Economic development must be environmentally sustainable: PM

New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday stressed the need for a course correction in India’s development model saying it has to be environment-friendly and one that uses scarce resources optimally, both from economic growth and sustainability perspectives.

“Often, economic policies designed to promote growth have been implemented without considering their full environmental consequences, presumably on the assumption that these consequences would either take care of themselves or could be dealt with separately. It has become clear today that economic development must be environmentally sustainable,” the prime minister said.

He was addressing an international workshop on “Green National Accounting for India” organised by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOS&PI) and unveiled “Green National Accounts in India A Framework – Report of the Expert Group”.

Most economists today agree that the real growth rate of the economy can only be arrived at by incorporating the flow of inputs from the environment and accounting for the depletions in natural capital.

The Indian government has constituted an expert group under the chairmanship of economist Partha Dasgupta for measuring the impact of economic growth on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The prime minister said sustainable development would be among the top priorities in the 12th plan period (2012-17).

“The plan document (2012-17) notes that economic development will be sustainable only if it is pursued in a manner which protects the environment, and that there is a need to pay greater attention to the management of water, forest and land resources,” he said.

The Prime Minister referred to the argument that contemporary national accounts systems do not adequately account for the costs arising out of the use of environmental and natural resources and that gross domestic production (GDP) is not the best way of measuring the true well-being of nations because the pursuit of growth can be at the cost of degradation of environment.

“In this regard, the work done by Prof. Sir Partha Dasgupta and his colleagues in developing a conceptual framework for an “ideal” system of economic measurement is truly seminal. Their central conclusion about the need to measure economies on the basis of a comprehensive definition of wealth and not GDP alone is noteworthy,” the prime minister said.

Economists like Dasgupta are of the opinion that India’s growth rate could be 2.5-3 per cent lower than the present 5.3 per cent, when environmental factors and human well-being are also included in growth accounting.

The prime minister told the audience about the several initiatives the government has taken aimed at ‘greening’ the Indian economy such as setting up of ‘National Clean Energy Fund’ by imposing a cess on coal and a ‘Compensatory Afforestation Fund.’

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