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'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma* 

The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least.
Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either.
In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as solar power, wind energy, bioenergy, etc.).
Such a vast economic activity alone will require the mining and processing of large quantities of the coal, and ores of iron, copper, aluminium, and many kinds of rare earth minerals, which in turn will require large amounts of energy, most of which may have to come from conventional technology energy sources such as coal power technology.
Various industrial and commercial activities needed in this context will need huge quantities of various kinds of raw materials, water, and land. There will be equally large quantities of wastes, toxins and pollutants. The pollution and contamination of air, water and soil will also escalate from the present level, which itself is already a serious health concern.
All these put together will take the total CO2 emissions (or the total GHG emissions) much beyond what is needed by 2030/40/50. The ability of various natural elements to control the temperature rise would have been severely curtailed.
The clear example of the environmental degradation and consequent social upheavals in China must not be ignored
Many of the natural process, such as glacier melting and ocean acidification, may become irreversible. The forest and vegetation cover will have to come down considerably to accommodate the associated industrial and commercial activities. The consequences of Climate Change will get further aggravated by such as a devastating abuse of nature.
In such a credible scenario, who will be the real beneficiary of global manufacturing hub?
There is a need for civil society to undertake a due diligence over all long such strategic policies, and persuade the concerned authorities to focus on those economic activities which will not lead to further diversion of forest/ agricultural lands; which will not demand lot more water and energy; which will not lead to further pollution of land, air and water; and which will lead to sustainable harnessing of our natural resources, while providing large number of job opportunities.
Such activities may include sustainable models of agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry, forestry, health and educational services, IT & BT, eco and health tourism etc.
The clear example of the environmental degradation and consequent social upheavals in China, which has seriously tried during the last few decades to become such a global manufacturing hub, must not be ignored.
---
*Power and climate policy analyst

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