New Delhi: India faces a serious challenge of safeguarding its future as rising population and rapid urbanization takes toll on critical natural resources of the country.

Driven by serious sustainability concern, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has proposed a draft National Resource Efficiency Policy 2019 which aims to streamline the efficient use of these resources with minimum negative impact on environment.

According to data available, India’s resource extraction of 1580 tonnes/acre is much higher than the world average of 450 tonnes/acre, while material productivity remains low.

Water is fast becoming scarce while deteriorating air quality has emerged as a major threat to human life. There has been massive soil degradation, with 147 million hectares (Mha) of a total of 329 Mha land area hit.

Import dependency is nearly 100% for the majority of the ‘most critical’ materials -cobalt, copper and lithium that find extensive application in high-end technology industry. Over 80% of crude oil that is processed in the economy is imported, alongwith 85% of its coking coal demand. Extraction of non-metallic minerals is crippled with challenges.

To add to the problems, the country’s recycling rate is just about 20-25% compared with 70% in developing countries in Europe. The situation will only aggravate as India is likely to double its material consumption by 2030.

The draft policy intends to minimize this inherent cost of economic growth on the natural environment by setting up a National Resource Efficiency Authority (NREA) with a core working group housed in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and a members group with representations from different ministries, state/union territory, and other stakeholders.

The first Action Plan for next three years starting 2019 has already been prepared, focusing on setting up the institutional framework for the implementation of the draft policy.

The NREA would develop and implement resource efficient strategies for material recycling, reuse and land-filling targets for various sectors and set standards for reuse of secondary raw materials to ensure quality. It would also maintain a database of material use and waste generated, recycled and land filled, across various sectors and different regions and monitor the implementation.

The authority would be supported by an Inter-Ministerial National Resource Efficiency Board to guide on the aspects critical to its implementation.

Reuse and Recycle is at the core of the draft policy, which lays focus on adequate waste management practices. The idea is to transform country’s waste management sector into a secondary resource recovery sector.

It also plans to offer tax benefits on recycled materials, green loans to small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) and soft loans to construct waste disposal facilities, apart from setting up Material Recovery Facilities (MRF). Manufacturers and service providers would also be required to use more recycled or renewable materials and awareness would be created among consumers to indicate teh shift.

The draft policy comes in the backdrop of India’s growth story as one of the fastest growing economies of the world with an estimated $2.6 trillion GDP, which has increased its material consumption to six times from 1.8 billion ton in 1970 to 7 billion ton in 2015.

The ministry has invited comments from public-private organizations, experts and people on the draft policy.

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