Thursday, March 22, 2012

9% Growth Trajectory- For Whom & How Long?

Economic Growth vs. Economic Development

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is reported to have said that difficult decisions were needed to revert to 9 % Growth Trajectory as the path ahead is not easy. The Prime Minister and the Planning Commission seem to be obsessed with the “Economic Growth Trajectory”, which is only one aspect of the process of “Economic Development” as economist Amartya Sen pointed out. The Economic growth, which is a phenomenon of market productivity & rise in GDP, does not necessarily mean Economic development.

They seem to pay only a lip-sympathy to “Economic Development”, which needs the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers to promote the standard of living, the economic, political, and social well-being of the people, with environmental sustainability, social inclusion, health, safety, literacy, and other initiatives.

Ground Realities

The data from the Census 2011 holds a mirror to the conditions under which many households live under thatched roofs, without access to safe drinking water, electricity, sanitation (toilets) etc. and also reflects the success or failure of several government programmes over the last two decades, in spite of high economic growth trajectory being claimed.

The Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia admitted that inequality increased in the income distribution in both rural and urban areas, which itself goes against “Social Inclusion’- the objective of economic development.

It also goes against ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’ of The Constitution of India- Article 39 ( c )- for securing that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.

World Bank inspired Growth Model

Our policy makers, over the last two decades, influenced by the World Bank culture, seem to be advocating the Economic Growth based on US model, centered on Oil, Automobiles, Malls, Consumerism, and Nuclear Power, unmindful of their impending adverse impacts. Even US, with all its economic and military might, having access to the natural resources all over the world till recently, is finding difficult to pursue.

How can India, with the population 4 times that of USA and having only one third of its territorial extension, blindly pursue the US life-styles and practices?. It will be too late and too expensive, to realize and act upon to clear the mess created, once the disaster of unsustainable natural resource depletion and the environmental pollution hits us with the speed and magnitude of which we are not fully aware.

What India needs is Sustainable Development, with industrial process that minimizes both inputs of energy and materials and output of waste products and pollutants and with emphasis on resource efficiency.

The cheap and abundant supply of products and services encourages wasteful usage of resources. The conspicuous consumerism depicting vulgar display of wealth, needs to be curbed, even if it means modest growth trajectory, as long as it promotes the economic, political, and social well-being of the common people, with environmental sustainability and social inclusion.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lessons to be learnt from Japan regarding Nuclear Power

Japan- once one of the world’s leaders in nuclear energy- with all but 2 of its 54 commercial nuclear reactors being shut down since Fukushima Daiichi disaster a year ago, will have at least temporarily shut down the energy source, once generated at least a third of its electricity.

Yet, Japan has so far reported to have succeeded in avoiding shortages, thanks in part to a drastic conservation program that has involved turning off air-conditioning in the summer and office lights during the day. It has also increased generation from conventional plants that use more expensive natural gas and other fossil fuels in a nation already uneasy about its reliance on foreign sources of energy.

“The contest over the future of atomic energy in Japan seems to be unfolding in the fishing town of 8,800 residents, 550 miles southwest of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi plant and areas contaminated by its fallout. Two of the reactors at the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant were the first to finish the stress tests, making it a crucial test case of whether Japan’s nuclear plants can be restarted. The sprawling plant here was not damaged by the earthquake or tsunami but sits idled as the plant operator is unable to restart them because of opposition from local residents”.

With few alternatives, the prime minister, Yoshiko Noda, has called for restarting the plants as soon as possible, saying he supports a gradual phase-out of nuclear power over several decades. Yet, fearing public opposition, he has said he will not restart the reactors without the approval of local community leaders.

In contrast, in India we are trying to add more Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) under the “Myth of Nuclear Safety”, unmindful of its serious consequences that too brushing aside or ignoring the opposition from the local communities, being demonstrated by Kudunkulam, Jaitapur or Kovvada.

The other Myth is that economic vitality requires steadily increasing energy consumption which only contributes to high energy intensity, going against the energy security and economic competitiveness of the country & contributing to environmental degradation

The Energy Intensity (energy consumption per unit of GDP) continues to be higher than that of Japan, UK etc. with considerable scope for improvement, even after 10 years of Energy Conservation Act, 2001 and National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency.

Just by reducing T&D Losses to 10%, which is still higher than 5% achieved in some countries, and improving energy saving in consumption, having the potential of around 25 %, we can do away with the need for the projected Nuclear Power capacity of 64,000 MW by 2031-32 at exorbitant cost and impending hazard to Human-Environment, in addition to avoiding frequent power interruptions.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Industrial Projects - Naxalism?

The Hon'ble Union Minister for Rural Development is reported to have stated on 7 th August in Hyderabad that the "modern face of Naxalism was reflected in the industrial projects which flout the environmental norms" Also added that major projects such as the Vedanta, Sompeta, Posco and Bauxite Mining in Araku--all had an environmental dimension which can acquire the Naxalite overtone, unless handled effectively, favoring a completely different approach to the administration in Tribal Areas.

Disparity and Denial

When there is glaring disparity between the rich and the poor and the people are denied the right to their land and livelihoods and the State Administration becomes a passive on looker or still worse when it becomes an abettor, we see the rise of a sense of deprivation, hopelessness and intolerance. The desperate people can resort to desperate solutions. Intolerance also has its role. It can, in the name of ideology, fan the flames of hate and ignite a belief that terrorism is the only solution to a community's or nation's ills. As a result they may care little about themselves and the people they hurt.

Collusion of Administration

From the information available, it can be inferred without much of a doubt, that AP State Administration and MOEF, GOI, colluded with the project proponents of Coal based Thermal Power Projects (TPPs) at Sompeta and Bhavanapadu in Srikakulam district, for allocation of land in ecologically sensitive Wetlands and for according the Environmental Clearance, respectively. Same is the case in respect of Bauxite Mining in Araku and Chintapalle Forests in Scheduled Areas of Visakhapatnam district and for setting up the associated Refineries and Power plants.

Fight Root Causes & Forces that Create them

Mr. Klaus Toepfer, the former Executive Director of the UNEP said that "It is the forces of poverty, environmental degradation and hatred that give birth to the intolerance that can lead to fundamentalism and terrorist acts"

He also said that while fighting against terrorism, we must also expose the forces that create poverty, intolerance, hatred and environmental degradation that can lead to an unstable world.


The State Administration used uncalled for and massive police force to protect the vested interests of the Project Proponents of TPPs at Sompeta and Bhavanapadu and to suppress the peaceful movement of the project affected people against the TPPs. In unprovoked Police Firings, the lives of five innocent people were lost apart from many villagers who took part in the agitation were booked in false criminal cases.

Both the AP State Govt and MOEF, GOI, failed to enforce the "Rule of Law" by not taking action against the Project Proponents and the Officials concerned, in accordance with Sections 15, 17 & 19 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

What do we expect the denied, deprived, desperate and discriminated people to do, when there is no Rule of Law (Environmental) ?

Why no action on the Forces, that have easy access to the policy and decision makers and create poverty and environmental degradation, which are the root causes?