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ILO bats for ‘green’ jobs in India

Deepak Razdan | New Delhi |

India needs environment protection, not just for healthy living, but to create and save jobs, 194 millions of them in farming, fishing and forestry depending solely on natural processes like pure air and water, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) stated on Tuesday.

In its “Greening with Jobs – India” (World Employment and Social Outlook) report, ILO said pursuing economic growth, India was straining its finite natural resources, causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other forms of environmental degradation. India was increasing its dependence on renewable energy sources, but still relied on coal, oil and natural gas for 80 percent of its electricity requirements.

Between 1995 and 2014, India experienced an average annual GDP growth of 5.3 percent and an increase of GHG emissions at an average annual rate of 3.9 percent over the same period. This meant simultaneous degradation of environment which threatened ecosystem services.

“From a jobs perspective, environmental sustainability is critical. In fact, the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters associated with human activity have already reduced productivity.

Annually, between 2000 and 2015, in India, natural disasters caused or exacerbated by humanity resulted in an annual average loss of 5.7 working life year per person,” the report revealed.

Temperature increases will make heat stress more common, affecting agricultural workers, and be responsible for 64 percent of the hours lost in the country due to heat stress in 2030, the report has estimated.

Arguing for environmental protection, the report said this could turn out to be a big job-producer, although displacing some existing jobs.

The report said measures taken in the production and use of energy, for example, will lead to job losses of around 259,000 jobs, but creation of around three million jobs too.

The net increase of approximately 2.8 million jobs will be the result of the adoption of sustainable practices, including changes in the energy mix, the projected growth in the use of electric vehicles, and increases in energy efficiency in existing and future buildings, it said.

For example, the report said, public employment programmes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA have become crucial policy tools that combine economic, social and environmental objectives in support of adaptation and mitigating environmental degradation and climate change.

According to the Ministry of Rural Development, 60 per cent of the work hours provided through the programme in 2012 involved water conservation and 12 per cent were related to the provision of irrigation facilities.

The programme also increased female labour participation and in some cases women’s autonomy in household decision-making, by providing higher wages than other rural employment opportunities, the report said.