Gujarat’s Path to Sustainable Development and Economic Growth

Rakesh Shankar

Gujarat has been investing heavily in creating a robust infrastructure that supports industrial growth and global investments, shares Rakesh Shankar, IAS, Secretary (Planning), General Administration Department, Government of Gujarat with Hemangini Rajput of Elets News Network (ENN). Edited excerpts:

How is the state government aligning its programs and policies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030? What progress has been made so far and what are the key priorities?

The state government is undertaking a comprehensive approach to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This involves integrating SDGs into both national and sub-national policies and programs, ensuring that all aspects of governance and development contribute to these goals. In Gujarat, for example, the government has formed Thematic Working Groups (TWGs) for inter-sectoral action plans on SDGs, each focusing on specific themes, goals, and indicators to ensure targeted efforts.

A robust institutional framework supports this integration. High-Power Committees, typically led by senior officials like the Chief Secretary, oversee the progress of these working groups. State Vision Documents, such as Gujarat’s Sustainable Vision 2030, are crafted to align with the 2030 targets, tailored to the state’s unique needs and capabilities.

To monitor progress effectively, the government utilizes tools like the National Indicator Framework (NIF) and District Indicator Framework (DIF), providing comprehensive sets of indicators at both national and district levels. This localization ensures that strategies are relevant and effective in addressing local challenges. Additionally, dynamic and interactive monitoring frameworks like the Gujarat State Wide Indicator Framework Tool (G-SWIFT) offer realtime tracking of progress across various departments and districts.

As the Secretary for Planning, what role does your department play in integrating SDGs into the state development plan?

In my role as the Secretary for Planning, our department is instrumental in weaving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the fabric of the state’s development plan. This integration is essential to ensure that our state’s policies, programs, and initiatives are in harmony with the sustainable development objectives set by the United Nations.

Our primary task involves strategically aligning the state development plan with the SDGs. This process requires a thorough examination of existing policies to identify their overlap with the SDGs and to modify or introduce new policies to fill any gaps. For example, in aligning with SDG 3, which focuses on Good Health and Well-being, we rigorously analyze current health policies, evaluate their effectiveness towards this goal, and recommend necessary amendments or new initiatives. This task demands collaborative efforts across various departments, embracing a holistic approach that encompasses social, economic, and environmental facets.

Another critical responsibility is the creation and implementation of robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks, essential for measuring progress against each SDG target. For instance, in the context of SDG 4, which emphasizes Quality Education, we establish specific indicators to track educational achievements and progress. These frameworks require setting up data collection systems, benchmarks, and regular reporting mechanisms, facilitating the assessment of the impact of different policies and programs on the SDGs and enabling data-driven decision-making.

What strategies is the state adopting to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns?

The state is adopting a range of strategies to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, recognising the critical role these play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 12. These strategies are designed to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability and social equity.

Firstly, the state is focusing on enhancing public awareness and education. This involves campaigns and programs aimed at educating citizens about the importance of sustainable consumption and production. Schools and universities are incorporating sustainability into their curricula, and public campaigns are highlighting the benefits of practices like recycling, energy efficiency, and responsible consumption. By increasing public awareness, the state aims to encourage a shift in consumer behaviour towards more sustainable choices.

Another key strategy is the promotion of green technologies and industries. The state is offering incentives for businesses that adopt sustainable practices, such as tax breaks, subsidies, or grants. These incentives are designed to reduce the financial burden of transitioning to greener technologies. The state is also investing in research and development in areas like renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and waste management, fostering innovation that can lead to more sustainable production methods.

The state is also implementing stricter environmental regulations and standards. These regulations are aimed at reducing the environmental impact of production processes.

Encouraging sustainable public procurement is another important strategy. The state, as a significant consumer, is adopting procurement policies that prioritise products and services that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. This not only directly reduces the environmental footprint of the state’s operations but also sets an example for the private sector and encourages the growth of sustainable industries.

Finally, the state is working on developing infrastructure that supports sustainable practices. This includes investments in public transport to reduce reliance on private vehicles, the development of recycling facilities to manage waste more effectively, and the creation of green spaces in urban areas. Such infrastructure is essential for providing the public and businesses with the means to adopt more sustainable practices.

How can industries and businesses be encouraged to adopt green practices?

Promoting green practices in industries and businesses is vital for achieving sustainable development, and there are several strategies the state can implement to encourage and support this transformation.

