High LPG prices are scorching the air pollution fight
- This article describes how far we have managed to dissuade households from biomass and what more we need to do as a country to move further.
LPG- Primary cooking fuel
- As per the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019, Solid fuel use for cooking is the leading contributor to air pollution and related premature deaths in India
- As per the India Residential Energy Survey (IRES) 2020, conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy, LPG has now replaced biomass as the most common cooking fuel in India.
- Nearly 85% of Indian homes have an LPG connection and 71% use it as their primary cooking fuel, compared to only 30% a decade back.
- This reversal of trends could be attributed to the success of the Ujjwala, consumption-linked subsidies and gradual strengthening of the LPG distributorship.
- Around 30% of Indian households continue to rely on biomass as their primary cooking fuel, mainly due to high LPG prices.
- The practice of biomass usage is predominantly concentrated in rural areas, particularly among States such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.
- Urban slums are also critical hotspots where the use of biomass for cooking is widely prevalent.
- Easy availability of free biomass and lack of home delivery of LPG refills further reduce the efficacy of LPG as a reliable and affordable proposition.
Steps to be taken
- To sustain the country’s momentum on clean cooking energy access and thereby, cleaner air for all, the following steps have been proposed.
Reinstate the subsidies on LPG refill for low-income households
- At the current refill prices, an average Indian household would have to spend around 10% of its monthly expense on LPG to meet all its cooking energy needs.
Explore diverse approaches to identify beneficiaries.
- This may include limiting the subsidy provision to seven to eight LPG refills annually and excluding well-to-do households using robust indicators.
- At the bare minimum, subsidy must be resumed for the households granted LPG connections under the Ujjwala scheme.
Strengthen LPG supply chain
- Boost timely availability of LPG for all consumers.
- Gaps in the doorstep delivery of LPG cylinders is a major factor behind the use of biomass among urban slum and rural households.
- There is a need to strengthen the LPG supply chain and enforce timely service delivery, particularly in States with a large number of Ujjwala connections and slum population.
- This must be complemented by higher incentives for rural distributors.
Create a new market for locally available biomass
- The Government needs to pilot initiatives focused on promoting the use of locally available biomass in decentralised processing units that manufacture briquettes and pellets for industrial and commercial establishments.
- Households can be incentivised to supply locally available biomass (including crop stubble or dung cakes) to Compressed Biogas (CBG) production plants being set up under the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) scheme.
- Such measures would help enhance local income and livelihood opportunities, in turn encouraging rural families to use LPG on a regular basis.
- The recently launched Ujjwala 2.0 scheme to distribute 10 million additional free LPG connections to poorer households. But ensuring affordability and timely availability of LPG cylinders for refills would be a must to wean households away from polluting biomass and reap the benefits of the investments made in the Ujjwala scheme over the past five years which would go a long way in improving the health and well-being of our citizens.
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