The Union Budget, presented by Finance Minister Nirmal Sitharaman on July 06, 2019, had set an ambitious target of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. On the other side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed towards turning to renewable energy and producing 450 GW as a target in the recent United Nation Climate Action Summit.
Also, there is a need to reduce carbon emissions, as India is the fourth highest emitter of CO2 in the world. Thus, there’s a lot of confusion on balancing India’s goal along with environmental preservation. Experts are of the view that achieving a $5 trillion economy would degrade the environment at an unprecedented level. However, there are some measures through which both economic growth and the environment could be balanced.
India is the third-largest greenhouse gases emitter after the United States and China. Also, India’s development plan ahead requires more energy, and at this stage, we don’t have sufficient renewable energy resources. This could mean more burning of fossil fuels, and thus, an increase in emissions, which is problematic for India’s commitment to conserving the environment.
Development plans are also necessary to capture the demographic dividend and provide jobs, facilities, world-class services, roads, rail and aviation service enhancement—as India lags in these sectors. Therefore, development is the need of the hour, but at the same time, can we think of alternative plans to conserve the environment along with the needed growth?
According to climate activists and experts, a few measures can be taken to balance both the economy and the environment. Firstly, the government should reduce the burning of fossil fuels for energy requirements year by year. There must be a viable cap on coal usage as well. Alternatively, the incentives should be provided for the manufacturers of solar power companies plus discounts for customers—so that households use more of renewable energy.
Secondly, we all know that the transport sector consumes the most energy. To contain emissions from this sector, more electric vehicles are required in public transport. Moreover, a biofuel policy should come into force and blending of 10% ethanol with fuel should be initiated as soon as possible. The government’s plan to boost e-vehicles is a welcome step. Still, there needs to be a robust and mission mode manufacturing of e-vehicles and charging stations to keep a check on environmental challenges.
Thirdly, planting trees and creating ‘green jobs’ through MGNREGA is another crucial step. According to Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, the government has constructed 6,000 kms of highways. But along with this, the minister should also provide green jobs to MGNREGA workers for planting trees on either side of these constructed roads. Trees should be planted in a revolutionary manner throughout our country to contain floods, soil erosion, and so on. Also, our forest cover should be increased to 33%.
Therefore, while the government is pursuing development plans for the creation of more jobs and infrastructure, it should not put environmental concerns on the back burner. The development process should work along with environmental measures. As argued by Gandhiji, there needs to be a balance in life. So in this spirit, the government should balance the economy and environment for a prosperous future.