Lockdown may have pushed communities back to traditional cooking fuels: Study

A study has raised concerns that the Covid-19 lockdown may have impacted the transition towards clean cooking fuels in the country, suggesting that there was an immediate need to frame policies to address long-term changes, such as switching back to traditional cooking fuels in the current era of fuel transition.

The study that appeared in the Environment International journal, published by Elsevier on December 28, last year, was conducted jointly by scientists from the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Panjab University, Indian Council of Medical Research and Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health, Emory University, Atlanta.

Policy actions for clean fuel transition

“Focus and target policies to the poor and other marginalised populations to ensure sustained uptake and transition to clean fuels and intensified efforts to involve direct engagement of private entrepreneurship for continued clean cooking fuel provision is required,” the study recommended.

The researchers have also recommended for Covid-specific packages to be introduced for the severely affected communities to deal with the economic impact of the lockdown, beyond what has already been implemented.

The researchers have also stressed on development of reward mechanisms to ensure sustained use of LPG. For example, if the household commits to using only LPG, the cost of the second cylinder of fuel could be waived.

“The nationwide lockdown is likely to affect key factors such as energy access, income, transportation, that play a key role in decisions influencing household fuel use. The rural population already bears the burden of poverty and may not be able to afford and access clean cooking fuels during the lockdown. They are, thus, vulnerable to reversion to their traditional cooking methods using solid biomass fuels,” said Dr Ravindra Khaiwal, one of the authors from the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER.

The household air pollution caused due to the use of polluting fuels increases their susceptibility to non-communicable diseases, and thus may intensify the risk and severity of Covid-19 infection. Hence, there was an urgent need to expand sustainable energy solutions worldwide, the study said.

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