India needs alternative, sustainable growth model to avoid resources running dry

Astrid Schomaker
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By Vishal Narayan

New Delhi–India needs to develop an alternative, sustainable growth model to avoid depleting its resources at the current pace and make the same mistakes as the developed world, an EU green expert who is working with the country has warned.

“Economic growth is a good thing, but what India needs to ensure is to avoid making the same mistakes that the developed world made in exploitation of resources,” Astrid Schomaker, Director for Global Sustainable Development, Environment-Directorate-General, European Commission, who steers a multi-partner initiative to explore alternative methods and materials for growth in this country, told IANS during a recent visit here.

He was here to sign an MoU with the Water Resources Ministry on cleaning the Ganga river.

Astrid Schomaker

Schomaker said India faces challenges in balancing optimality between its limited resources and its soaring aspirations.

According to an estimate cited by the consortium working with the Indian government — published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2016 — India is fast on the way to becoming the world’s largest consumer nation, surpassing China and even the United States.

In 2010, India’s material demand was the third-largest in the world, after China and the US. By 2050, it is projected that its total material demand will be nearly five-fold of that, it said.

“The Indian government has set up an Indian Resources Panel to assess the resource capability situation. They extrapolate the results to predict where we would be in 2050. It has projected a 24-fold increase in use of bio-mass by 2050. Now, that is not something that India can afford. Likewise, if it continues using up other resources at the same rate, India’s global footprint would be so high that it will then join those countries which drastically over-consume and exploit the planet beyond its replenishing capacity,” she said.

Schomaker facilitates cooperation between the Indian government and other stakeholders like The Energy and Research Institute (TERI), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Deutsche Gesellschaftfur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, a German firm which offers tailor-made solutions to climate-related issues, among others.

This is part of a consortium on a three-and-a-half year EU-Resource Efficiency Initiative (EU-REI) project for India till July 2020.

It began in January and has zeroed in on four sectors to suggest optimal use of resources: Building/construction, Mobility (Electric and Hybrid Vehicles), Renewable Energy (Photovoltaic), and Waste Management.

Schomaker had no doubt about the workability of the sustainable ways of development and insisted that it can be just as profitable or even more. “As India looks to foreign markets, there will be a demand for resource-efficient products, especially in EU,” and so it will have to change its ways of production any way, she added.

The “circular economy” is one such method which Schomaker championed as an efficient mode of production that is also in place in the EU.

The circular economy “means keeping the inputs, the raw materials that go into the production, in the cycle as long as possible, before they are discarded”, she said, adding that one of the methods of doing this is using material which is amenable to subsequent recycling.

Elaborating on the Ganga project, the official cited the example of Europe’s Rhine river to drive home the point of camaraderie.

“The Rhine was in such a state 30 years back (referring to pollution in the Ganges). But due to efforts on the part of several countries, it was cleaned up. We had to bring legislation which was one of the most expensive at the time, as it spelled investment in installing waste water management plants. So, it (cleaning of Ganga) can be done if a strong intent in the form of legislation is there and investment can be procured,” she maintained.

The project, which is geared to assist several bodies in Water Resources and Environment Ministries and NITI Aayog, will continue till 2020. On termination, policy recommendations will be given to the various stakeholders to be taken up.

She branded US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement as “highly regrettable” while still being upbeat about the prospects of the treaty, saying that it will achieve its goals.

“No other country has followed suit after Trump pulled out. This is a universal treaty; the world is moving in one direction and it cannot even be stopped by the US President. We will carry on implementing the agreement,” Schomaker insisted. (IANS)



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