Industries surge: Can we prevent India’s environmental path?

05Dec 2017
The Guardian
Industries surge: Can we prevent India’s environmental path?

ENTHUSIASM is written in many faces, especially among regional and district administrators, that they will be able to deliver on the central government directive to see more innovation and results in the drive towards a middle income basically industrialising economy by 2025.

There are already reports that many hitherto dormant industrial facilities are clicking back to life, while some major projects are either being initialed or being implemented among large industries, for instance in cement, sugar and the power sector among others. That aspect of things looks fine but it is unclear if environmental cost is being mapped out.

This   worry comes up when the local media relays write ups on what is happening to India in its own drive towards industrialisation, with a titanic environmental deficit that is at times hard to figure out how it was reached. Reports from a number of Indian cities indicate that there is a massive problem with the disposal of electronic waste in particular, where indeed the country might have more than its fair share of the problem. For decades India has specialised in being an assembly line of major tech companies, to wit.

A write up noted for instance that in one city, Moradabad, the air quality index, a combined measure of poisonous gases and fine airborne particles, hit 500, the absolute maximum beyond which no further readings can be obtained, with the dial just stuck there for more than a week. Yet the situation seemed not to deter many residents or stakeholders in the city or elsewhere, as plenty of interests are tied up with the factories belching out e-waste smoke. It is hard to degrade the material, and equally difficult to recycle it.

Tanzania has seen testing times with environmental damage in the mining industry on the use of mercury and how that affects neighbouring villages, and at times the users themselves. There is a problem right now in the city of Dar es Salaam that many areas where vegetables are being cultivated are host to dirty water with industrial residue, which becomes an ecological disaster when such particles pass by absorption into a plan and onward to consumers. By lopsided farming environments, the city nurtures a million cancers.

In the final analysis there is fear that the Indian model starts growing in Tanzania because of inadequate capitalisation of industrial enterprises, and inhospitable conditions for broadening of bank credit. It is the sole method of obtaining more advanced equipment, attracting the more adapted sort of investors who are mindful of environmental regulations, and are motivated in that regard. Without the right signals when it comes to credit access, technology will remain outdated, and the technology determines pollution levels.

While the government and its various departments have until now been quite realistic about real or actual environmental risks, there is a foreseeable danger that this may in due course take a different format. We have been able to check misdeeds when they arise from those we consider strangers in the community, or against those who collaborated with them, and thus we shall find it difficult to exercise that same realism in projects that have total government backing. It is hard to feature how local industrialisation reaches the awesome environmental implications of India’s much hyped information sector growth, but it will pay real dividends to start early to watch the technology we use, not just count the number of new factories. But as things stand presently, environment checks risk being checked to maximise newborns to industry.

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