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close this bookIndustrial Metabolism: Restructuring for Sustainable Development (UNU, 1994, 376 pages)
close this folderPart 1: General implications
close this folder4. Industrial restructuring in developing countries: The case of India
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIndustrial metabolism and sustainable development
View the documentIndustry and sustainable development
View the documentResource utilization
View the documentEnergy efficiency: An overview
View the documentEnergy use in Indian industry: A case-study
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences

Industrial metabolism and sustainable development

This chapter focuses on the attainment of energy conservation and efficiency as part of a process of industrial restructuring towards sustainable development. The specific case of Indian manufacturing industry is considered in some detail to show the potential for, and implications of, restructuring in industry in developing countries in accordance with the principles of "industrial metabolism."

Since the appearance in 1987 of the World Commission on Environment and Development's report Our Common Future, sustainable development has become the objective of development strategies and policies worldwide. Yet, six years later, the factors that would contribute to sustainable development and the methods to operationalize them are still undetermined. Without doubt, the need to minimize the throughput of resources while maintaining the system of production is central to any concept of sustainable development. However, the notion that the economic subsystem may have approached the finite biophysical limits of the global ecosystem has yet to gain currency, in spite of the writings of such prominent economists and scientists as Vitousek (1986), Daly and Cobb (1989), Goodland (1991), and Meadows et al. (1992).

Two answers emerged from Our Common Future. One was "growth as usual," albeit at a reduced rate. The other was to define sustainable development as "development without growth in throughput beyond environmental carrying capacity." Daly (1990), one of the pioneers of "steadystate economics," has provided an alternative definition of sustainable development, which we think may be useful for this chapter: a process in which qualitative development is maintained and prolonged while quantitative growth in the state of the economy becomes increasingly constrained by the capacity of the ecosystem to perform over the long-run two essential functions: to regenerate the raw material inputs and to absorb the waste outputs of the human economy.

The recognition of an optimal scale of the economy is central to sustainable development as per Daly's definition. Beyond such an optimum, growth becomes "anti-economic growth." Goodland (1991) suggests that the environmental constraints to growth have already been reached: witness the high volume of human biomass appropriation (nearly 40 per cent), the looming threat of global warming, the rupture of the ozone shield, pervasive land degradation and the threat to the world's biodiversity from continued growth in the scale of the world economy . . .

The restructuring of industry towards sustainability in the developing countries would have simultaneously to take into account existing constraints and growth compulsions. For instance, for a number of reasons it may not be possible for a developing country to do away with aluminium production just because of energy scarcity, if all the other conditions requiring the establishment of the industry are satisfied. However, what may be possible is the achievement of higher energy efficiency levels in the industrial sector, reducing the throughput of raw materials and natural resources in general, and energy in particular, for a given level of output (Gross National/Domestic Product).