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

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A Case Study of Punjab

Dangerous Cooking Using Unsafe Fuels

Despite the efforts of the Indian government to make available and promote clean fuels, the use of cow dung cakes and other traditional fuels continues unabated. A survey conducted in two districts of Punjab reveals that both poor and well-off sections of society use solid biomass for various reasons, and women suffer from various health problems due to the inhalation of smoke released from the burning of these fuels. Policies need to be put in place to ensure the affordability of clean fuels, and people should be made aware of the adverse effects of this practice on health and the environment.

Through targeted subsidy schemes regarding clean fuel, India has laid the ground for affordable, secure and clean energy during the last five years. Despite arduous efforts of the ruling government, rural regions of India are still in the grip of dangerous cooking. In 2011–12, the National Sample Survey Office’s 68th round disclosed that more than 66% of the households in rural India relied on firewood and cow dung cakes to fulfill their cooking fuel needs. Since the passage of time, the figures remain rigid, as reported by National Family Health Survey (NFHS) (IIPS 2015–16). Besides this, the picture of usage of solid biomass in rural Punjab is outrageous. As per the NFHS report of 2015–16 (IIPS 2015–16), 75.2% households in rural Punjab depend on traditional biomass. Ironically, 99% use traditional cook stoves (open chulha), and this is a direct indicator of the limited access to cleaner energy options.

The government has made prominent efforts to provide liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections to 7.7 crore households across India through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) (Patnaik et al 2019). Moreover, it also states that 94% of the households now have an LPG connection. Yet, the ground reality is different from above stated figures, especially in Punjab. Despite knowing the socio-economic cost of burning cow dung cakes, households persistently use solid biomass due to financial and other constraints, as well as certain illogical beliefs. Moreover, the inefficient combustion of cow dung cakes in open space produces umpteen number of toxic pollutants, like fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide, which ultimately add to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and household air pollution (HAP).

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Updated On : 20th Mar, 2021

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