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Over 2/3rd Indian population still relies on dung-based fuel: UN

Report says India faces a significant challenge in providing access to adequate, affordable and clean sources of energy

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

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More than two-third of India's one billion strong population continue to rely on carbon- emitting biomass and dung-based fuel to meet energy needs for cooking, according to a UN report.

"More than half of the global population lacking clean cooking facilities lives in India, China and Bangladesh. Here, India sits at the top of the list as the country with the largest population lacking access to clean fuel for cooking," says the United Nation Industrial Development Organisation report titled "Sustainable Energy For All".

It says that India faces a significant challenge in providing access to adequate, affordable and clean sources of energy.

"Roughly 85% of the rural households are dependent on traditional biomass fuels for their cooking energy requirements and about 45% do not have access to electricity," says the report.

The 2011 population census of India estimates the number of rural households at 167.8 million.

In many poor rural communities, where biomass remains the most practical fuel, improved cook-stove can cut back indoor smoke levels considerably, says the UN.

"Burning solid fuels produces extremely high levels of indoor air pollution. Typically, 24 hour levels of PM 10 in a biomass-using home range from 300 to 3000 micrograms per cubic meter," says the report.

As cooking takes place every day of the year, most people using solid fuels are exposed to small smoke particles at a level many times higher than the accepted annual limits for outdoor air pollution.

"Thus, the health impact of burning biomass fuel is considerable, apart from being an obstacle to achieving a minimum standard of living," it says.

The report suggests that improved cook-stoves can cut back indoor smoke levels.

"These stoves reduce a family's exposure to harmful pollutants by optimising combustion, venting smoke through a flue and chimney and in some cases, reducing cooking time," it says.

The UN also says that often, across the country a large number of families who breathe polluted air inside their homes do not have access to clean drinking water and poor sanitation facilities.

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First Published: Sun, June 29 2014. 14:46 IST