The “habitat” of the Western Ghats is constructed of particular landforms—ridge and valley, peak and plateau, escarpment, and plains. Today, these features are at the heart of the development-environment conflict that has escalated since the 2012 UNESCO designation of the Ghats as a World Heritage Site. The use of this language of landforms can be traced back to colonial texts; but the roots of the image behind it are more difficult to unravel, being embedded in visual articulations of geographic maps and object drawings.
Every year, from June through the end of September, the summer monsoon rains sweep up from India’s southern coasts and gradually spread to the north, supplying 80 percent of India’s annual rainfall. Rivers flow, fields are sown, and aquifers and reservoirs get replenished, setting in motion a burst of agricultural activity after the scorching summer heat. Underlying this euphoria, however, lies a deeply stressed agricultural system.
Cities are increasingly seen as sites of strategic action on clean energy and climate change. The United Nation’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals includes an explicit urban goal for the first time, and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement enables new spaces to promote climate outcomes in national development contexts. The attention on cities in the energy-climate nexus is particularly timely for India, which is projected to account for a quarter of the rise in global energy use by 2040. This growth is driven in large part by the country’s ongoing economic and social transitions.
India needs its roads. Our road network is essential to the free flow of goods and people across the country and connects rural villages to the rest of the nation. India’s roads, together with the railways, make us one. The question that should be asked, however, is how many roads does India need? It is obvious that there is an upper limit to the area that any nation can allocate to its road network. Aside from the fact that building roads is expensive, the opportunity cost must also be considered; the land given over to building a road can now no longer be used for other purposes.
The provision of energy has long been central to India’s development planning. In most cases, this has taken the form of generating and making available the supply of energy in the form of increased coal, gas, nuclear, renewables, etc. The salient elements of current energy plans highlight this trend: through a focus on coal (with a domestic production target of 1.5 billion tonnes by 2020) and a growth in renewables (with aspirations to produce 175 gigawatts of renewable power by 2022).
Only 5 percent of Indians report they are in intercaste marriages. This often results in the casual observation that caste drives matrimonial choices. Traditionally, marriage outside caste has not found social approval, as honor killings continue to be reported across the country. However, in urban, middle-class India, young people are no longer limiting their search for marriage partners within their own caste.
India is jostling for space in the global marketplace with other rising powers and needs a robust energy supply to compete effectively. Implementing new power projects to harness its domestic natural resources is one of the ways this can be achieved. However, in India, large-scale infrastructure projects have been hard to undertake due to their perceived adverse social and environmental effects— controversial dam projects on the Narmada and Teesta Rivers being key examples.
In India, legally established Protected Areas have historically been the most important means adopted for biodiversity conservation. Protected Areas (PAs) primarily include National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, and more recently, Community Reserves and Conservation Reserves. Today, there are as many as 703 PAs all across India, covering almost 5 percent of its land area. With burgeoning demands on land and water, and a high population density of 382 people/square km, the area commitment to PAs shows the national importance placed on biodiversity.
India is the focus of much international attention leading up to the UN’s climate negotiations in Paris later this year. India expects to more than double the size of its coal fleet by 2030, following a carbon-intensive industrialization path experienced by almost every major economy, most recently China.