New Delhi, Nov 2: Prof Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, has said Indias has the biggest challenge in matching economic growth with sustainability.
Today, India's environment is the one most under stress as the country has to sustain a billion people, he said participating through video conferencing in a conference on sustainable development.
''This environmental challenge has not been faced head on so far,'' said Prof Sachs, who is also Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Prof Sachs pointed out that natural resources of the country like water were depleting fast and the climate change could cause more scarcities. The country was facing crop productivity stress due to massive deforestation and salination of irrigated land.
Pointing out that as many as 20 to 30 million borewell had been sunk since the green revolution, he called for an end to water and electricity subsidies. These subsidies could be retained only for small targetted groups in the interest of sustainability, he said.
In his view, since the country was a staple grain producer, it will be needing massive amount of water to irrigate its crop, and in the medium term the country might even have to import grains due to loss of productivity resulting from lack of water.
In fact, the world will have to think about a major shift in food crop pattern in view of the impending climate change, he added.
He expressed his concern over the high dependence of India and China on coal for energy. ''It is cheap, but it is dangerous, and these countries cannot afford to wait to find a sustainable energy solution.
Advocating development of carbon sequestration technology, he said it was disappointing to see that the country, whose power plants were so much dependent on coal, had not a single demonstration project of carbon sequestration.
He said the solution for the country's problems relating to growth and sustainability lies in market forces and high technology.
Besides, it has to arrest its growing population and think of its own models of urbanisation, said Prof Sachs. The two-day conference 'Vision-2025--a Sustainable Roadmap for India', organised by TERI, came to a close here today.
It deliberated on various topics including equitable access to essential services, a second agricultural revolution, urban centres as engines of sustainable growth, infrastructure support to growth, energy secure future for India and governing water wisely.