How can India and Africa Compete, Collaborate and Co-create the Future on Environmental Issues?

Anjaneya Jha

India and Africa are sisters belonging to the same supercontinent- The Gondwanaland. This implied a plethora of similarities- geographical, geological and biodiversity. These similarities were a result of having shared lands, climate and surroundings and they exist till date. There are evidences of racial similarities between Dravidians of India and African races. There are animal species- both terrestrial and oceanic that are found exclusively in and around these lands and there are landmasses in the two regions that share similarities that are difficult to ignore. The two culturally rich land masses have been collaborating since thousands of years through trade routes that existed long ago and have once mixed up to an extent that the brotherhood if revived now can lead to very productive achievements in development. The two sisters have been partners in the struggle against colonialism. Africa now shares developmental targets with India, since the two share problems and issues as a result of huge similarities. The two vibrant democracies possess an international standing and there is huge potential if a shared future is targeted.

Huge similarities between India and Africa have also caused similarities in our problems. A rapid pace of development in developing nations has pressurized the environment to a huge extent. Consequently, environment protection and flora-fauna restoration are being looked upon as indispensable and strategic aspects of the overall development of the regions. Events in India and Africa in the middle of the 20th century have changed the world. Present day offers us another opportunity to associate a new meaning to sustainable, equitable and environment-friendly development. The convergence of national interest on the both sides propels the new relationship. Keeping in mind the fundamentals of mutual respect and mutual benefit, it is possible to lead the course of development into roads not yet ventured. To carry out an established and planned strategy, it is important that the developing nations come together and co-create the future.

Environmental issues have a key solution: sustainable development. This approach is such that it roots out problematic issues rather than just patching wounds. There needs to be a change in policies, undertakings and lifestyles so that the approach gets maximum penetration for a good output. Sustainable development is the most pressing challenge of the 21st century. It calls for ways that curtails waste generation, increasing resource and energy efficiency and creating new opportunities for employment as efforts to improve the environment performance are initiated. Essentially, it is development directed away from environmental degradation. For the developed nations, it was late when they realized the need of sustainable development. For the developing, it is an opportunity full of wisdom that promises efficient livelihood without creating pressures on our surrounding. The non-sustainable approach to development, however, lacks the intent of caring for the interests of each individual affected- plants, animals and humans. Poverty being a major issue of the nations under question, the latter approach is obviously not pragmatic.

To clear out paths of future and lead, India and Africa must strive for sustainable development. Planning this is guided by the realization that efforts to improve environment must concentrate on the urban areas. Today, cities are a major resource consumption hub. Although they occupy just a small fraction of the world’s land surface, they use more than three-quarters of the world resources. Lack of proper planning in the cities has caused them to be exceedingly dependent on transportation. The urban economic culture influences the human mind deeply and has caused it become overwhelmed with the pursuit of personal profit. Cities of the future must reestablish the concept of civilization with greater dependence on local production for local consumption and with greater concern on the livability of local environments.

India and African nations are a part of the developing world. Based on the past trends, it is possible to predict the following urban perspectives in the future:

  • New balance between technological advancement and human development and emergence of eco-technology
  • Future demand of infrastructure will leave behind the magnitude of building and housing projects
  • City development will rely on environment, employment and equity
  • City planning will be dictated by human activities within it and not by its local geometry
  • Urban sprawl will cause larger cities
  • Water will be a important issue
  • Those systems will be prevalent which are adaptable according to individual demands and development of energy and environment
  • Solar energy will be an important power source. Renewable and non-polluting sources will replace present thermal plants
  • Commercial use of solar energy
  • Biotechnology will dictate waste management

Development in India and Africa has to be streamlined for improving environmental performance. For this to take place, new attitudes and directions must replace present ones with the key themes discussed:

  • Holistic in place of reductionist
  • Diversity in place of uniformity
  • Decentralized in place of centralized
  • Small scale in place of large scale
  • Collaboration and partnership in place of autonomous
  • Participatory in place of pre-planned
  • Sustainability in place of development
  • Mass customization in place of mass production

Urban development in India and Africa will revolve around alleviation of poverty, a major issue for both of us. Our planning services have not taken into account the huge population which is poor. It is essential to propose a new framework wherein the resources are channelized in a manner that serves the poor and they can afford such services. The developmental planning must be committed to influence the widest spectrum of classes in the society.

