Sunil Ghorawat
June 25, 2016

Infrastructure is a central factor to achieving sustainability in terms of the collective quality of life, the sustainability of human society and the sustainability of the planet. Sustainable development is the most common catchphrase today in all management platforms. To bring about continuous and sustained development, infrastructure has to environmentally friendly. As India embarks upon a phase of economic and social development, infrastructure growth has to be in sync with the rising demand.

Misinformation and ignorance shroud the subject of sustainable development. The perception is that of a zero-sum game where conflicting interests have to be negotiated and compromised. Nowhere is this ignorance more evident than the negotiating games being played by the developed and developing countries in their efforts to fix carbon emission targets. The United States refuses to lower their emissions unless the developing countries (China and India) agree for lower targets. Those countries do not wish to compromise their attempts to reach higher economic and industrial development standards.

Sustainability is not limited to global warming, climate change, pollution, inequitable development, public health or contaminated water - it is all these and more. It is not a problem that we will solve and then move on. Rather, it will be a challenge involving "moving goalposts" – requiring constant, continuing and unrelenting attention.

Instead of blindly aping the American model of consumerist growth that places a high load on the environment, India needs to formulate a less demanding, more participatory approach. A strategy that is less energy-intensive and more environmentally friendly is the only kind that can be sustainable. The development paradigm needs to be revisited.

Sound water management plays a key role in sustainable development. Preventing ground water contamination through any effluent generated from industrial or commercial activity is an example. As a scarce resource, water needs to be conserved, shared, monitored and reused. Balanced demands of development with a proper water supply and consumption strategy is one of the key elements of public policy.

Another element is using treatment technologies that put no load on the environment. Using non-chemical approaches that leave no long-term footprints are important. Sludge generation and highly concentrated effluents are two of the problems that need to be solved. The other key ingredient is developing technologies that are energy intensive and clean.

In this era of economic recession and uncertainty, this imperative of sustainable development would also find great financial favor. If the water infrastructure that we create is not green, then it is not going to provide long-term value to all the stakeholders. To paraphrase a popular garment brand, in the coming decade, all water infrastructure has to be "green or nothing".

Sunil Ghorawat Sunil Ghorawat is Editor-in-Chief, EverythingAboutWater magazine.

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