Skip to main content

$5 trillion 'plan' to increase India's land, air, water pollution, solid, liquid, gaseous wastes

Counterview Desk
Well-known power policy analyst Shankar Sharma, based in Vijayanagar Sagara, Karnataka, in a representation to Reserve Bank of India governor Shaktikanta Das has taken strong objection to the latter’s recent statements (click HERE and HERE), where he wants to pursue a higher rate of growth as the “highest priority.”
Sharma says, “By the word 'growth', I assume it as the growth of GDP and in particular a high GDP growth rate”, adding, if that assumption is correct, any "larger push" without taking into account the environmental factor has major implications for the country’s future.

Text:

It is shocking that economists and high profile individuals seem to be pitching in for a very high GDP growth rate year after year, when we objectively consider the fact that India is already one of the large size economies. In the past it was Raghurama Rajan, C Rangarajan, chief economic advisors (CEAs), prime ministers (PMs) and finance ministers before your recent statement.
Recently there has also been a talk about making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. It is embarrassing for me to state that it is both unfortunate and against the long term interest of our society that such targets for a large size economy and high GDP growth rate are being pursued by the concerned authorities without adequately considering the overall impact on our communities (especially the poor and vulnerable communities) because of the invariably associated problems of pollution/contamination of air, water and soil which are only inevitable because of frenetic economic activities needed to achieve such targets .
In this context it is worthy of drawing your attention to what is stated on the topic by some of the credible reports:
A. The draft 'National Resource Efficiency Policy' (NREP), 2019 by MoEF&CC says:
"Driven by rapid economic and population growth, the demand for natural resources, especially materials have grown manifold over the last few decades. In the endeavor for economic growth, natural resources have been largely indiscriminately exploited, adversely impacting the environment and biodiversity. Further, cross linkages between resource use, climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss has been scientifically well established.
“Meeting the demand for products and services, of rising population with increased aspirations has led to mostly indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources and would further lead to increased pressure on resources resulting in environmental degradation, thereby raising sustainability concerns.”
It goes on to say:
"India, as one of the fastest growing economies with GDP at 2.6 trillion USD, has increased its material consumption to six times, from 1.18 billion tonnes in 1970 to 7 billion tonnes in 2015, however this economic growth has been coupled with inherent cost on natural environment.  The material consumption is projected to more than double by 2030, in order to provide for increasing population, rapid urbanization and growing aspirations.
“The projected pace of economic development is going to put pressure on already stressed and limited resources and may lead to serious resource depletion and environment degradation affecting the economy, livelihoods and the quality of life.Further, material use is also closely associated with the problem of increasing wastes, which when suitably processed could deliver valuable secondary resources.”

On the current status, the draft lists many concerns:
“High import dependency of many critical raw materials; 30% of land undergoing degradation: Highest water withdrawal globally for agriculture; 3rd highest CO2 emitter, responsible for 6.9% of global CO2 emissions; Much lower recycling rate at 20-25% vis-à-vis of as high as 70% in developed countries (Europe); Low material productivity compared to global average; 3 rd largest material demand (year 2010); Resource extraction of 1,580 tonnes/acre is much higher than the world average of 450 tonnes/acre .”
B. A World Bank report of June 5, 2013 has highlighted how the environment has suffered in India consequent to the past decade of rapid economic growth. The report with the title “Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges, Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability: What Are the Trade-offs?”, has many revelations of critical importance to the future of our communities.
Among other things, it says: although the past decade of rapid economic growth has brought many benefits to India, the environment has suffered, exposing the population to serious air and water pollution. The report finds that environmental degradation costs India $80 billion per year or 5.7% of its economy.
A subsequent joint study by the World Bank and University of Washington released in 2016 has estimated that in 2013 the environmental degradation costs to India, including welfare costs and lost labour income due to air pollution, was of about 8.5 % of its economy.
These World Bank estimates may indicate that the net growth in our economy is probably negative when we take the environmental degradation and health costs into objective consideration.
In this context, how advisable is it to plan to double the size of our economy in the next 5 years, as the target of $5 trillion economy by 2014 should mean? The serious concerns to our communities will be multifarious from such a scenario.
The doubling of the economy in five years shall mean a CAGR of more than 10% for 5 years. Such a sustained high GDP growth rate will mean the manufacture of products and provision of services at an unprecedented pace leading to:
  • setting up of more factories/manufacturing facilities; 
  • consumption of large quantities of raw materials such as iron, steel, cement, chemicals etc.; 
  • increasing an unsustainable demand for natural resources such as land, water, sand, minerals, timber etc.; 
  • acute pressure on the Government to divert agricultural/forest lands; 
  • huge demand for various forms of energy (petroleum products, coal, electricity etc.); accelerated urban migration; 
  • clamor for more of airports, airlines, hotels, shopping malls, private vehicles, express highways etc. 
Vast increase in each of these activities, while increasing the total greenhouse gas (GHG, responsible for global warming) emissions, will also add up to reduce the overall ability of natural carbon sinks such as forests and soils to absorb GHG emissions. There will also be increased pollution of land, air and water along with huge issues of managing the solid, liquid and gaseous wastes.
If such a frenetic pace of growth in the economy leads to environmental degradation costs of more than 8.5% of GDP, and to the premature death of few million people (estimated to be about 1.2 million in 2017 ), how can the society be seen as the real beneficiary of such an economic policy?
And who will be the real beneficiaries of such an apparently unsustainable economic policy?
The advocates of such a high GDP growth rate paradigm claim that it is necessary to alleviate poverty in the country, which basically means creation of more jobs. If our natural resource base (forests, rivers, agricultural lands, minerals etc.) gets accelerated degradation, the employment opportunities in various sectors will have to come down sooner than later.
In this context, it is pertinent to know what Tamil Nadu State Action Plan on Climate Change (TNSAPCC) has said. It says: “Global development experience reveals that one percent growth in agriculture (and associated activities?) is at least two or three times more effective in reducing poverty than the type of same growth emanating from non-agricultural sector.”
The critical consideration in formulating our country’s economic policy should be the enormous impacts on our communities from the fast looming threats of climate change, for which India is projected to be a major victim.
World Bank indicates, net growth in our economy is probably negative when we take environmental degradation, health costs into objective consideration
Keeping in view the dire need to contain the total GHG emissions and the vastly increasing pollution loading, the relevance of a high GDP growth rate paradigm for the country needs to be effectively discussed at the societal level from the perspective of true welfare of every section of our society.
Are we rational enough to take a diligent view of all these and other associated issues in our development pathway as a truly welfare society?
Shall we not focus on those economic activities which will not lead to further diversion of forest/agricultural lands, which will not demand much of water and energy, which will not lead to pollution of land, air and water, and which will lead to sustainable harnessing of our natural resources?
Such activities may include sustainable agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry, forestry, health and educational services, IT&BT, eco & health tourism etc.
Can we hope that the tall claims by the government on the issue of Climate Change and on the much advertised campaign ‘sub ka saath, sub ka vikaas, sub ka vishwas’ will be matched by an effective action plan to minimize the pollution and contamination issues for our communities, by moving away from the high GDP growth rate paradigm urgently?
Can the people of this country expect satisfactory clarifications to all the issues raised herein at the earliest? 
 Without such clarifications people will continue to believe that the associated government policies are basically meant to benefit a tiny section of the society, who are wealthy and influential individuals and corporate entities, while exposing all other sections of our society to multiple disasters both in short term and long term.
A discussion paper (click HERE to read), highlighting various issue of concern to the common man in this regard, is attached for your perusal.
Since my communications in this context to different authorities such as CEA, finance minister, Niti Aayog, PMO etc. have not evoked any response, can I hope that the much needed clarifications will come from your office?
---
*Contacts: shankar.sharma2005@gmail.com, shankar.sharma2005@hotmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

