The Secretary General of United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon has rightly said that “ours is a world of looming challenges and increasingly limited resources. Sustainable development offers the best chance to adjust our course.” The world is now shifting its focus towards achieving growth that ensures the ability of future generations to meet its demand. Therefore, countries are aiming at efficient utilization of their resources as well as the economic and environmental prosperity of their population at large.
Climate change is recognized as the world’s biggest challenge so far as it is considered to be fundamentally a development issue. In a lecture to students at Georgetown University, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim spoke about the growth choices that can help reduce the drivers of climate change. Putting a price on carbon and cutting emissions was one of them. Close to 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces now have or are preparing to implement carbon pricing through emissions trading systems or carbon taxes, and their numbers are growing. Suggestions such as ending fossil fuel subsidies and building low-carbon resilient cities also made its way into his address.
At this moment, India is at a crucial stage of its economic growth and development process. With programs like the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Smart Cities Mission’ being introduced by the government, the country is aiming at manufacturing led growth and development. Keeping this in mind, efficient utilization of resources is what will determine the survival of companies in the future.
The steel and mining industries have had much to contribute in this sphere. The steel industry is aware of the need to develop a repertoire of tools within business practices, which will help in addressing environmental and community needs, especially so in the mining areas. Mining as an activity may occur on a relatively small land area, but the associated infrastructure and pollution from mining activities have the potential to affect the health of ecosystems and reduce their ability to provide the goods and services necessary for human and environmental well-being. However, recent advances in technology and changes in management techniques have led to a significant reduction in the negative impacts on the surrounding environment from mining.
The steel industry has always strived to be ahead of mining regulations through adoption of best practices, modern technologies, and innovation to ensure that its activities are efficient while causing minimum environmental impact. Subsequently, the steel industry isworking towards developing precautionary tools for the environment around. These measures are not only related to mining of natural resources, but usage of water, afforestation, control of emissions and recycling of processed gases.
An example of this are the practices that are being adopted at the Kalinganagar plant that is being developed by TATA Steel in Odisha. Not only has TATA Steel worked towards adopting measures that are environment friendly, but has also invested in the development of the community around the area.
Some of the measures TATA Steel is focusing on are measures like water harvesting, recycling of used water to ensure reduced effluent into rivers and seas, prevention of seepage into groundwater et al. All institutions –industry, government and scientific research bodies – want to reach a stage where mining and production activities are zero-discharge.
Mining activities are completely different from what it used to be a hundred years ago. The industry is defying and redefining conventional wisdom in myriad ways. Only so, with a view to ensure survival of mining companies and to conserve the environment for our present and future generations. After all, it is but one world that we have and one environment to preserve.
By Mr Srikant Kumar Pati, Chief, Environment Management, Tata Steel.
Rajaram, R., Chapter 3: Issues in Sustainable Mining Practices, in Sustainable Mining Practices—A Global Perspective, V. Rajaram and S. Dutta, Editors. 2005, A. A. Balkema Publishers, a member of Taylor & Francis Group: Leiden, The Netherlands. p. 45-89