Need of the Hour: Sustainable Development

This is the century of the economic boom. India itself has seen a growth rate of 9 per cent in the previous fiscal. There is a hurry to reap as many benefits in as little time as possible. We want our production capacity to escalate and our profits to skyrocket in the industrial sector, infrastructural sector, manufacturing sector, etc.

We want the fastest, most efficient and convenient sources of transport to facilitate our development. We want the best machines to churn out goods at the speed of sound. We require the best communication facilities, the best buildings, the best bridges. Growth, development and profit – these are the motivational forces in today’s fast paced world.

All the demands of developing and developed nations require the manipulation of natural resources. No economy can survive without coal, petroleum, electricity, wood and steel. Industries cannot run until they are fed these precious and stealthily depleting resources. It is in demanding times like the present that the world has become aware of how these resources are fast depleting. If these resources are not utilized efficiently, soon a day will come when our future generations will not even have drinking water, let alone all the other facilities we take for granted.

Fossil fuels, which satiate the hunger for resources in most economically progressing nations, are non-renewable and unsustainable. Already, their production has declined and they are moving towards exhaustion. Although fossil fuels are being generated continuously, we are using them at a rate 100,000 faster than they are renewed. Mother Nature can definitely not enhance her production capacity to meet our ever-increasing need of these elixirs of industrial era. In the twentieth century, the use of fossil fuels saw a twenty-fold increase. Countries like USA, Germany, Japan, China, Canada etc consume the maximum energy from these resources. The energy consumption of the USA is approximately 11.4Kw per person, and that of Japan and Germany is 6Kw per person, while that of a country like India is a megre 0.5Kw per person.

The world is now confronted with the challenge of optimizing the use of the currently available resources in a way to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising on the requirements of the future generation. To add to this, now it is also imperative that our fragile environment suffers the least damage possible. In more technical terms, sustainable development is the need of the hour.

Sustainable development is the only way we can keep mother nature, our growth hungry economies and our very demanding present generation and future lineage happy and smiling.

Sustainable development is defined by the Brundtland Commission as “development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The field of sustainable development is broadly categorized into the following dimensions: social, economic, environmental and institutional. The future of our planet depends on our use of the available resources. This does not mean that we stall all progress to save the resources for our future generation. This calls for efficient use of non-renewable resources. Wastage of such resources must be minimized and alternative sources should be made more feasible for even the common man. By shifting the energy burden from non-renewable to renewable resources, we can stand up to the challenges of the future.

A lot can be done using Biomass, biofuels, hydroelectric energy, tidal energy, nuclear energy, fusion power, wind power, solar power, and geothermal energy. These are welcome options to ease the burden on our over pressed fossil fuels. These very inviting options are, infact, keeping our scientists busy as they try to find out different ways in which we can use these inexhaustible powerhouses of energy to our advantage.

Hydroelectric energy serves as an alternative way of generating electricity. The gravitational descant of a river is compressed to a dam or flume. At high pressure, this is used to turn gigantic turbines which in turn produce electricity. This way we can spare some of the coal which would have otherwise been used for this very process.

Who would have thought that that stinky, disgusting garbage would be such an amazing friend to us in the time of need? Biomass involves using garbage, vegetable matter to produce electricity. On decomposing, garbage releases methane (the root cause of all the stench) which is captured in pipes and can later on be used to produce electricity. Garbage can aptly be called a blessing in disguise!

Nuclear energy is the king of all alternate sources of energy. By using nuclear fission, electricity can be generated. In fact, by using 1kg of uranium or thorium energy, equivalent to 3.5 million kg of coal can be produced. This is an area in which extensive research and development is being carried out. Since nuclear energy does not release any polluting gases like carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide, hence no acid rain or global warming. The limiting factor, which is keeping nuclear energy from being the mother of all energy sources, is that setting up a nuclear plant which meets the safety norms requires huge capital investments. Disposing off the toxic nuclear waste is also a problem. It will still be some time before the world can confidently rely on nuclear energy.

Wind energy is also being harnessed to produce electricity. But this form also has its shortfalls. The wind is rather unpredictable. Also, a large land area is required to set up the windmills. The location and type of turbines used in this process can adversely affect bird migration patterns.

The sun god has also not stayed behind. Its power is also being used to generate electricity and on a smaller scale, to cook food, heat water etc. The development of photovoltaic and solar cells is quite an expensive operation. Yet, solar energy is being seen as a very attractive source of energy.

There are many other sources which are contributing in their own way to save us from the day of doom. In addition, many new experiments are being carried out to minimize the use of fossil fuels and save the environment from degradation. Battery powered vehicles are being created. In fact in Agra, only battery powered locomotives are allowed in the vicinity of the Tag Mahal.These vehicles use a battery which is charged from a grid when the vehicle is not in use.

Many more such innovations are under way every hour of the day. Man, the sublime being, will not give up so easily. He plans to face the threat of depleting resources which looms large by innovating, experimenting and manipulating alternative energy sources so that we don’t have to halt either our progress or compromise on that of our progeny.

Apurva Joshi


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