'Unprecedented rise' of attacks on students of Delhi university by ABVP condemned

Counterview Desk  A statement, sent as an email alert by "concerned teachers and students of Delhi University", referring to a protest organised against the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad's (ABVP's), has alleged “brutal” attack on students and teachers demanding the release of civil rights leader Prof GN Saibaba and others from “unjust incarceration.” “We are seeing an unprecedented rise of attacks on the students of our university by the fascist ABVP goons. Almost every week we see our fellow students and activists getting attacked physically by the lackeys of this current Brahmanical Hindutva fascist regime”, the statement claimed. Text : A joint protest was organised by the students and teachers of Delhi University on 2nd of December against the brutal attack by ABVP goons. On 1st of December, activists of Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (bsCEM), Lawyers Against Atrocities (LAA) and many other organisations as a part of Campaign Against State Repression (CASR),

Nullify environmental release, uproot GM mustard plants: 111 doctors urge Modi

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 111 medical professionals , most of them senior doctors, has expressed concern with regard to human health implications of the genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant (HT) mustard that got approved by Government of India, with indications that it has already been planted in at least six locations. Floated by Dr Rupal M Dalal, a Mumbai-based pediatrician, the letter, even as “welcoming” Modi’s “unprecedented push” towards non-chemical farming in the country for the benefit of environment, nature, consumers and farmers, it said, “HT GM mustard will push the country in the opposite direction.” “A herbicide tolerant crop will put an end to diversity-based cropping, which is important not just for soil health but human health and expose consumers and farmers to a toxic herbicide with serious long term health implications”, it added. The letter seeks the Prime Minister’s urgent intervention to not only withdraw th

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

Muslims, Dalits off Bangladesh border 'don't have acess to' water, power, farmland

Counterview Desk  Kirity Roy, secretary, civil rights group Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), in a letter to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, has revealed how, even after 75 years of Independence, Muslims and Dalits living next to the India-Bangladesh border do not have access to electricity, drinking water, even to their own land. Stating that the “horrible situation” has due to “illegal restriction on the agricultural activities” imposed by the Border Security Force (BSF), plunging “farmers and their families into deeper poverty”, the letter, referring to the plight of 1,200 people reside in the Changmari village, states, There are about 200 acres of cultivable lands out of 3,500 acres is situated beyond the border fence. “The ingress and egress of the farmers to their own agricultural land through the fencing gates are regulated by the BSF. The soil and climate of this region is very suitable for jute and maize cultivation”, it adds. Text: This letter is

Climate change 'can't be fought' with fancy issues: re-engineering cities, green energy

By Shankar Sharma*  "The Hindu" has carried a discussion paper in the form of an interview, Can poor countries afford to go green? Many such articles/ opinion pieces are making the grievous mistake of ignoring a fundamental question: what is the true cost of climate change (CC), and can poor countries, or for that matter any community, afford not to do all that is feasible to address the threats of  CC; instead of wasting our time and resources in endlessly deliberating on the so called "financial/economic costs" of the much needed transition. Such articles seem to focus only on high profile / glamorous/ debatable stuff, and ignore the basic issues which we all can do something or the other to minimise the impacts of CC in the short-term, and which may probably lead to long term solution. The opinion pieces/ discussion, as above, are guilty of conveniently ignoring the basic question: what is the fundamental cause of CC? The answer should be: the unsustainable dema