Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent
Issue Brief

Are India's Urban Poor Using Clean Cooking Fuels?

Insights from Urban Slum Households across Six States

Shaily Jha, Sasmita Patnaik, Rithima Warrier
March 2021 | Clean Air, Energy Transitions

Suggested Citation: Jha, Shaily, Sasmita Patnaik, and Rithima Warrier. 2021. Are India’s Urban Poor Using Clean Cooking Fuels? Insights from Slums in Six States. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.


This brief examines access to clean cooking energy, specifically across urban slum households in six Indian states - Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. Urban slums suffer from the double burden of pollution. They are exposed to the high ambient particulate matter pollution of cities and the household air pollution (HAP) from unclean cooking fuels. The analysis focuses on cooking fuel use patterns of households, the extent of LPG and solid fuels use, fuel stacking behaviour, and the primary cook’s perception of various cooking fuels and their impact on health. The survey covered 656 households across 83 urban slums (notified and non-notified) spread across 58 districts. The study, however, does not provide a state-level analysis because of the smaller sample size for urban slums in states such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

To reduce the health impacts from HAP, households who are stacking with polluting fuels would need to transition to exclusive use of clean cooking fuels

To reduce the health impacts from HAP, households who are stacking with polluting fuels would need to transition to exclusive use of clean cooking fuels

Source: Authors’ analysis

Key Findings

  • While the overall adoption of LPG has increased significantly from 2011, the exclusive use of LPG is limited to just over half of the total households (55 per cent) in urban slums.
  • The household’s economic status (measured through asset ownership) and access to doorstep delivery of LPG refills are two critical factors that determine their ability to use LPG exclusively.
  • About 37 per cent of the households using LPG in urban slums report not receiving LPG cylinders at their doorstep. The majority of such households report dependency on male members and loss of wage to procure the cylinder.
  • While the six states covered in the survey have the highest percentage of households covered under the scheme, only 23 per cent of slum households had Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) connections.
  • Despite PMUY, about 12 per cent of the urban slum households do not use LPG and rely on polluting fuels entirely.
  • Awareness about LPG subsidies is low among the primary cooks, with about 28 per cent of the households reporting not knowing if they received the subsidy amount for their last refill.
  • Despite increased LPG adoption, over a third of slum households are stacking with polluting fuels (including firewood, dung cake, agriculture residue, charcoal, and kerosene). The majority of households stacking multiple fuels report using polluting fuels daily or weekly, which effectively increases their exposure to HAP.
  • The use of polluting fuels increases during winter, especially when fuel requirement for non-cooking tasks within the household like water heating for bathing and space heating increases.

Key Recommendations

  • The next phase of PMUY should expand its reach to urban slum households, given that there are still households without LPG connections.
  • Target vulnerable households beyond PMUY beneficiaries for differential support. The low share of PMUY households effectively made most slum households ineligible for relief support given under PM-Garib Kalyan Yojana during the lockdown.
  • Oil and marketing companies could explore providing performance-based incentives to distributors serving urban poor customers to get a greater margin on the commissions.
  • Leverage platforms like LPG Panchayats for recurring campaigns communicating the process of subsidy calculation and disbursement for households.
  • Increase awareness about actual expense on the refills to improve women’s bargaining power within the household. The intrahousehold decision making regarding refill purchase remains dominated by male members.
  • Integrate access to clean cooking energy schemes with other ministries’ social assistance programmes (e.g., health, education and nutrition assistance) to better target support for slum households.
Nearly half of the urban slum population (45 per cent) across the six states still rely on polluting fuels for cooking – either entirely (12 per cent) or stacking with LPG (33 per cent).

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