Two-thirds of Indian households and four out of five rural households use solid fuels for cooking. Household air pollution from these fuels accounted for over a million premature deaths in 2010. Our paper is in two parts. The first uses secondary data from the Indian census and the National Sample Survey to understand household fuel choices. The second uses primary survey data from West Bengal to examine whether cooking environments can mitigate the health effects of solid fuels. Our results point to the need to go beyond the popular energy-ladder hypothesis by which households switch from dirty to clean fuels as their incomes rise. We find that local availability is an important determinant of fuel use. Households with land rely on agricultural by-products, those using coal are mostly in coal-producing districts and LPG use depends on the density of distributors. Purchase prices of solid fuels are similar to those of clean fuels so their continued use points to frictions in fuel markets or to information gaps about the health benefits of clean fuel. In our West Bengal survey, women cooking in ventilated spaces or using cook stoves with simple chimneys exhibit significantly higher lung capacities suggesting that simple interventions can improve the health of solid fuel users.
Sustainable Development Goals