Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chinese Development Model – How not to do rather than how to do. Don’t blindly follow

Whenever I heard debates on India’s development, reference to China’s pace of growth inevitably comes into discussion. “Look at China”, “where China was in 1960’s and where it is now?”, “Why can’t we grow like that?” etc. Then someone would reply, although incorrectly, “We don’t have the political will”, “Democracy is stopping us from taking hard decisions” etc.

I am an admirer of China’s growth. It was indeed a success story of 20th century. China rose from ashes after devastating World War II, from crippling communist programs like ‘Great Leap Forward’ etc. China under Deng accepted free market policy and showed miracle growth rates for more than two decades. Now she reached a position where her voice is respectfully heard in international forums.

The question is, do we have to follow Chinese model for India’s growth? Many may tempted to say yes. However my answer is a firm no. There are many things we can learn and absorb from China. However Chinese growth is not a model that we can follow. Why? Even though there are many reasons I will focus 
only on one of them.

Growth without any concern for environment

In India many groups created an opinion that, focusing on environment is affecting India’s growth rates. In short, if you want development then don’t argue for rivers and forests. By extension of this theory, whoever argues for environment is by default included in anti-development group. These groups often sites China as a model.

How far we can accept this argument? Do you think development is always against environment? Do you think, if we need development then we need to cut virgin forests, divert rivers and flatten the hills? What type of development is that? Can we call it as development or simply resource extraction? I prefer the later one.
Honestly speaking, I don’t believe building a dam on every hundred kilometers of Ganga on unstable Himalayan terrain is development; I don’t believe cutting down even the last remaining evergreen forests in Western Ghats is development; I also don’t believe open pit coal mining is a development. Can anyone go to Chromium mining areas, say Sukinda, or open pit coal mining areas and stay there for one week? Can they say those cities are developed ones?

Can you go to Yamuna in Delhi and take a bath? Can you go to Ganga at Patna and drink the water?
The interesting thing is we are all forced to believe that these are development. Will this development reduce our import cost for electronics? How many manufacturing plants are there in India which can produce microprocessors for computer? How many Silicon wafer manufacturing plants we have? Why we got the notorious tag of biggest weapon importer country in the world? Forget about fighter planes and high quality radar, can we even manufacture high grade light machine gun?

In Foreign Affairs magazine Sulmaan Khan analyzes the cost of Chinese development model – “Suicide By Draught” – Sulmaan Khan.

“The rivers flowing from the Third Pole -- among them, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Yellow River -- traditionally satisfied the majority of China’s water needs. But those waters, along with China’s other supplies, have been steadily disappearing. Since the 1950s, 27,000 rivers have vanished from China. China has only seven percent of the world’s freshwater to meet the needs of about one-fifth of the world’s population. Of that water, only 23 percent is located in northern China, which, as home to most of the country's major industries, uses much more water than China’s south. Meanwhile, much of the country's available water supply has been rendered unusable by pollution.”

If we continue to destroy the environment in the name of pollution, then some years later someone else will also write a report like that. Only difference will be in the name. Instead of China it will be India.
Problem is we often don’t estimate the value of environment. There is value for fresh air and clean water. These two we can’t simply manufacture. Just ask someone working on Central government’s reverse osmosis project in Chennai to know the cost of producing a litre drinkable water from sea water. Ask someone who walks through Bangalore’s road to know how good the air is.

Development is not cutting down the forest or diverting the rivers. Just think about Singapore, a place less than NCT Delhi in size is receiving more FDI in a year than entire India.

Before going ahead with grandiose plans give one minute for environment as well. NTPC can build tens of super critical coal fired thermal power plants, but without huge water supply it’s useless. In Madurai (Tamilnadu) there are a lot of bridges to cross a river called Vaighai, but nor even a drop of water is present under those bridges. Bangalore, in search of land, flattened many great lakes and built majestic residential layouts and mega structures. However, now water for those residential areas have to come from Cauvery River. Remember Cauvery is a lifeline for many areas in the downstream. Moreover considering the environmental degradation in her sources, how long she can support cities like Bangalore in its downstream?

Before adding water to Gadgil’s report on Western Ghat and making it Kasturi Rangan report, and then adding further water to it, think about the human’s basic needs – clean water and fresh air. We need development, but stop calling plans for building tens of mega dams in unstable Himalayan geographies from Kashmir to Arunachal as development. Build gas fired power plants or new generation nuclear power plants for generating electricity. Don’t call open pit mining as development; if you need coal then go for underground mining. Build more environment friendly railway lines than 8 lane roadways and running thousands of Lorries through it.

China is an example of how not to run after development as far as environmental impact is concerned. Learn from her mistakes, lean from how China is planning to mitigate those risks. Don’t blindly follow her.


No comments:

Post a Comment