In response to the article "Challenge of the Decade: Between Globalization and Protectionism"

Shankar Sharma

This article throws up many issues for a serious consideration of our leaders. There is a need for our engineers and technocrats, who seem to take a lot of pride in automating many applications (such as through robots) in the name of making them cheaper, but ending up in huge costs at the country level, as the article explains. There are also massive direct/indirect costs on environment in importing raw materials and exporting the finished goods, because there will be avoidable costs of transportation over long distances, undue pressure on local resources such as land, water, energy, pollutants/toxins etc.

Challenge of the Decade: Between Globalization and Protectionism

In this context, the preamble to the draft 'National Resource Efficiency Policy' (NREP), 2019  says, among others:  "Driven by rapid economic and population growth, the demand for natural resources, especially materials have grown manifold over the last few decades. In the endeavor for economic growth, natural resources have been largely indiscriminately exploited, adversely impacting the environment and biodiversity. Further, cross linkages between resource use, climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss has been scientifically well established.  Meeting the demand for products and services, of rising population with increased aspirations has led to mostly indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources and would further lead to increased pressure on resources resulting in environmental degradation, thereby raising sustainability concerns.    "India, as one of the fastest growing economies with GDP at 2.6 trillion USD, has increased its material consumption to six times, from 1.18 billion tonnes in 1970 to 7 billion tonnes in 2015; however this economic growth has been coupled with inherent cost on natural environment. The material consumption is projected to more than double by 2030, in order to provide for increasing population, rapid urbanization and growing aspirations. The projected pace of economic development is going to put pressure on already stressed and limited resources and may lead to serious resource depletion and environment degradation affecting the economy, livelihoods and the quality of life. Further, material use is also closely associated with the problem of increasing wastes, which when suitably processed could deliver valuable secondary resources.  

Our policy on export of food items such as rice and sugar, and other raw materials and commodities must also be carefully reviewed from the perspective of the associated impacts on our land, water, energy, wastes management etc.  For example, the massive surplus of sugar in the country and encouragement for the export of the same should be carefully reviewed from the perspective of massive quantities of water needed, agricultural land diversion from food production, energy needed, wastes etc. 

Shankar Sharma, Power Policy Analyst

Jan 4, 2021

Shankar Sharma

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