India, being a developing country, is always faced with the question of sustainable growth. Even though sustainable growth comprises economic, social and environmental factors, environmental sustainability is a major concern as the other two are rooted to it. The majority of people might simply overlook environmental stability, but it is the chief driver of survival and a tool for enhancing prosperity. In 2011, India reported its Co2 emissions to be nearly equivalent to the emissions of Germany, UK, Italy and Spain all taken together.
India, in this blind race of development, is facing very practical environmental sustainability challenges. The overall change in the forest cover at the country level between 2009 and 2011 come out to be 367 square km on the negative side. Though, few states such as Punjab, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, and Bihar have shown promising positive changes. Contrarily, most of the NorthEastern states have undergone a negative change, which is a cause for concern, doubly so as it is due to the practice of shifting cultivation or biotic pressure. This pace of deforestation can lead to multiple issues such as air pollution, soil erosion, wastelands etc, and have a long-term impact on the society and economy. It is astonishing to note the huge dependence of the country on wood. Nearly 340.172 million cubic metres of wood are used for house construction, 58.42 million cubic meters for furniture, etc.
So, it is crucial that the growing human economic sub-system is in sync with the finite ecosystem and simultaneously necessary steps are taken while exploiting natural resources. These regional analyses of the Indian ecology provide a picture of instability of environment in certain states, which can act as a constraint for their future development. It is time to put the policies in place and start working via institutional strengthening and adopt a preventive approach that will eventually lead India towards the path of sustainable growth.
Dr Amit Kapoor is honorary chairman of Institute for Competitiveness, India and Professor of Strategy at MDI, Gurgaon. Ankita Garg is senior researcher at Institute for Competitiveness, India