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Fact Sheet For Policy Makers


At the BAQ 2008 Workshop, Indoor Air Pollution was discussed in great detail thanks to the efforts made by PCIA. At end of the workshop the key message or conclusion by the organizers was that IAP does have a great impact on health, but we need to develop specific indoor air standards and agree specific ways to measure them. Currently, the major health impacts (such as ALRI, COPD and LBW) reflect only small benefits in terms of Cost Effectiveness, and it has proved difficult to measure the other quality of life / health impacts in a meaningful way. So that in near future in order to achieve the MDG and so that the co benefits of improved indoor air can be easily calculated and presented a discussion was initiated to understand what information do the members think the policy-makers need on Indoor Air Pollution?

The discussion became divided was on two issues. While some argued about who should be the policy makers others discussed on the benefits of such a policy.

Key Questions Asked By The Members

  • What is meant by "policy-makers"?
  • What kind of policy-makers are we talking about in the developing countries that can issue and enforce IAQ standards in any of the developing countries?
  • Who best to assist with all these issues - and who should take final responsibility....???
  • After having raised IAQ awareness, what use shall the political will be put to?

The e-Discussion in Detail

What is meant by policy makers?

Nikhil Desai wrote that IAQ is a relatively recent research interest; otherwise, people have known dirty fuels/combustion practices and escaped from them as soon as they can.

He asked what is meant by "policy-makers"? He also said that a couple of countries should be selected , identify particular institutions with the mandate to develop, implement, enforce a policy. Otherwise this "policy-makers" talk is useless and can go on another few decades.

His opinion was setting IAQ standards and justifying them in terms of "cost effectiveness" is policy obsession of academics and would go nowhere. For decades if not centuries, people have moved from dirty fuels/combustion practices to cleaner fuels/combustion without "policies and measures". That should be reason enough to pause and think.

What type of policies are we trying to achieve in developing countries

He said,'What policies? Remember, urban burning of wood or coal was banned, or a massive shift to piped/bottled gas was encouraged, without IAQ standards and cost-effectiveness calculations'.

He asked just what kind of policy-makers were we talking about in the developing countries? Is there an equivalent of USEPA that can issue and enforce IAQ standards in any of the developing countries?

The UK Clean Air Act

Grant Ballard-Tremeer wrote that in UK and many European Countries the banning of coal use in urban areas is very strongly influenced by IAQ and OAQ standards and cost-effectiveness calculations were highly influential. The UK Clean Air Act from the 1950s was a direct response to a December 1952 London Smog which Reportedly killed over 4000 people, and it was the Clean Air Act which caused the shift in behavior. Then, and since, significant analytical work has gone into establishing air quality standards adopting initially an environmental quality perspective (human health or critical loads) and more recently a so-called 'Best Available Technology not Entailing Excessive Cost (BATNEEC)' (which is partly a subjective judgment).

The long term benefits of engaging "policy actors"

Liz Bates joined the discussion asking Karabi that when she mentioned policy-makers did she really mean 'the people in government with money and influence who can help to support change' -because that is what she usually means.

She goes on to say that if she does a project in a village, without engaging the policy actors in the activities, then she benefit, say, 200 households. If she involves local government staff, maybe they will agree to visiting local households over a wider geographic area, and making the link between sick children and smoke. They may agree to run a programme of works after the project has ended.

Though women may learn, they may not have the money up-front for a clean what else to do? Those at national government level need to beaware of the economic and social impact of having a large percentage of their population living with life-threatening, and/or hugely debilitating impaired health, (from eye diseases to pneumonia).

But maybe that country has already spent all that it can afford on health?If government advisers understand that the issue affects the majority their population, it may be reflected in the PRSPs (Policy Reduction Strategy Papers), or similar high level documents - water-borne diseases appear there- and the risks are similar.Is this important? Yes - because if it appears, then when international funding is being sought by these countries, it is seen as one of the key factors which is preventing countries from achieving the MDGs.

