Chandigarh: Linking the supply of ‘costlier’ LPG during the lockdown and the spread of coronavirus infection, a study by PGI scientists has recommended reducing the price of the clean fuel to prevent insufficient access to clean energy, especially in the rural areas, which may aggravate the Covid-19 situation.
In the study, published in a high-impact journal — Environment International, the researchers have reasoned that exposure to solid biomass fuels is associated with respiratory problems, such as reduced lung function and increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms, that could lead to exacerbation of respiratory diseases.
“While the exact relationship between the exposure to air pollution and Covid-19 is not known, some evidences indicate that the areas in the US with higher air pollutant levels saw higher rates of Covid infection,” said Dr Ravindra Khaiwal, corresponding author, department of community medicine and school for public health, PGI.
The study mentions that in June this year, when ‘Unlock 1’ was announced, the rates of LPG cylinder were hiked nationwide after a consecutive price cut for three months. “This will likely slow down the uptake of clean fuels. While transiting to clean fuel, price hikes should not punish the poor,” said Dr Khaiwal.
Even though during the economic slowdown in Covid-19, a relief package for free refilling of clean fuels was announced, considering the low financial stability of marginal households to afford clean fuels and to reduce the burden associated with air pollution, “solid biomass fuels could not be entirely replaced by clean cooking fuels by just providing aid for three months”, mentions the study and adds, “Governments can embark upon this issue by making the provision of clean cooking fuels as part of their standing emergency response plans.”
Citing the instance of the Ghana government, which offered clean fuel at subsidised costs for the poorest consumers and also a 50% discount to other consumers, the researchers recommend such initiatives to address long-term challenges. “Therefore, we recommended the creation of additional, targeted subsidies for at least a year following Covid as the employment scenario and the Indian economy recover. The cost of the LPG should be reduced as inferred,” said Dr Khaiwal.