We must accept the reality that there is a trade-off between growth and environment. Hard choices need to be made about large projects that are considered central to economic growth, but are detrimental to the environment, said Jairam Ramesh, Union minister of state with independent charge for environment and forests.
Ramesh was delivering the 11th Isro-JNCASR Satish Dhawan memorial lecture in Bangalore on Tuesday to a packed hall of scientists and intellectuals on “The Two Cultures Revisited: Some Reflections on the Environment-Development Debate in India”. He said that to arrive at decisions to untangle the trade-off, three options present themselves — “yes”, “yes, but” and “no”.
The real problem is that the growth constituency is used to “yes” and can live with “yes, but”. It cries foul with “no”. The environment constituency exults with “no”, grudgingly accepts the “yes but” but cries foul with a “yes”. One clear lesson from this is to maximise the “yes, but” where this is possible.
“Yes, but” cases aside, there will most certainly be instances, few and far between in the overall scheme of things, when a firm “no” will be required.
“In such cases that have complex scientific, ecological and social dimensions, my approach has been to make decisions in the most consultative and transparent manner possible,” Ramesh said. This is what his department did in the Bt brinjal case and in the case of the Vedanta mining project in Orissa, he added. “I am convinced that the time has come to make trade-offs explicit and make the correct choice, however unpalatable they might be to some,” he said.
India not having a system of green accounting is a problem, he said. “Ideally, if we can report both Gross Domestic Product and Green Domestic Product, we will get a better picture of the trade-offs involved in the process of economic growth,” he said, adding that he has set the ball rolling in the last few months so that by 2015 at least India can have a system of green national accounting.