Sunday, March 8, 2015

Arun Shourie on the Environment debate

Arun Shourie (File photo)
Arun Shourie (File photo)
Arun Shourie, the winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism in 1982, wrote in his book ‘We must have no price’ about the UPA’s official position on the  environment some of which has its relevant even today.
Shri Arun Shourie’s Book “We Must Have No Price” can be purchased from Amazon – click here and Flipkart – click here.
The four propositions on which India’s official position on environment had been articulated at various international fora in the past were :
1. On a per capita basis, emissions from India that harm world climate – COand the rest – are much, much less than those from the developed countries.
2. India is affecting perceptible, indeed substantial improvements – in area covered by forests (that is, in sequestering carbon), in energy efficiency (for instance, in energy-intensive industries like cement and steel), in improving the quality of air, etc.
3. Several of the measures and protocols that are being suggested will curb India’s growth rate, and, thereby, perpetuate India’s poverty.
4. And it is poverty which is the greatest pollution, it is also the greatest polluter: hence, India shall continue to strive to eliminate poverty and maximise growth. As they are the principal doers of harm, the developed countries must do their bit first before compelling countries like India into curbing their growth.
Mr. Shourie was of the opinion that the argument that others have problems, that others are exacerbating their problems and ours, is of little consolation: the deterioration that has taken place in India’s environment during the last 30 years because of things happening within India inflicts grave harm on Indians, here and now.
He also added that neither the then government’s draft on environment nor the pattern of development which underlied it were sustainable. According to him if things were to continue as they were, between then and 2050, close to 500 million people will be added to our cities. Mr. Shourie raised the question if India would be able to provide the quality of urban services that the urban resident of 2050 would demand. He added that India would have to do its bit, both for itself and also for the world.
While the amounts of emissions and pollutants that it releases per capital are lower than those of the developed countries, the totals of these are large, and, if Indians were to persist in acquiring consumption levels and adopting production processes of the developed world, these emissions will become fatally large because of the size of India’s population.
The renowned author and politician Arun Shourie, also suggested that India would be well-advised to set up national research missions to develop items such as the following:
» A cheaper and more efficient photovoltaic cell
» Cheaper and more efficient wind turbines
» The entire range of technologies and construction techniques that would enable us to set up off-shore wind farms along our extensive coast
» Technologies to harness tidal power
» An efficient hydrogen fuel cell
» Clean coal processes
» Desalination of sea water using solar and wind energies that are available in virtually endless supply along India’s long coastline
» Fast breeder nuclear reactors
» The thorium cycle for nuclear power
Mr Shourie stated that the entire discourse in India back then revolved around whether we will be growing at 6.7% or 7.6%. Quite apart from the fact that the way our GDP, etc. are estimated, such discourse places a concreteness on these numbers that is just not warranted, obsession with such growth rates obscures what is growing at these rates. Even a little reflection shows that were India to continue to pursue Western consumption patterns and production processes, twenty years hence all the steps taken together would have proven inadequate.
Mr. Shourie concluded by stating that there just aren’t the resources that could sustain that energy-intensive, high consumption, fossil-fuel dependent “growth”. Nor is it evident that higher and higher consumption and production of those commodities and services is what will contribute to what the Bhutanese have correctly identified as the goal towards which societies should strive – Gross Domestic Happiness.

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