Household Energy, Women’s Hardship and Health Impacts in Rural Rajasthan, India: Need for Sustainable Energy Solutions


Laxmi, Vijay, Jyoti Parikh, Shyam Karmakar, and Pramod Dabrase. 2003. “Household Energy, Women’s Hardship and Health Impacts in Rural Rajasthan, India: Need for Sustainable Energy Solutions.” Energy for Sustainable Development 7 (1): 50–68.

Authors: Vijay Laxmi, Jyoti Parikh, Shyam Karmakar, Pramod Dabrase


"The use of unprocessed bio-fuels for cooking is interlinked with many other factors such as socio- economic conditions, availability of alternative fuels, cooking practices, health impacts, gender equality, and housing characteristics. To examine these factors and their linkages, we collected data through a large and comprehensive survey covering perhaps the largest sample of 58,768 individuals in 10,265 rural households from three states in northern India, viz., Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. We included socio-economic variables, smoking habits, fuels used, characteristics of the kitchen, cooking practices, 19 types of health symptoms, etc. 

In this paper, we report on analysis of the data collected only from the rural areas of Rajasthan, covering 6,403 females and 5,552 males from 1,989 households in 13 villages. The results reveal that women undergo a lot of drudgery due to the use of bio-fuels. They walk approximately 2.5 km to collect fuel-wood. About 50 hours per month per household are expended in fuel-wood collection and transportation. The use of kerosene for cooking is negligible in the area, because of unavailability more than non-affordability. The people in the rural areas of Rajasthan are willing to pay for kerosene, the next fuel on the energy ladder above bio-fuels. It is estimated that even at a price of Rs. 13 per litre, which is higher than the market price, about 34 % of households are willing to buy additional quantities of kerosene for cooking. Therefore there is a need to meet this unmet demand by addressing market failures.

The health impacts of the use of bio-fuels are quite high for adult women. The linkages between many socio-economic variables and respiratory symptoms in adult women show that health impacts can be reduced by increasing female literacy, reducing the use of bio-fuels, and changing the housing design by, for example, introducing ventilation or separating the kitchen from the living area.

The losses incurred because of cooking fuels, including work days spent, expenditure on illness and lost working days due to illness are Rs. 29 billion per year in the rural areas of Rajasthan. By minimizing these losses even by some fraction, one can give a boost to the rural economy and improve women’s welfare. For this we need coordinated, consistent and focused cooperation of all the stakeholders at the grassroots, policy-making and implementation levels. Action-oriented programmes should include a treatment strategy at public health centres to help suffering women" (Laxmi et al 2003, 50).

Topics: Economies, Education, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Health, Households, Infrastructure, Energy Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2003

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