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Promote green growth to save the planet

Sunday, Mar 08, 2020 15:00 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Mar 08, 2020 09:20 [IST]

Promote green growth to save the planet

Dr DEBAPRIYA MUKHERJEE

"Zero Defect Zero Effect" slogan was coined by Prime Minister of India, NarendraModi, as essence of the Make in India initiative that manages advanced processes, materials and technologies, to guide the production mechanism that produces products with no defects so that it will not be rejected in the global market. Most importantly he has given more emphasis on the manufacturing process that should not have any negative impact on the environment.

In this context I intend to state  one critical issue that we have witnessed some of the worst natural calamities- warnings of  ice melt, tsunamis, landslides, hurricanes, devastating floods, sea-level rise and snowstorms.  Deaths from such causes are steadily on the rise. Are these the vagaries of the planet or is this a response to human activities?  Obviously some uncomfortable questions have been raised such as - environment or industry; Planet or people; natural resources or technology.  Answers to these questions are really difficult within our structure of market economics. Our common belief is that vikas (growth) leads to vinash (environmental destruction) because we have placed the development at the cost of environment – manufacturing system is unable to provide both quality and quantity.  The possible reason is that we have missed to explore the path towards  “sustainability”.

 Now it is quiet relevant that  human societies have to take critical decisions and actions for  sustainable development that includes environmental aspects, such as natural boundaries and the carrying capacity of ecosystems as well as social aspects, such as social justice, equality, and governance. The present regime has positioned "inclusive growth" as the fulcrum of its political and economic doctrine with a promise of  "minimum government",  seeking the maximum participation of industry and business in nation building particularly through “make in India. Progress of India and development of industries in India are more or less synonymous, because on the one hand industry contributes to GDP (measured as an increase in Gross Domestic Product) significantly and on the other hand, the government collects huge  tax revenue from industrial production, which the government spends on the welfare schemes and a lot of employment opportunities are generated in industrial sector as well. 

Simply measurement of GDP will not give clear idea if that economic growth is not adjusted to the loss of natural resources. GDP cannot be a measure of social welfare.  If society is not concerned with the GDP, it would be easy to downscale the  production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions at the local and global level, reducing societies’ throughput of energy and raw materials. In another view, economic growth with high GDP is essential to achieve prosperity, happiness and a good life. But industrial production to maintain economic growth with increased emissions of greenhouse gases and discharging chemical contaminants to the air, water and soil will destroy natural environments—all of which has economic cost. In India there are the most progressive laws and standards but enforcement and compliance require personal and political courage that is in many cases practically lacking.  India has already reached the tipping point  but we are still  chasing GDP and investments for economic growth.  If societies strive for increased economic growth and consumption without reflecting on consequences for the environment, it might become impossible to prevent negative impacts on environment.

Many researchers particularly in the field of ecological economics, have stressed the physical constraints for economic activities and the need to change course to adjust the economies to the planets biophysical boundaries. Best possible options as suggested,  are to continue striving for economic growth with a attempt to reduce its negative impacts and  to encourage growth in sectors of the economy that use fewer resources. This implies a green economy, or green growth, that is based on consumption and activities that can enable decoupling to stay within planetary boundaries. In recent years, India has undergone a rapid growth of economy where the key drivers of such growth consist of private consumption and investment, both  in production and service sectors.

if we wish to protect and conserve mountains, forests, rivers, wildlife, the air that we breathe and the water that we drink, and indeed our habitat, the Planet Earth, we must adopt the green growth or green economy that  merits special attention  of all stake holders  to include  shift in perspective in which social sustainability is the aim, ecological sustainability is a fundamental requirement, and the economy is seen as a tool. To fulfill these objectives,  there  is a need to increase awareness of  green business such as selling of green houses and products, staying in green hotels and studying in green schools and many more across our society. Unfortunately many entrepreneurs have poor understanding of green growth and they mainly rely on end-of-pipe technology to fulfill the norms stipulated by regulatory authority and also they can manage the concerned inspectors if they fail to comply.  They are also unable to recognize the opportunities of using green as a vehicle for competitive advantages as  they perceive it as "costly" and not remunerative. That is the major flaw.

 Most importantly this green growth  goes beyond compliance with respect to the negative impact on the environment. One good example is of using energy efficient light sources (CFL)  that is procured at high initial cost but it has significant financial benefit if we consider payback in its life cycle.  Another green innovation is that Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has developed a shampoo which needs minimum water. Many steel and cement industries have saved the energy by investing huge money in innovative technology.  This concepts have payback period where significant benefit flow over the life of the project. Today, Indian industry ranks amongst the best in the world with lowest consumption of electricity (in terms of units) for every ton of output manufactured. In India, a green building has  become very popular with good business. Initially many offices, commercial complexes, hotels, hospitals  and even homes were covered. Now green factories are being constructed in many places.  Cummins factory at Ranjangaon, Pune was the first rated green factory in India. The payback period was just 18 months.  Thereby the economic growth still have sustainable space if we can  overcome some obstacles.

Now society have recognized the need to incorporate sustainability and environmental concerns into “considerations of the bottom line”. The economy’s potentially negative impact on the environment has triggered concerns among practitioners and scholars of sustainability, sustainable development, and the environment. Also environmentally concerned entrepreneurs has started to address present environmental challenges, such as global warming and the potential energy crunch, in environmentally friendly, sustainable and green firms. These firms need to seriously engage in sustainable initiatives seeking to minimize their impact on the environment, contribute to improvements for society as a whole and for local communities, provide purposeful employment, and find solutions to balance business goals with sustainability and environmental management.  Government must encourage different entrepreneurs to propose a new model of “green growth” for which various solutions may be emerged to cope with the current environmental challenges such as energy conservation and renewable generation, pollution, introducing green innovative technologies, improving productivity, lowering production costs, attracting foreign direct investment, guaranteeing future access to energy and waste reduction and more efficient use of resources. It represents an opportunity to simultaneously improve people’s quality of life, alleviate poverty, create decent jobs, promote sustainable investment and enhance the company’s competitiveness.

Further, green economy has not been conceived as a replacement for sustainable development, but rather, should be considered as a subset of it. Therefore, green economy demands an operational policy agenda that can help to achieve measurable progress at the interface of the economy and the environment. Green growth also helps to increase the efficiency of the economy. That is why there is a growing consensus all over the world that the business-as-usual scenario is no longer an option as it was before, and switching to a green growth is becoming a must.

E-mail dpmcpcb@yahoo.com

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi