Greening India’s Growth towards a
Sustainable Economy

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It has in fact reached a growth of 7.5% during the period January-March of 2015 as compared to China’s 7%. This has been quite impressive considering the economic slowdown globally over the last couple of years and the lack of adequate financial reforms by the Central Government.

Projections by international institutions (CID, Harvard University) show that India will continue to sustain its economic growth over the next couple of decades. This is contrary to the continued slowdown of China pegged at 4.3%. It has been projected (PWC 2016) that by 2050 India will be the second largest economy in the world after China, overtaking even the US. This sustenance of growth will be mainly due to the emerging youth population of India. It will not be possible for all of them to be employed, but they can be engaged in self-employment creating small and micro enterprises. Their employment will ensure greater share of revenues to the government in the form of taxes and other social exchanges which are the building blocks for the countries growth.

Most of the economic growth in India will be in the services and the manufacturing sector. The other sectors of importance will be mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply, construction and transport. This will be sustained due to the recent policies of the government launching the ‘Make in India’ campaign to promote India as the most important and emerging hub for manufacturing.

Whereas the economic growth signs are positively riding on the manufacturing sector, questions arise on the issue of raw material availability for driving the growth. The major and critical raw materials to cater to the manufacture and infrastructure growth are steel, coal, cement, sand and aggregates to name a few.

To fuel the growth of the country one of the major raw material is coal. This is used as a basic raw material for power generation and also for producing steel, cement and other processed goods. Reports have predicted that India has enough coal to last for centuries. However, reports by TERI suggests that with current rates of consumption, we have enough coal and lignite to last for 140 years. If the country has to sustain the projected economic growth rate, then the total extractable coal reserves will last only 45 more years.

India ranks sixth in the world on the reserves of iron ore next to Australia, Russia, China, United States and Brazil having a projected reserve of 8,100 million metric tonnes. However, the future looks quite bleak with estimated life of the total reserves at 20-25 years (considering the increased rate of economic growth).

Thus to sustain the growth of the country in a sustainable manner two issues becomes important:
• Availability of natural resources for the future generation.
• Development without degrading the environment.

This requires a paradigm shift from the usual nature of doing business or production by standard processes and techniques. Whereas the business profits and goals need to be kept in mind, the issues of environmental degradation and resource availability are of prime concern.

Development Alternatives has been working for the last three decades on developing technologies which minimise the use of virgin natural resources and reduce pollution and the use of energy. This has been made possible through the use of industrial waste materials to realise improved profits through reuse and recycling.

Soumen Maity

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