Fuel switching from wood to LPG can benefit the environment
The Himalaya in India is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. Various scientific studies have reported and proven that many factors are responsible for the tremendous decline of the Himalayan forests. Extraction of wood biomass from the forests for fuel is one of the factors, as rural households rely entirely on this for their domestic energy. Efforts continue for both conservation and development of the Himalayan forests and landscape. It has been reported that people are still looking for more viable solutions that could help them to improve their lifestyle as well as facilitate ecosystem conservation and preservation of existing biodiversity. In this direction, we have documented the potential of the introduction of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is one of the solutions that have been offered to the local people as a substitute for woodfuel to help meet their domestic energy demand. The results of the current study found dramatic change in per capita woodfuel consumption in the last two decades in the villages where people are using LPG. The outcome showed that woodfuel consumption had been about 475 kg per capita per year in the region, but after introduction of LPG, this was reduced to 285 kg per capita per year in 1990–1995, and was further reduced to 46 kg per capita per year in 2000–2005. Besides improving the living conditions of the local people, this transformation has had great environmental consequences. Empirical evidence shows that this new paradigm shift is having positive external effects on the surrounding forests. Consequently, we have observed a high density of tree saplings and seedlings in adjacent forests, which serves as an assessment indicator of forest health. With the help of the current study, we propose that when thinking about a top-down approach to conservation, better solutions, which are often ignored, should be offered to local people.