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Over 5 lakh needless deaths in India due to indoor air pollution

Second only to TB, the biggest killer disease in India with 5.5 lakh deaths in a year Over 145 million Indian households use traditional cookstoves for their daily cooking and depend on biomass fuels such as wood, dung, or agricultural residues, that cause health-threatening levels of indoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organisation […]

Second only to TB, the biggest killer disease in India with 5.5 lakh deaths in a year

Over 145 million Indian households use traditional cookstoves for their daily cooking and depend on biomass fuels such as wood, dung, or agricultural residues, that cause health-threatening levels of indoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). While currently not perceived as a major threat by most, household air pollution is actually responsible for around 5 lakh deaths in India every year. To put the seriousness of this problem in context, TB which is the biggest killer disease in India, is responsible for 5.5 lakh deaths in a year.

To compound the seriousness of the situation, over 40 crore people in India are exposed to the health perils related to household air pollution, which is actually a leading cause of lower life expectancy, caused by cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, chronic pulmonary disease, pneumonia, and other acute infections. Indoor Air Pollution can be reduced through the use of improved cookstoves that consume less fuel and emit less smoke. Experts from the industry and government, discussed the next steps to tackle the challenges hindering the large-scale adoption of improved cookstoves (ICS) in India at the India Clean Cookstove Forum (ICCF) 2014, organised in New Delhi today.

According to Dr. Harald Richter, Head of the Renewable Energy Component of the Indo-German Energy Programme, GIZ India, “The negative effects of traditional cooking practices can be significantly reduced by the use of improved cook-stoves that provide more efficient and clean combustion. However, adoption of these stoves has so far been low in India. This is due to some key factors that include – low demand due to low awareness about indoor air pollution and improved cookstoves, insufficient supply of appropriate technologies and fuels, as well as the lack of economically viable business and distribution models; and a not very conducive market environment with a lack of market intelligence and knowledge networks.”

To address these significant challenges, several recommendations were discussed at the India Clean Cookstove Forum, including:

  • Increasing demand by developing cost-effective marketing and awareness campaigns, and establishing models for end-user finance.
  • Improving Supply by facilitating stove selection and design, by supporting manufacturers and distributors to develop and select appropriate cooking technologies that are best suited for specific regional contexts. Developing Innovative distribution / business models that can make stove sales an economically-viable business proposition
  • Segmenting the Rural market with different options by developing options on biomass, LPG and the new entrant of Induction cooking
  • Improving the market environment by supporting the design and implementation of policies and support schemes to strengthen the policy environment for clean cooking technologies.

Discussions also highlighted several important initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of New and Renewable Resources, including the Unnat Chulha Abhiyan, and the National CDM Programme of Activities (PoA) for improved cookstoves.

Participants at the India Clean Cookstove Forum 2014, included distinguished experts from the government and industry, including Ms Varsha Joshi, Joint Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy; Organisations taking part in ICCF 2014 including the Indo-German Energy Programme, GIZ India; Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Shell Foundation, Tata Trusts,  Future Group, Unilever, TERI, TTK Prestige, Pratham, Biolite, IIT Delhi, and over 50 practitioners, amongst others.

EH News Bureau Mumbai

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