollution has important consequences for public health. A major source of air pollution exposure in rural India is the use of solid fuels, such as dung cakes and wood, for cooking and heating. In the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015–16, 75% of rural Indian households reported using mainly solid fuels for cooking. High levels of indoor air pollution can kill infants, get in the way of healthy child development, and contribute to heart and lung diseases (Smith 2000). There are also important externalities associated with cooking with solid fuels (Salvi and Barnes 2009). Respiratory health is worse on average among women who cook with solid fuels, but respiratory health for all adults is worse in villages where a greater fraction of households cook with solid fuels (Gupta 2019).

In May 2016, the Indian government launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to promote the use of clean cooking fuel in rural India. The scheme subsidises liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections for rural households by providing a free gas cylinder, regulator, and pipe.1 Reducing the use of solid fuels is an important public health goal because it would reduce exposure to harmful air pollution. The central government claimed that by December 2018, 60 million households had received access to LPG through the Ujjwala Yojana, and that 90% of all Indian households owned an LPG cylinder and stove (GoI 2019).

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Updated On : 20th Jan, 2020


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