Kerala's ‘green economy'



In his keynote address at the inaugural ceremony of the 23rd Kerala Science Congress at the Centre for Earth Science Studies in Thiruvananthapuram last week, Dr K. Kasturirangan, Member of the Planning Commission, Government of India, stressed the crucial role of science and technology in ensuring inclusive growth, particularly in the context of decentralised planning and resource management.

For Kerala, where decentralised institutions and people-centred panchayats have become de rigueur, Dr Kasturirangan's advice has special significance. As quoted in The Hindu, he said: “Improvement in governance and delivery of basic services is a key element of empowerment and, as you all know, we have a very serious deficit as regards transparency and governance.”

Back-to-basics approach

In the current context of a loss of confidence in political propriety, given the ever-increasing disclosures of scams and fraud involving high-ranking officials and politicians, this back-to-basics approach would do well to get Kerala back on to its glorious path of development, best exemplified in the halcyon decades of the 1960s and 1970s.

In the contemporary era, no developmental initiatives — especially those related to industry — can hope to succeed without the active engagement of science and technology. This is a fact that literate, educated Kerala has long understood, as reflected in the popularity of mass movements like those led by the Kerala Sashtra Sahitya Parishad, which have sought to demystify science and technology. In this context, the 23rd Kerala Science Congress, organised by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, is appropriately focused. The key areas identified — agriculture, forestry, fisheries, industry, transport, environment, energy and material sciences — are all inextricably linked to science and technology.

As Dr Kasturirangan pointed out, even apparently elementary services like managing municipal solid waste — a major problem in Kerala's increasingly overcrowded cities — can benefit from the thoughtful application of science and technology. As he stressed, there is need to develop and diffuse small-scale waste management units to allow recycling at source.

Solutions

These are the solutions to local-level problems that science and technology can provide. Also, considering Kerala's unique characteristic, the 23rd Kerala Science Congress' theme — ‘Science and Technology for Transforming Kerala into a Green Economy' — is especially apt.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a green economy can be defined as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low-carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.”

“Practically speaking,” UNEP adds, “a green economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be catalysed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes. This development path should maintain, enhance and, where necessary, rebuild natural capital as a critical economic asset and source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods and security depend strongly on nature.”

Surely, that agenda fits the bill for Kerala, a State that is so linked to nature that no development can ride roughshod over green implications. By re-focusing attention on the value of a ‘green economy,' the 23rd Kerala Science Congress has done great service to the cause of Kerala's development.

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]

Published on January 30, 2011

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