Could cooking with natural gas drastically cut India’s air pollution levels?

An independent study by the University of California, Berkeley, and India Institute of Technology (IIT) believes it can.

The study found that switching from traditional cooking fuels such as wood, coal or even kerosene could help India meet its national air-pollution targets and save lives lost due to long-term exposure to polluted air.

The research comes in the wake of India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), launched earlier this year to remedy the country’s crippling air pollution. It aims to reduce this pollution by a third over the next five years.

The UC Berkeley and IIT study says India could also achieve these emission cuts without changes to industrial and transport emissions simply by shifting to natural gas for cooking.

The whole country would reach national air pollution standards if they switched to gas.

UC Berkeley professor Kirk R. Smith

As recently as 2016, nearly half of India’s population were still using biomass for cooking and heating.

“We looked at what would happen if they only cleaned up households, and we came to this counterintuitive result that the whole country would reach national air pollution standards if they did that,” said one of the paper’s authors, UC Berkeley professor Kirk R. Smith.

By making a switch from these biomass-based fuels to cleaner-burning natural gas, the UC Berkeley and IIT researchers found air pollution-related deaths in India could also be reduced, saving the lives of about 270,000 people annually and adding two years to Indians’ average lifespans.

India plans to increase its natural gas usage by 2.5 times by the end of 2030, spending 130 billion rupees ($US1.84 billion) to build gas pipelines connecting a large part of the country.


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