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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Access to modern energy, air pollution and greenhouse gas mitigation : Inter-linking three major energy challenges facing India today Maji, Poushali


The majority of the Indian population relies on traditional fuels such as biomass, and an estimated million people die prematurely in India due to poor air quality, both indoor and outdoor, annually. A major CO₂-emitter, India has also committed to a low carbon development pathway. In this thesis, I study the problem of indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure in India, and its links to energy equity and climate mitigation. First, I use national-scale household survey data to quantify changes in cooking habits and health. I show that electrification and complete transition to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) provide significant health and time-saving benefits, particularly for women, but using LPG together with biomass provides negligible benefits. Second, I use national-scale household energy use data to show that indoor exposures to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in rural and low-income urban households exceed those in higher income urban households by an order of magnitude. Using a diffusion model for future energy use I show that comprehensive access to modern fuels for all is needed to drastically reduce indoor PM2.5 exposures, and it would add minimally to current levels of GHG emissions, if non-Kyoto pollutants from traditional fuels are considered. Third, I construct a multi-box atmospheric transport model for PM2.5 to analyze the spatial and seasonal variation of ambient air pollution. I then use a national air pollution inventory to calculate source contribution to ambient PM2.5 exposure. Residential biomass use dominates mortality burdens from ambient air pollution in India. I show that the informal sector (sources beyond the direct ambit of regulation including traditional household fuels) is responsible for 73% of deaths attributable to ambient air pollution and 33% of nation-wide GHG (including non-Kyoto) emissions. Coal use in formal industry is the second leading contributor to mortality and is responsible for half of national GHG emissions. The significant contribution of informal sources to ambient air pollution and GHG emissions leads to the conclusion that a focus on formal sources (e.g. power and transport) alone is inadequate - the role of informal sources needs to be addressed to meet air quality and climate goals.

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