We now have strong evidence that there is a close link between smoke and ill-health - so maybe we should move on to the kind of evidence that is needed for those spending government money.The Fuel for Life book published by the WHO ( states that:

'Making improved stoves available, by 2015, to half of those still burning biomass fuels and coal on traditional stoves, would result in a negative intervention cost of US$ 34 billion a year as the fuel cost savings due to greater stove efficiency exceed the investment costs.'

It gets even better if the health data is included. Leaving people with indoor air pollution is costing governments a lot of money. Maybe this is the key message to policymakers.

Policy making: Including a budget line and Job description

Nikhil Desai replied back that he agreed with everything. But everyone seemed to miss two key elements of policy-making - a budget line item and a job description.

After you have raised IAQ awareness, what use shall the political will be put to?
What is "for them to know practically what can be done"?

In particular, what can be done by public expenditures and with assignment to a particular department/agency mandated to handle the job? What job is it? Setting OAQ or IAQ standards? Is that going to get 50% of households off dirty fuel/stove/operating practices bind?

Except for kerosene/LPG (or even natural gas or electricity) subsidies in many countries, is there anything that can be given a five-year, ten-year budget allocation and a government can confidently rely on significant improvements (and cheaper than some other solutions)?

Is this even primarily a public policy issue? He agreed with Liz it is a major issue but that doesn't necessarily make it a public policy issue. At any rate, not unless one can solve it in reasonable time frame.

he said that Governments can permit/ban/regulate or it can tax/subsidize something. After 30 years, he did not think there's enough for "us" to convincingly argue that "we" have a "practical solution" where per capita incomes are less than US$500/yr, fuel wood is available for less than 10 US$/kg, and non-recurrent budget expenditures are less than US$50/yr.

Choppalli Venkata Krishna wrote to say that he agreed with Liz. While we try to recommend the 'Policy Makers' (in India usually the Bureaucrats & the Politicians), they first introspect how beneficial it is for their 'Vote Banks' rather than the suggested solution for the crux of the problem. He mentioned that the Stove Workers are third rate Citizens for them.

Grant wrote to say that this was a good point, although in his view the stove makers are not the key stakeholders that will influence policy. The key stakeholders are the people exposed to significant health risk from indoor air pollution. These people of course may predominately be somewhat disenfranchised rural poor which is also a reason that their needs are frequently overlooked.

Key Issues from the discussion:

So, generally, he thought that there are a number of issues we can derive from this:
  • Raising awareness of the risks from indoor air pollution in the general population is an important part of policy development since it establishes the political mandate for policy development.
  • In some cases I think targeting urban areas provides the quickest route to create some political will if this is where the democratic drivers are.
  • Certainly accessible information for policy-makers is vital for them to know practically what can be done (both voters and political people need awareness of the issues).
  • Outdoor Air Pollution standards for urban areas is easier to address in most cases, and can indirectly have an impact on indoor emissions. I know for example that the Ethiopia EPA has ambitions to extend monitoring of outdoor air pollution levels in Addis , and to attribute sources and reduce them - this could have a real impact on indoor air pollution and control since household cooking emissions appear to be a significant part of the sources of poor air quality.

Input from The Malawi Bureau of Standards

Gloria from Malawi Bureau of Standards joined the discussion by writing in to say that she had gone through the communications regarding information for policy makers. She agreed with whatever has been recommended and just wanted to add one thing that she think would be very important to consider.

She said, ‘I am working with the Malawi Bureau of Standards, its not a policy making organization but it is within the boundaries. Anything that touches social life, environment and health is handled with urgency in standards formulation. This is also the same in many national plans e.g. strategic plans etc'.

'Information on indoor air pollution should fit into the strategic plans and goals (National and International) and should be integrated with all issues regarding health, environment, sustainability issues, poverty issues including their relationship with other cross cutting issues e.g. HIV AIDS, economic impacts and go with advocacy tools (testimonies,economic and policy).’

'There can be all those issues of indoor air pollution as we know but without instruments it’s next to useless information to a policy maker. The policy maker still needs to answer the question HOW? this is imbedded in the advocacy tools'.

