Voices in support of environment protection have ebbed during economic down-turn, according to a study conducted by the Indian Institute of Management here.
It cautions that such situation can be potentially problematic from the perspective of a developing country like India.
“There was a clear shift in support for the economic growth over environmental protection between the year 2006, that represents a period of economic boom, and the year 2014, which represents a period of economic down-turn,” it said.
“In the year 2006, while 52 per cent of people have a clear preference for environmental protection, only 35 per cent of the people have clear preference for economic growth,” it said.
“This reverses in 2014, when the percentage of people favouring environmental protection is only 36.2 per cent relative to a much larger proportion of 49.3 per cent with a clear preference for economic growth,” said the study carried out by associate professor Rama Mohana Turaga.
There is not only a clear increase in the percentage of public favouring economic growth, but also a clear drop in the proportion preferring environmental protection, revealed the study.
However, low support for environmental protection during economic downturn is potentially problematic from the perspective to ensure environmentally sustainable development, it said.
India is already suffering from severe environmental degradation. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), in which countries are ranked based on the status of environmental health and ecosystem vitality, India is ranked 155 out of 178 countries in 2014, said the study.
India’s capital New Delhi is among the worst polluted cities in the world and according to some estimates, the cost of environmental degradation in India is anywhere between 2.6 per cent and 8.8 per cent of GDP, the IIM study said quoting a world bank report of the year 2013.
India cannot ignore environmental protection even as it develops policies that favour economic growth.
However, poor public support for environmental protection can provide opportunities to groups to lobby policy makers to give priority to growth at the expense of environmental protection and make it more difficult for environmental groups to mobilise support for stronger environmental regulations, the study said.
The first survey of 2006 was conducted during December 2006 to January 2007 in 18 of 28 states in India, representing 97 per cent of Indian population with a random survey of 2,354 households, it said.
While the survey in 2014 was conducted during March to April last year with random survey of 6,781 households across the country, it said.
“In India’s context, these results are not surprising as even in the post-materialist (developed) countries, public opinion on the environmental issues has been affected by the vagaries of the economic conditions as evidenced by declining support for climate change mitigation in the US and Europe,” it said.
“In developing countries, still afflicted by poverty and underdevelopment, it is not surprising that unfavourable macro-economic conditions reduce support for environmental protection over economic growth,” it added.