The process of urban development is not just an aspect of physical and economic growth but it is intricately linked with community participation. The challenge is to find ecologically sustainable, socially just, economically viable and culturally transferable technological and managerial innovations which are well suited to meet the needs of the 21st century.

City Metabolism

The issue in front of the planners today is as humanity moves towards urbanization, can living standards be maintained by cutting down their environmental impact? Comparing urban resource flows shows that use of energy and other resources largely depend on the way cities function and their lifestyles of people residing in them. The metabolism of cities is linear: there is hardly any relation between the origin and destination of wastes, such is the flow of resources. Hence, inputs and outputs are largely unrelated. Whether it is the use of timber, pulp, paper, consumer goods or fossil fuels, their use leads to huge amounts of waste and pollution. Similar is the condition with sewage systems where the wastes are discharged without processing.

To the contrary, natures system is cyclic, not linear, and every output by a living organism is also an input to continue the cycle and sustains the living environment. Cities should develop a self regulating, circular metabolic system. For planning a developed colony, India and Africa must collaborate and guide science and technology to achieve such a city system that is sustainable. Keeping in mind the damage that our present activities are causing to the environment, one of the prime agendas must be to create a living environment which is self sufficient, ecologically balanced and culturally stimulating.  We need to look at the fundamentals of human settlement and evolve a system whereby we can establish harmony with nature by ensuring minimum waste. This calls for a unit of living in which each resource is put to maximum productive use and is recycled for reuse. One viable necessity for Indian and African cities is utilization of urban waste energy from incineration plants and sewage treatment. A renewable energy base can be thought of using centralized waste disposal systems for Africa and India. The energy can be comfortable used for household purposes.

Eco Technology
India and Africa has to establish a culture that can rely on evolving eco-technology which promises environmental sustainability. Whether we are concerned with transport, water supply, sewage or the provision of adequate housing, the conventional approach has to change. The engineers, architects and planners have great responsibility to help create receptiveness for the emergence of a new kind of urban form and architecture that combines climatic responsiveness with functional efficiency and a pleasing environment.

New cities will be energy and resource efficient as well as culturally rich and socially responsible. In our major cities, inward investment in resource efficiency will contribute significantly to achieve higher levels of employment. The investment in infrastructure will make a vast difference to the health and living conditions of the cities.

Energy Efficiency
Wind, earth and water are the primary energy sources of the world. It is the solar energy combined with the earth’s radioactive and gravitational energy that we have the fossil fuels today. Alternative energy sources have become the need of the hour, though. We have to realize that it is the solar energy that is the source of the past and the future; it is the sun that converts water into water vapor which later falls on the surface. The sun also causes tides and oceanic currents. Waters combined with photosynthesis owing to the sun again make possible vegetation to grow and survive on the earth’s surface. It is the sun that0020helps generate oxygen necessary for life.
Passive design of buildings and integration of lighting with architectural design helps minimize energy consumption. India and Africa can share policies related to energy efficiency practices. This may include adoption of energy efficient practices as standards mandatory by all citizens. Movements must be led to increase the public outreach and make people educated about the policies and their benefits.

Solar Energy
Africa and India lie in the tropical region with plenty of sunlight throughout the year. To explore the possibilities of solar power, however, science has to be advances. Our developing group of nations must undertake endeavors to improve the efficiency of solar power. Besides not causing pollution and being a non-depleting resource, solar energy has advantages of decentralized plants: every home can own its own power source, hence shifting the need to manage and fund centralized power plants. Research in this field can promise reduction costs presently associated with solar power.

Solar energy has always been one of the brightest options in the energy horizon, since it offers clean, abundant and low-cost power with no fuel to burn, few parts to fix and little supervision required. Photovoltaic systems can be employed to provide electrical supplies for pumps, electric fences, communication and navigation equipment and standalone power systems for consumer products. They are already in use and need to be taken further.

Wind Energy

With long coastal boundaries, both India and Africa have huge potential to exploit wind power, which is an inexhaustible, non-polluting and promising way out of the energy crisis. A rapid development in wind power has been predicted by the scientists and the time is right that infrastructure related to windmills be planned beforehand. Emerging swarm intelligence has also promised new technology including vertical windmills to maximize trapping wind power. They are cheaper and have been installed in several sites in India.