She concluded by asking the members their views on this?

Crosby Menzies sent a comment saying that seems to him that if this is not a task for Government - what is....??(food, transport, waste collection privatized world wide - not an improvement usually) Who best to assist with all these issues - and who should take final responsibility....???

The home owner stove users (how), fuel makers or Governments (if you can subsidize oil/coal/nuclear - why not a stove) where the sick invariably end up becoming their/our issue anyway. (Surely health is worth more than this regardless of these 2 dimensional economic paradigm arguments - i.e. - if it’s your mom/sister/brother you may approach the whole issue differently...)

He said that he cannot comment on the efficiency of Government but ideally it makes the most sense in order to make a change soon - the next 5 -10 year window period- Governments should in fact supply cleaner cooking stoves - the alternatives are disastrous -and yes there is enough proof to support this - its also quite obvious to anyone who lives in the "developing world" (where is the world actually developed again..?)

Green house gases will actually rise in developing parts of the world due to higher population - thwarting any efforts (assuming are really any being made) by the US and Europe to keep rising temperatures within the UN's "acceptable range" .

He thought,'For the record I think sponsoring solar and fuel efficient stoves (burns nothing) to any/all of the 3 billion people on earth who cannot cook as easily as everyone of us - would be a jolly good cost effective thing to do and I don’t believe Shell/BP/Chevron etc... are the right entities for the job'.
He concludes by assuring us the trees and all life that relies on them would really be grateful for our actions

Karabi Dutta wrote that she had gone through all the postings in the last few days she found that all of us were attacking this problem from our own cocoons which is perfectly OK. At least everyone agreed that policies are needed but it seems no one is sure who are the policy makers or who should be the policy makers and what should be the policies?


So let us come to the basics. The major causes of IAP are:
  1. fuel
  2. biomass stoves and
  3. ventilation of the houses


Regarding fuel so long trees are there and wood is available for free or cheaply and LPG is out of reach for the masses we really cannot do much about it other than design more fuel efficient biomass stoves to reduce consumption and emission at the same time. We have achieved quite a lot of success in this area as I am sure all of us would agree. The other option is turn towards non conventional and renewable energy sources e.g. solar power.

Indoor Air Standards

So the need of the hour is that all the organizations which are working on improved stove testing and designing should get together and formulate a standard which includes following information: Testing Equipments, Testing Protocols and minimum and maximum emission and fuel efficiency standards for portable stoves and fixed stoves, metal and biomass stoves or any other energy consuming device that pollutes indoor air. It should then be presented to the BIS for them to take action. We could approach the MNRES or Science and Society Division of Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India to test the protocols on the variety of stoves. And if we can provide adequate proof that IAP does have a great impact on health, develop specific indoor air standards and agree on specific ways to measure them, I am sure MNRES or DST will help us in implementing a coordinated nationwide project to reduce IAP from rural homes whereby we can apply our testing protocols on various stoves in various states and finally come up with a well tested standard protocol which may be adopted by established as national standard.

Closing of Discussion

Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy said that he agreed with Karabi Dutta on the possibilities. As compared to the subsidies provided in all the aspects of energy say in Andhra Pradesh State, India 1. Free electricity for farmers to irrigate from bore wells / lift irrigation 2. Rs. 50/- exclusive subsidy by State Government on every LPG cylinder for 1.05 core consumers 3. Subsidy on Kerosene and petrol (till recently not comparing with present prices). With 20% of the budget spent on the above aspects 80% of the population’s requirement of good stoves can be addressed. As free houses are provided to people in villages, there is no provision for a stove. With hardly 2% to 3% of the cost of a house, along with the house a good stove could also be provided to the rural population. With elections nearing in Andhra Pradesh, again more free power promises are being made, but not much importance to the biomass based stoves, which constitute the majority.

Last edited by Miriam Hansen , based on work by Karabi Dutta .
Page last modified on Friday 24 of September, 2010 12:11:33 GMT. @HEDON: UCNB

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