The Union Environment Ministry has credited the Ujjwala scheme, which provides free cooking gas to extremely poor families, with ‘possibly’ reducing the demand for fuel wood.
The India State of Forest Report, 2019, — that biannually also assesses the tree cover — also surveyed 1,110 villages, which are on the fringes of forests, to assess how much fuelwood, fodder, small timber and bamboo villagers use. The use of these products — according to the Forest Survey of India — was a major source of “impairment to forest productivity” but wasn’t adequately assessed.
In their assessment of villages in 31 States and Union Territories, nearly 8,52,90,000 tonnes of fuelwood, 105,30,39,000 tonnes off fodder, 584,8204 cubic metres of small timber and 18,34,000 tonnes of bamboo were collected annually by those living in the forest fringes. The maximum fuelwood was removed in Maharashtra — 95,39000 tonnes — followed by Odisha and Rajasthan. The highest removal, per person, was in Nagaland followed by Himachal Pradesh and Tripura.
The last time a comparable analysis was done, the FSI report said, was in 2011 and since then the consumption per capita per year at the national level had reduced by 5.46% — from 294.28 kg/capita/year to 278.21 kg/per capita/year in 2019.
“It is possible that the government schemes of promoting alternative fuels like LPG under Ujjwala scheme and non-renewable energy have been effective in reducing fuelwood removal to some extent,” the survey notes.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar seconded the inference at a press conference. The Ujjwala scheme was launched in 2016 and has distributed 80 million connections. The Environment Ministry didn’t provide estimates of fuelwood consumption from 2011-2016 and didn’t explain how many of those living on fringe villages and dependent of forest for fuel switched to gas connections.