Both India and Africa are blessed with extensive river network, which are mostly perennial systems. Water wheels can be installed in these systems as well as smaller streams and small turbines can be installed that can work as a sawmill or a flour grinding mill

Rainwater Harvesting
Tropical regions of Africa and India have a huge capability of trapping rainwater harvesting and sharing. Since it is one of the purest forms of water, it forms a valuable resource. With depleting and degrading groundwater resources in India, rainwater collected from Africa can be shared to meet demands conveniently. On the other hand, India is also endowed with monsoon seasons with huge rains. Rainwater harvesting is a means of localized water conservation and helps in avoiding tragedies of floods.

Although the best way to save water is to use it sparingly, there are options of treat wastewater and sewage and reuse it for various purposes. Areas with chronic water shortage are shifting to recycled water.

India and Africa: Shared Problems and Solutions

India and Africa share numerous similarities of circumstances. In this dawn of development, both are pacing fast towards the future. It has been realized, however, that the ways to future are varied and the best calls for sustainability. We also share problems of water, food, energy security and climate change impact. In order to confirm to sustainability, the call has to be made to the people for mass participation. Awareness must be generated among the youth of India and Africa towards a sustainable future and targets to be achieved. Education has to play an important role when it is the need of the present to pay heed to issues that concern us most: our environment and the surrounding. The people of Africa and India must collaborate in activities that lead to such an awareness. The outreach of such programs will dictate their effectiveness.

The water shared by Indian and African borders is home to a rich biodiversity, which must be preserved. We ought to implement policies that aim at conservation of such an ecosystem which is a symbol of the planet’s worth. These waters have been feeding the humans around the world at the cost of their own survival. Managerial innovation needs to address the activities carried out in the waters including fishing. Since it is a shared water body, it is also to be realized that perturbation to these ecosystem affects landmasses all around, both in India and Africa including the rich Madagascar. Hence, waste disposal, fishing etc. have to be regulated to ensure sustainable living both on land and in the waters. On the other hand, these waters are home to a variety of species that are endangered: policies that promise their safety have to be implemented by none other than India and Africa.

Challenges of climate change have hit India and Africa no less than other parts of the world. Africa is almost universally seen as the continent most at risk of climate-induced challenges. There is interconnection between environmental degradation and conflict. Almost every conflict is a struggle for control over resources or a scramble to access them. The fate emerging from such struggle is dark. It is hence to be realized that resource allocation and resource utilization have to be managed with wisdom to avoid cheap conflicts over nature’s resources.

It is also predicted that climate change will cause an acute and permanent crisis of food supply in the developing nations. For India and Africa, the root cause for food insecurity, however, is poverty. The challenges of food security in Africa include an underdeveloped agricultural sector, barriers to market access and effects of globalization which comes with the liberalization of market. In order to alleviate problems of food security, agricultural industry has to experience a boost. Seemingly, another green revolution will be needed to ensure enough food for African nations.

The problems caused by climate change include rising sea levels. It is known that a large part of Indian peninsula and islands in the south are low lying regions sensitive to rising sea levels. It has also been predicted that changes in sea levels, increased natural disasters and reduced availability of agricultural land may cause large-scale and destabilizing population movements in Africa. At present, a third of the world’s refugee and internally displaced population are found in African countries. The UN Security Council has recognized such large-scale population displacements as a threat to international peace and security. Three of the five regions across the globe that are at risk of flooding in coastal and deltaic areas of the world are located in Africa: North Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa. Rising sea level shall displace population to a miserable extent and is difficult to avoid. What can be done is to take security steps to ensure that the displaced population can be settled in higher lands in Africa or in India.

Africa, especially, has seen an unfair situation with respect to environmental problems. Though Africa is the lowest consumer of energy, the lowest emitter of greenhouse gases, one of the largest exporters of sub-soil natural resources, yet it faces the greatest security risk and under-development. Africa when it shall come together with India, however, there will be a bright scope of improvement since the collaboration will avoid strategies that are hugely experimental. India’s education has always had a lot to contribute to the growing world. Insights about rapid development can be transferred from India to implement in the African counterparts.

Genuine progress can be counted on where technology is developed in situ to address issues. Hence an essential step will be research collaboration between India and Africa in the coming years. This may be achieved in a number of ways. India has an established base of institutions devoted to science and technology research and education in the field of environment. To ensure proper outreach of research activities, student exchange programs may be undertaken along with opening international campuses across nations.

Once sustainable growth is decided competition will start taking place. The world has already begun the race in green technology: low impact technology that ensures less harm to the environment. In the chosen sustainable way to future, Africa and India will establish an example of mutual cooperation to evolve a world where the convergence of national interest on the both sides propels a strong brotherhood.

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