Ecological Sustainability for Economic Upliftment
Sudhir Shenoy
Dow India

This article talks about need for a sustainable model of development in order to overcome environmental pollution, water scarcity and rising temperatures. It also delves upon the concept of circular economy.

In April, IMF estimated that Indian economy is set to leapfrog Germany to rank fourth globally by 2022. The World Bank agrees and predicts India has the potential to be the world's 3rd largest economy within the next 10 years. GDP is expected to grow between 7.5% and 8.3% for the coming years. If India continues its current high growth path, incomes will triple over the next two decades and the country will become the world's fifth–largest consumer market by 2025.

The need for a sustainable model of development has never been more urgent, as the world's fastest growing economy battles environmental pollution, water scarcity and rising temperatures.

In line with the UN Sustainability Development Goals 2030, India too set its Sustainability Goals and solemnly pledged for a safer environment. According to a research released by the United Nations, named the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), India is likely to reduce projected global carbon emissions growth by roughly two to three billion tonnes by 2030 compared to forecasts made a year ago. However, for a nation as vast and populous as India, implementation at the grassroots level will require time and sustained effort.

Emergence of smart manufacturing technologies

India can benefit from accessing technological advancements implemented across other industries.Further efficient use of resources is of crucial importance as initiatives like Make in India, Smart Manufacturing and Skill India are gaining momentum and building in scale on a low base.

Consider Manufacturing, there is need for an advanced production optimisation tool that supports timely execution of production processes and that guides companies in real time to reduce nonvalue-adding activities thereby enhancing productivity and enabling them to achieve operational excellence.

Industrial development using sustainable practices

India's contribution in the formation of the International Solar Alliance and efforts to harness solar energy to address the power deficits in the country are already reaping rewards. India had targeted installation of 4 GW of wind capacity and 12 GW of solar capacity, the two largest contributors to the renewables basket, in 2016-17. India has achieved about 40% of its wind energy target and about 17.5% of its solar energy target.

One of the most critical pieces of the sustainability puzzle is harvesting of water for appropriate use for individual consumption, agriculture, industries etc.For many municipalities across the world the fear is primarily floods or scarcity because of heavy usage of water for industrial purposes.

The industries are chiefly concerned with the latter. To avoid or mitigate such impacts, energy efficiency, emissions control, and reuse are destined to become the norm across the board, by choice or by mandate. As a result of this many businesses in India are working towards closed-loop water management systems.

Manufacturing is one of the sectors vulnerable to water shortages. According to McKinsey, the global water demand for manufacturing is anticipated to increase by 400 percent from 2000 to 2050. Maximizing the efficient use of water by industry is a critical step in the right direction - for both the environment and the bottom line. To prepare against impending cuts on water supplied to industrial belts which could pull down Index of Industrial Production (IIP) growth by around 40-50 basis points, it is imperative that industries review their water management systems critically. Technologies that enable Minimum Liquid Discharge (MLD), which are not mandated by government in most industries can be easily blended, with minimum injury to the bottom-line.

According to a study conducted by IndiaSpend earlier in 2017, 75% to 80% of water pollution is from domestic sewage, discharged untreated into local water bodies. The report also mentions that untreated sewage is dumped directly into water bodies, polluting three-fourth of India's surface water resources which implies that almost 80% of the water bodies in the country are polluted.

Welcoming the circular economy model

It is critical for us, as an industry to commit to preserving our diminishing natural resources by moving away from linear consumption model to reduce-recyclereuse model of circular economy. Adopting the Circular Economy Model that promotes the use and reuse of resources, will bring in healthy practices of consumption of non-renewable resources. A research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on Circular Economy confirms that the circular economic model could bring India annual benefits of INR 40 lakh crore (US$ 624 billion) in 2050 compared with the current linear model - a benefit equivalent to 30% of India's current GDP. To make this a reality, we need to establish the need for industry-government collaborations and jointly prepare a road map to success.

A common standard for environmental regulations and policies must be devised and strictly implemented so that all industries, irrespective of their size and economic strength, can make efforts to protect the environment.


The intent and aspiration to align economic efforts with the environment should not be restricted to the government. Collaboration between the industry, government and regulatory bodies will help in evaluating decisions on economic viability and environmental benefits. For instance, being the authoritative body to safeguard the environment, the Ministry of Environment , Forest and Climate Change along the National Green Tribunal and industry can bring to steer a giant leap towards adopting sustainable economic models .

Making environmental health integral to the national economic growth agenda of the country is the way forward for India. Integrating climate action into economic policies will only lead to greater output and favourable growth prospects. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), major economies could boost their long-term economic growth by 2.8% with policies that lower greenhouse gas emissions and boost resilience to climate change impacts.

The window of opportunity to growth comes with its own set of challenges - India leapfrogged from the era of industrialization into that of services, skipping the process/requisites of manufacturing completely. As we go forward, policymakers will be challenged to keep India on the path of economic reform while addressing issues in infrastructure and social investment. It is important that we take collaborative and thoughtful efforts to preserve and protect the present.