India set to keep on using lethal cooking fuel-IEA

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LONDON, Nov 7 (Reuters) India's reliance on polluting cooking fuels that cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year, has risen and is expected to remain high, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Wednesday.

Although the number of households connected to mains electricity has been increasing gradually, the number of people relying on fuel-wood, dung and agricultural residues for cooking and heating rose from 580 million in 1991 to 668 million in 2005, the IEA said in its latest World Energy Outlook.

Between now and 2030, biomass is expected to remain the main cooking fuel in rural areas because it is the cheapest and most widely available.

Even in the IEA's high growth scenario, as opposed to its reference scenario, which is regarded as the most likely forecast, 22 percent of the population will still be relying on fuel-wood and dung for cooking and heating in India by 2030.

''This result highlights the urgency of implementing other strategies, such as improving kitchen ventilation and the efficiency of biomass cookstoves in poor households,'' the IEA said.

According to the World Health Organization, the use of biomass for cooking and heating causes more than 400,000 premature deaths per year in India, equivalent to the population of Luxembourg.

Women, who traditionally are responsible for cooking, and children, who stay at home with them, are the most vulnerable to the particles released by such fuels.

The IEA said the concentration of particulate matter in the air in Indian households using biomass was more than 2,000 microgrammes per cubic metre, compared to the U.S. standard of 150.

REUTERS BJR SSC1616

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