Financial incentives play a significant role in motivating businesses to adopt greener practices. These incentives could be in the form of tax reductions, subsidies, or grants for those investing in sustainable technologies or implementing ecofriendly practices. For instance, businesses using renewable energy sources might receive tax benefits, or subsidies could be offered for purchasing energy-efficient equipment. Such financial motivations can be a powerful catalyst for businesses to embrace sustainability.

Another critical strategy is the establishment of robust environmental regulations and standards. These guidelines should cover aspects like pollution control, waste management, and resource efficiency. Ensuring compliance through penalties for non-adherence, while also recognizing and rewarding businesses that meet or surpass these standards, can push companies towards more environmentally responsible practices.

Investing in research and development for green technologies is another key area. State funding in this domain can make sustainable options more accessible and affordable for businesses. Collaborations between the government, academic institutions, and industries can lead to innovations in renewable energy, sustainable materials, and waste management.

Public-Private Partnerships in sustainability projects can create a synergistic effect. By combining resources, expertise, and networks from both sectors, these partnerships can drive more effective and extensive sustainability initiatives.

Lastly, facilitating access to green finance is crucial. Many businesses face financial barriers in adopting sustainable practices. The state can help by providing access to special loans, grants, or investment funds dedicated to environmental projects.

By integrating these strategies, the state can foster a business environment where adopting green practices is a wise and profitable decision, aligning economic growth with environmental sustainability for the benefit of businesses, society, and the planet.

What steps are being taken to strengthen infrastructure, encourage new industries, and make the state a global investment hub as part of Mission 2047?

Mission 2047, aimed at transforming India into a global investment hub, encompasses various strategies focused on strengthening infrastructure, encouraging new industries, and attracting global investments. Gujarat, often referred to as the ‘Growth Engine of India’, serves as a prime example of this mission in action.

Firstly, the state’s approach to infrastructure development is pivotal. Gujarat has been investing heavily in creating a robust infrastructure that supports industrial growth and global investments. This includes the development of world-class transportation networks, like highways and ports, and ensuring reliable power supply and modern urban infrastructure. These developments not only bolster the state’s industrial backbone but also make it an attractive destination for foreign investors. The emphasis on infrastructure aligns with several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those focusing on industry, innovation, and infrastructure (SDG 9).

Secondly, the promotion of new industries is a key focus. Gujarat’s strategy involves diversifying its industrial base beyond traditional sectors. This includes fostering growth in sectors such as renewable energy, technology, and biotechnology. The state is leveraging its geographical advantage and policy incentives to attract investments in these areas. Initiatives like Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and technology parks are instrumental in this regard. These efforts contribute to SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) by creating new job opportunities and fostering a competitive business environment.

Thirdly, to become a global investment hub, Gujarat is actively engaging with international partners and investors. The state government organizes summits and roadshows to showcase its investment opportunities on the global stage. Policies that ease doing business, such as simplifying regulations and offering tax incentives, are crucial in this aspect. These measures not only attract foreign direct investment but also encourage multinational corporations to set up their operations in the state, contributing significantly to economic growth and aligning with SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

As the state aims to become carbon neutral by 2050, what targets have been set to increase renewable energy and transition to electric mobility?

Gujarat is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This ambition is centered around two main strategies: increasing renewable energy utilization and transitioning towards electric mobility.

The state’s renewable energy targets are ambitious, leveraging Gujarat’s geographical advantage in solar power. It envisages a progressive increase in the use of renewables in its energy mix, with goals that could mirror those of other regions with aggressive renewable energy policies. The target might include achieving approximately 40-50% renewable energy by 2030, increasing to about 70-80% by 2040, and aiming for near-total reliance on renewable sources by 2050. This would entail a significant boost in solar energy capacity, augmented by wind and other renewable energies.

In the realm of electric mobility, Gujarat’s roadmap could include progressive targets, beginning with about 25-30% of new vehicle registrations being electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025, and escalating to 50-60% by 2035. The ultimate aim would likely be a complete or near-total transition to Electric Vehicles in both public and private sectors by 2050. Achieving this goal would require parallel advancements in EV infrastructure, including the widespread availability of charging stations and supportive policy incentives.

These targets are part of a comprehensive and integrated strategy that includes enhancing energy efficiency, promoting sustainable urban planning, and reducing emissions across various sectors. Gujarat’s approach is expected to be in line with SDGs, especially those related to clean energy, sustainable cities, and climate action. Such an integrated method is crucial for addressing the multifaceted challenges of attaining carbon neutrality.

 

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