Some alarming rural issues
Vishnu Mohan | 23 Mar 2007

Going by the statistics of World Health Organisation (WHO), Indoor Air Pollution takes nearly 5, 00,000 lives in India every year, mostly women and children living in rural villages.  This is happening because of pollution caused mainly by two factors:

- In Rural kitchens chullahs are run by burning wood, coal and dung for cooking food.  Burning of such fuels emit carbon monoxide, particulates, benzene and formaldehyde which can result in pneumonia, asthma, blindness, lung cancer, tuberculosis and low birth rate.

- Many of the rural households do not have proper ventilation aggravating to the problem.

Dr Alex Hildebrand, environment health adviser of WHO, from the extracts of his details given to a leading national daily says, “Donors don't find indoor air pollution being a real cause enough to donate money for, though more than 1.6 million people die every year from the effects of breathing poisonous smoke.  A simple mechanism promoting smokeless chulhas and improving ventilation can reduce cases of indoor air pollution by 50 per cent, which is the goal set for WHO".

WHO estimates that pollution levels in rural India kitchens are 30 times higher than recommended levels and six times higher than air pollution levels in New Delhi.

According to a report of National Resource Centre for Women (NRCW) air pollution arising out of conventional cooking system affects the health and the respiratory system of women.  The existing programme of smokeless chullahs and other non-conventional energy resources should be taken up on a massive scale for the benefit of women.

The root cause of these problems is poverty caused due to the degradation of soil, water resources and the scarcity of biomass resources to meet daily needs. In addition to this ignorance of people also plays an important role in deteriorating the social conditions of the people leading to poor quality of life. Further, the following factual factors are also big contributors for this social inequality.

In many rural and tribal communities particularly among the resource poor some common social features and phenomena are observed such as drop-out of girls from formal schools, child marriage, early and frequent child births, malnutrition and poor health, maternal mortality, infant morbidity and mortality, large family size, poor sanitation, debts and poverty. This social phenomenon is a clear picture of vulnerability of women to poverty.

Government of India has already found some great innovative solutions for tackling the above issues.  Some of the programs pursued in the right direction by various State Governments in India are as follows:

- Government of Tamil Nadu has started giving Free LPG Gas connections with stoves to who those who are perceived to be below the poverty line. In addition to the free gas stoves with cylinders, the government is also providing free colour television sets to economically weak sections to help them enjoy great social entertainment.

- Government of Gujarat has introduced Vidya Laxmi Bond for every girl child amounting to Rs 10,007 enrolling in a school which would be encashed after seventh year upon successful completion of primary education.

Though the above moves are pretty much in the right direction, reaching out such benefits to our person in rural village is a gigantic task and big challenge.   People flush with surplus funds, charitable institutions or organizations and like minded groups can think of tying up with LPG gas stove manufacturing units like Indian Oil Corporation, to provide free gas connections with stoves in as many villages as possible.

As rightly pointed out by Dr Alex Hilderband, of WHO, our country needs more and more donors for taking up the above cause to make the quality of life better for every citizen living in rural India.