Kolkata, April 17 (IANS) The Indian government's failure to formulate effective policies to address environmental issues would risk causing economic growth to lag, warn environmentalists. The world over, problems like climate change are seen as wide-ranging market failures, presenting unique challenges for economic development.
India is expecting a 7.6 percent growth rate for fiscal 2012-13. Its gross domestic product (GDP) was likely to have grown at 6.9 percent in 2011-12.
Environmental experts feel the government's green initiatives are not at all compatible with the country's aim to log a high growth rate.
"High economic growth is not bad, but it will have its adverse effects on environment. So the government should address key environmental issues," said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
India's rapid economic growth over the last decade has come with a huge environmental cost. Based on domestic studies, it is estimated economic costs of environmental damage range from 3.5 percent to 7.5 percent of the country's total economic output.
Much of the cost in India is caused by air pollution, water contamination and solid wastes, as well as deforestation.
Roychowdhury said the government's "lack of focus" to save the country's forests, water bodies and environment may hamper sustainable, long-term growth of the economy. "Currently there is no blueprint on how the government will tackle key environmental issues."
"Environment is always a back bencher in our country. We are overshadowed by (economic) growth," regrets renowned river expert Kalyan Rudra.
He expressed disappointment over the central government not giving emphasis on tackling the on-going environmental issues in the country like skewed rainfall, trend of retreating monsoon and depletion of groundwater.
"Different studies reveal that there has been a trend of retreating monsoon and skewed rainfall across India. Farmers are finding it difficult to match the change in the trend of monsoon with the current agricultural crop calendar," he said.
Rudra said adequate funds should be allotted for the necessary research and development (R&D).
Dipayan Dey, an advisor to the National Resource Management Division of the Planning Commission, said lack of political will and lack of awareness on the part of policymakers are the main reasons behind lesser emphasis on green policies.
"It is very difficult to convey green massages to the policy makers. Neither they have the expertise to understand the technicalities involved in making environmental policies, nor do they have the will to learn from the experts," Dey said.
"A lot of allocated money goes back as the environment and forests ministry fails to utilise it," he added.
The ministry was unable to fully utilise the quantum of money which had been earmarked for it for fiscal 2011-12.
According to the revised budgetary allocation for the last fiscal, the plan outlay for the country's environment and forests ministry was Rs.19.02 billion, which was 17.3 percent lower than the initial quantum of funds earmarked for the ministry.
Meher Engineer, former director of Bose Institute, said the government did not have any clear plan for the development of its 8,000-km-long coastline, which is a treasure trove of marine life.
"Fishermen contribute about Rs.8,000 crore per year to the country's GDP. But in return they get nothing," he observed.
(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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