55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion which is
expected to increase to 68% by 2050. India has the second largest
population in the world and 32% of the total population or about 380 million
people live in cities (Census 2011). With the increased population and
density, there is considerable pressure on natural resources. Increasing
economic activity and improper production techniques cumulated with
inconsiderate human behaviour with respect to waste disposal practices have
resulted in our cities being dotted with waste. These unsustainable levels
of resource use and waste generation have resulted in humanity exceeding
four of the nine planetary boundaries bringing much of the global life
support systems to critical levels. This has raised a hue and cry across
national and international communities with the UN and other member states
calling for urgent action through the Climate Accord, CBD commitments and
the SDG framework to address these concerns. The focal point of necessary
action i.e. the cities undoubtedly deal with issues of governance, carbon
intensity, population increase and influx which translates into overall
well-being of its citizens, which needs to be addressed both now and in the
future. Resource efficiency, circular economy and blue/green economy
perspectives are some of the related strategies that have been proposed to
address these complex issues (Turok I, McGranahan G. 2013).
Extraction of natural resources has been growing
remarkably over the last several decades. The extraction of primary
materials increased by a factor of three from 24 billion tonnes in 1970 to
70 billion tonnes in 2010 (UNEP, 2016). Figure 1 illustrates that extraction
of both biomass and fossil fuels has doubled, while extraction of metal ores
has tripled and the extraction of non-metal minerals has nearly quadrupled
during the period.
In India, the material consumption of resources
has leapfrogged by six times, from 1.18 billion tonnes (BT) in 1970 to 7 BT
in 2015. This has important linkages to environmental impacts across the
board including resource depletion, air pollution, changes in ecosystems and
human health, biodiversity loss and climate change. The trend though
indicative of the rapid economic growth, is also suggestive of the cost to
the natural environment. Figure 2 is indicative of the same.
Piece-meal efforts by the Indian government so
far has not necessarily resulted in achieving a balanced trade-off between
growth, resource constraints and environmental well-being. Most of the
policy interventions till now have focused more on end-of-life stage and
that too on recycling. The other stages such as extraction, manufacturing
and usage have not been given due importance.
The resource efficiency strategy by Niti Aayog
first drafted in the year 2017 has been revised further to include circular
economy perspective in 2019. The other policies in this space include:
Solid Waste Management Rules 2000 refined
further in 2016,
Strategy for Promoting Processing of C&D Waste
and Utilisation of Recycled Products 2018
Strategy for Secondary Materials Management for
promoting Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy in Electrical and
Electronic Equipment Sector 2018,
Strategy on Resource Efficiency 2017 revised as
the Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy strategy in 2019 and
Overarching legislation of National Resource
Efficiency Policy (NREP), 2019
NREP is envisaged as the overarching policy in
terms of providing an institutional framework to uptake the resource
efficiency agenda and highlight the importance of collaboration and
partnership among public and private stakeholders for effectively harnessing
resources through efficient use. However, there exists certain gaps and
loopholes in the existing draft policy which garners attention.
Gaps in Draft National Resource Efficiency
Policy (NREP), 2019:
There exists lack of clarity in the existing
institutional set up of NREP, indicating which of the Indian functionaries
i.e. ministries and departments will be included in it.
There is also lack of clarity in terms of
achieving the targets which is stated to complement the SDGs till 2030 and
further include targets on environmental restoration and resource efficiency
post 2030. It is unclear as to what is the basic assumption here: Is it that
we would have achieved ‘development’ for all by then as ‘sustainability of
development’ which is critically dependent on restored health of eco-systems
would not have been achieved till 2030 and hence will be taken care of post
2030 or restoration may not be under the purview of this policy but will
complement eco-system restoration under the various climate commitments that
India has made.
This apart, there is also no mention of the role
of financial institutions and investors and the way in which the investor
community will provide support and promote the resource efficiency and
circular economy models.
The role of the government, especially the state
governments to impart training and build capacities of the various
stakeholders also lacks mention. More so, the modus operandi of the state
governments to uphold the agenda of resource efficiency and integrate this
into their state level policies lacks clarity.
There are also certain definitional inadequacies
in the existing draft. For eg, the mention of the phrase ‘sustainable
levels’ for every resource needs to be defined if this as a key aspect needs
to be tracked.
Moreover, creation of ‘value’ with less material
through resource efficient and circular approaches has to be elaborated
upon. This essentially requires broadening the scope of ‘value’ to include
ecological value of resources besides the potential value of physical or
manufactured capital that can be created using the available resources.
The policy should ideally aim for a zero-waste
production and consumption system rather than minimising it as ‘waste is a
resource’ in the wrong place.
It is anticipated that addressing these concerns
in the NREP, 2019 will indeed pave the way for an all-encompassing resource
efficient strategy for India.
Turok, I. and McGranahan, G. (2013).
Urbanisation and Economic Growth: the arguments and evidence for Africa and
Asia. Environment and Urbanisation.
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