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  • Context (TH): A look at Black Carbon and the role played by Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in curbing black carbon emissions.
  • Black carbon, commonly known as soot, is a solid particle or aerosol (though not a gas) that contributes to the warming of the atmosphere.
    • Soot is a form of particulate air pollutant, produced from incomplete combustion.
  • According to a 2016 study, the residential sector contributes 47% of India’s total black carbon emissions.
  • Industries contribute 22%, diesel vehicles 17%, open-burning 12%, and other sources 2%.

Impact of Black Carbon on the Environment

  • Black carbon warms the earth by absorbing heat in the atmosphere and by reducing albedo (the ability to reflect sunlight) when deposited on snow and ice.
  • BC is the strongest absorber of sunlight and heats the air directly.
  • It emits infrared radiation that increases the temperature.
  • In addition, it darkens snowpack and glaciers through deposition and leads to the melting of ice and snow (black carbon is contributing to the melting of Himalayan Glaciers).
  • Regionally, BC disrupts cloudiness and monsoon rainfall.
  • Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only several days to weeks.
  • Studies have found a direct link between exposure to black carbon and a higher risk of heart disease, birth complications, and premature death.
  • Most black carbon emissions in India arise from burning biomass, such as cow dung or straw, in traditional cookstoves.
  • Recent estimates have indicated that mitigating residential emissions will avoid more than 6.1 lakh deaths per year from indoor exposure to air pollution.

Black Carbon - PMF IAS

Role of PMUY in curbing black carbon emissions

  • The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is a government scheme launched in 2016.
  • The primary objective was to make clean cooking fuel available to rural and poor households and reduce their dependence on traditional cooking fuels.
  • The PMUY has established infrastructure for LPG connections, including free gas stoves, deposits for LPG cylinders, and a distribution network.
  • The programme has thus played a vital role in reducing black carbon emissions, as it offers a cleaner alternative to traditional fuel consumption.
  • The programme has provided connections to over 10 crore households as of January 2024.

Challenges faced

  • However, in 2022-2023, according to RTI data, 25% of all PMUY beneficiaries, i.e. 2.69 crore people, availed either zero LPG refill or only one LPG refill, meaning they still relied entirely on traditional biomass for cooking.
  • Further, The Hindu found that the average PMUY beneficiary household consumes only 3.5-4 LPG cylinders per year instead of the six or seven a regular non-PMUY household uses. This means up to half of a PMUY beneficiary household’s energy needs are still met by traditional fuels.
  • Further, with the rapid increase in LPG prices over the last five years, the cost of a 14.2-kg LPG cylinder, even with an additional subsidy, is still about ₹600 per cylinder.
  • Another big hurdle to the PMUY’s success is the lack of last-mile connectivity in the LPG distribution network, resulting in remote rural areas depending mostly on biomass.
    • One potential solution to this issue is the local production of coal-bed methane (CBM) gas by composting biomass.
    • Panchayats can take the initiative to produce CBM gas locally at the village level, ensuring every rural household can access clean cooking fuel.
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