The challenge of Climate Change: An Indian Perspective


Few countries in the world are as vulnerable to the effects of climate change as India is with its vast population that is dependent on the growth of its agrarian economy, its expansive coastal areas and the Himalayan region and islands.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) database, revealed that thirteen of top 20 dirtiest cities were Indian. Delhi topped the list followed by Patna, Gwalior and Raipur. Realizing the problem, the government formulated a policy for abatement of pollution providing multi-pronged strategies in the form of regulations, legislations, agreements, fiscal incentives etc. Over time, the thrust has shifted from curative to preventive measures through adoption of clean technology, reuse and recycling, natural resource accounting, environmental audit to bring about sustainable development.

A recent example is the Rs 2,315 crore Hubli-Ankola railway line cutting across the Western Ghats in Karnataka which has been shown a red signal by the Supreme Court of India’s panel on forest and wildlife, which said that the project’s “huge and irreparable” ecological impact would “far outweigh” its actual tangible benefits.

Mobile enforcement teams have also been deployed on regular basis at various locations for prosecution of polluting vehicles and not having Pollution under control (PUC) certificates. The broad policy framework on environment and climate change has been laid down by the National Environment Policy (NEP) 2006, which promotes sustainable development along with respect for ecological constraints and the imperatives of social justice.

The country has a definite plan of action for clean energy, energy efficiency in various sectors of industries, steps to achieve lower emission intensity in the automobile and transport sector, a major thrust to non-fossil based electricity generation and a building sector based on energy conservation. Wind energy has been the predominant contributor to the renewable energy growth in India accounting for 23.76 GW (65.2%) of the renewable installed capacity, making India the 5th largest wind power producer in the world.

A crowded street in Agra, Uttarpradesh. @ Prashanth Vishwanathan / UNDP India

Solar power is poised to grow significantly with solar mission as a major initiative of the Government of India. Solar power installed capacity has increased from only 3.7 MW in 2005 to about 4060 MW in 2015, with a CAGR of more than 100% over the decade. The ambitious solar expansion programme seeks to enhance the capacity to 100 GW by 2022, which is expected to be scaled up further thereafter.

India's investment in climate change appears to be ramping up domestically as well. People are very particular in buying any vehicle or electrical equipment, they look for fuel economy and power savings guide certified by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). The best way forward is by making investments in leapfrog technologies such as ‘100% renewable energy’.

Dharnai in Bihar (India), is a shining example. The village faces extreme poverty, and high illiteracy rates. But life in Dharnai has transformed in the 10 months since an affordable solar grid arrived, the first village in India where all aspects of life are powered by solar energy. Battery backup ensures power is available around the clock and solar water pumps has improved the access of farmers to fresh water resources.

The story of Dharnai ‘solar-powered micro-grid’ could be an exemplary model for bringing clean energy to all and combat climate change. People argue that renewable sources of power are not financially viable, especially for developing economies but they need to realize that any prototype of any model is always the most expensive to build.

It is through constant improvement that we reach an optimized process; this is a cornerstone upon which industry has been built and it is through this principle that I believe we can make our transition to a new era in sustainable development.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change, in association with La Cité. For more information (in french):