State of Affairs: Over a period of 12 years (1999-2000 to 2011-12) the reduction in the proportion of rural households primarily relying on firewood has been from 86.1 percent to 77.2 percent in 2011-12 in a period of high economic growth. This raises the question: Besides economic growth, what else is needed at the policy level in order to bring a quick transition from solid biomass to clean fuels, LPG or electricity?
The use of firewood as cooking fuel results in two problems. One is that there is a release of carbon (black carbon) contributing to the build-up of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. It is estimated that 30 percent of ambient air pollution in India is due to household air pollution from cooking with solid biomass (Global Alliance, 2017). Second, black carbon and other unburnt particulate matter are inhaled by the household, particularly by women and small children who spend more time around the cooking fire. The WHO estimates that in 2012 there were 4.3 million deaths worldwide due to household air pollution from using solid fuels (WHO, 2014) of these 25 percent are estimated to have occurred in India (Global Alliance, 2017).
The UN Sustainable Development Goals’ indicator (7.1.2) is, “Percentage of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology.” In India almost 80 percent of rural households use solid biomass as the primary cooking fuel (67.3 percent rely on firewood, with another 9.6 percent dung cake), while only 15 percent use LPG (NSS, 68th Round, 2011-12).