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Day 51 – Q 2.Is it possible to strike a balance between developmental imperatives of a growing economy like India and the limits to growth imposed by environmental degradation? Critically analyse.

2. Is it possible to strike a balance between developmental imperatives of a growing economy like India and the limits to growth imposed by environmental degradation? Critically analyse. 

क्या भारत जैसी बढ़ती अर्थव्यवस्था के विकास की अनिवार्यता और पर्यावरणीय गिरावट के कारण विकास की सीमा के बीच संतुलन बनाना संभव है? समालोचनात्मक विश्लेषण करें।


There is a certain carrying capacity of the environment. When the rate of extraction of resources exceeds the rate of their regeneration, the environment fails to perform its activities. The resulting phenomenon is called environmental degradation.


India’s remarkable growth record has been clouded by a degrading environment and growing scarcity of natural resources. Rapid economic development is turning India into a vast west land. A World Bank report finds that environmental degradation costs India $80 billion per year or 5.7% of its economy.

Development and Environmental Degradation:

India’s development objectives have consistently emphasized the promotion of policies and programmes for economic growth and social welfare. At the same time, because of the growing population and high degree of mechanisation, mindless and ruthless exploitation of natural resources, we have degraded our physical environment such as, soil, water, and biotic factors on which we all subsist, and on which our entire agricultural and industrial development depends.

  • The manufacturing technology adopted by most of the industries has placed a heavy load on the environment, especially through intensive resource and energy use, as is evident in natural resource depletion (fossil fuel, minerals, and timber), water, air and land contamination, health hazards and degradation of natural eco-systems.
  • With high proportion fossil fuel as the main source of industrial energy and major air polluting industries such as iron and steel, fertilizers and cement growing, industrial sources have contributed to a relatively high share in air pollution. 
  • Large quantities of industrial and hazardous wastes brought about by the expansion of the chemical-based industry have compounded the wastes management problem with serious environmental health implications.
  • Transport activities have a wide variety of effects on the environment such as air pollution, noise from road traffic and oil spills from marine shipping. Port and harbour projects mainly impact on sensitive coastal ecosystems. The iron construction affects hydrology, surface water quality, fisheries, coral reefs and mangroves to varying degrees.
  • Direct impacts of agricultural development on the environment arise from farming activities which contribute to soil erosion and loss of nutrients. The spread of green revolution has been accompanied by overexploitation of land and water resources, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides have increased many folds. Shifting cultivation has also been an important cause of land degradation. 
  • Economic growth and changing consumption patterns have led to rising demand for energy and increasing transport activities. Air, water and noise pollution together with water scarcity dominate the environmental issues in India.

Way forward:

On the other hand, to eradicate poverty and increase growth in the economy, development is mandatory. Without economic development, a nation cannot come out of the vicious circle of poverty. As our population grows, finding a balance between economic advancement and consumption of natural resources is a vital question that we should address.

  • Green growth strategies are needed to promote sustainable growth and to break the pattern of environmental degradation and natural resource depletion. Emission reductions can be achieved with minimal cost to GDP.
  • Conventional measures of growth do not adequately capture the environmental costs, therefore, it is imperative to calculate green Gross Domestic Product (green GDP) as an index of economic growth with the environmental consequences factored in.
  • Policy interventions such as environmental taxes could potentially be used to yield positive net environmental and health benefits with minimal economic costs for India.
  • GDP growth rate will be negligibly reduced by about 0.02 to 0.04% if we adopt for environmentally sustainable growth models, but simultaneously there will be significant health benefits which will compensate for the projected GDP loss. Another important benefit would be a substantial reduction in CO2 as a co-benefit which has the potential of being monetized.
  • Good environmental governance which limits the exploitation of natural resources to sustainable levels.
  • Reduce multiplicity of authorities for environmental management and improve coordination among them.
  • The transition to economic growth coupled with efficiency in natural resource use and its conservation can help India attain its goals of inclusive growth with sustainable development.


Environmental sustainability could become the next major challenge as India surges along its projected growth trajectory. While the overall policy focus should be on meeting basic needs and expanding opportunities for growth, they should not be at the expense of unsustainable environmental degradation. We need to save our resources for our future generations so that they can live in a healthy environment. 

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