Air pollution in India is discussed in great detail by both, health and environment experts. However, we are left wanting when it comes to acknowledgement and deliberation over indoor air pollution. It is observed that the impact of indoor air pollution can be up to 10 times more detrimental than the outdoors. A common phenomenon in developing nations, indoor air pollutants primarily comprises of combustion, building material, and bio-aerosols.
One of the ways to address indoor air pollution is to change the household energy consumption habits and minimising the use of solid fuels like wood, cow dung, and charcoal. It is in this direction, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is a path-breaking initiative, which aims to provide LPG connections to BPL households in India. The overarching objective of this scheme is to reduce the health hazards that emanate from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass fuels. Please take note that the health hazards trickles down to young children, as they are also exposed to smoke and solid particles.
In India, solid fuels cause maximum indoor pollution. As per the 2011 Census Data, only 28.6% of the 0.2 billion who used fuel for cooking had access to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). Incomplete combustion of solid fuels resulted in an increase in the concentration of suspended particulate matter.
The adverse impact of particulate matter in the air can be further put into perspective by the following data:
|Type of fuels||Indoor CO levels (mg/m3)|
- Some of the common diseases associated with the indoor air pollution are respiratory ailments like bronchitis, cancer of lungs, larynx, mouth, tuberculosis etc. Solid fuels cause an increase in child mortality (ages 1-4 years), with more girls dying than boys.
- Biomass fuel exposure is a significant factor towards lung cancer in non-smoker women.
- The occurrence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was higher among women who were exposed to biomass fuels. Women who spent more than 2 hours cooking on biomass fuels were twice at risk as compared to their counterparts.
- Biomass fuels are found to be associated with partial or complete blindness, while prolonged exposure to wood smoke results in cortical, nuclear, and mixed cataract at a much early age.
- According to a report by the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution claims around 3.8 million deaths (also shown in the pie chart) of which:
- 27% are due to Pneumonia;
- 18% from Stroke;
- 27% from Ischaemic Heart Disease;
- 20% from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD);
- 8% from Lung Cancer.
Figure 1: Deaths caused by indoor air pollution. Source: WHO
PMUY has currently covered 715 districts and released around 5.8 crore connections, of which 3.8 crore were released in 2017-18 alone.
- 17% of these PMUY connections i.e. 98.6 lakhs were released in Uttar Pradesh.
- 7 lakhs connections were released in the north-eastern region.
Cost of Illness
It is essential to state that illness is as much a societal cost, as it is a personal cost. Household Energy Interventions and Health and Finances in Haryana, India: An Extended Cost-Effectiveness Analysis computes the cost-effectiveness of policies designed to control Household Air Pollution (HAP), including the PMUY.
The following table gives a snapshot of the burden of diseases in Haryana and India, by income quintile:
Background Disease Burden in India and in Haryana, India, by Income Quintile
Averted expenditure as a result of policy intervention is defined as:
This study observed that:
- Averted death costs the government USD 825 per person.
- It is suggested that 100% adoption of clean cooking technology in Haryana will avert 2,000 deaths (for the chimney stove) and 18,100 averted deaths (blower stove).
- Reduction in HAP reduces health and financial burden to the largest extent in poorest quintiles.
- Time saved on the account of clean cooking can be used to generate additional sources of income.
Economic Impact of PMUY
- With the increase in the LPG coverage and consumption, PMUY alone is expected to generate an additional employment of 1 lakh.
- Moreover, the increase in LPG coverage will directly give an upward push to demand for cylinders, regulators, gas stoves, hose etc. Not only will this be met through ‘Make in India’ initiative, but this will also provide increased economic activity to the tune of at least Rs 10,000 crore.
Ujjwala Scheme is having three main societal impacts, improved household health, which will, in turn, lead to lower healthcare expenditure and subsequently higher savings and last but not the least, women are able to save some time for themselves. Additional time saved by women may be used by them to do household chores, financially support their families or even in developing new skills like tailoring or packaging.
So, PMUY is a scheme that covers all three dimensions required for social progress of a country – health, financial saving, and higher labour productivity. Increase in health levels of the population leads to improved productivity, which further leads to availability of additional resources that will subsequently translate into improved economic and social outcomes.