Industrial Ecology in Developing Countries

Megha Shenoy

Abstract Sustainable development is not a simple, singular and well-tested path. It needs an interdisciplinary examination of resource use patterns, ecological heritage, demographics and cultural values. Industrial ecology, owing to its emphasis on using a holistic approach, can provide a valuable platform to draw out sustainable strategies and policies for developing countries to implement. It can offer a paradigm within which IE methods and tools can inform responses to local development challenges. Within this paradigm, sustainable industrial, rural and urban development strategies and policies in developing countries should follow from IE research and analyses.

A SWOT analysis of IE in developing countries highlights strengths of high economic growth and threats from outdated policies and inadequate industrial ecology awareness in the policy making and governing spheres. Examination of the IPAT equation in the context of developing countries highlights the role that new technological hubs such as China and India can play, the significance of increasing affluence among “new consumers” in the developing world and the role of population in managing resources sustainably.

Research in IE since its introduction to the global south around the mid-1990s has primarily focused on two concepts of IE – cleaner production and eco-industrial parks – largely due to the impetus of development organizations. Other studies using the IE lens and tools have shown the potential of the IE paradigm in developing countries. These studies have highlighted the importance of focussing on scarce resources such as water, examining the possibilities of using well-tested technologies and evaluating the long-term maintenance of new technologies and practices before recommending their implementation. New policies in the developing world can gain from the IE community in terms of assistance in simplifying and downsizing data requirements, application of solutions to contemporary sustainability challenges and framing effective policies based on IE concepts.

Keywords Developing countries • Eco-industrial parks • Industrial ecology • Sustainability • Sustainability policy


Benefits of IE for Developing Countries

The topic 'industrial ecology (IE) in developing countries' is as vast as the ocean and I would not wish to attempt to raft through its entirety with this chapter. Using my field glasses, I attempt to provide an overview, highlight areas of industrial ecology that have been examined in developing countries and two-way streets for developing countries to benefit from IE and vice versa. Developing countries[1] can use the concepts and tools of IE to ensure that the improvements they make to the quality of life for their citizens is achieved in harmony with improving the health of ecological systems, while investing effort, time and resources into a resilient economy. Regions with higher population densities are also ones whose populations are most at risk due to climate change and other environmental disasters caused by unsustainable industrialization. Some of these countries (especially BRICS[2] countries) have high GDP growth rates, owing to relatively recent industrialization, and are at a point where they could redefine their “development” paradigm and vision towards embracing sustainable progress, rather than focusing on narrowly defined economic expansion (Fig. 11.1).

  • [1] Defined as those with a lower Human Development Index (HDI) and lower standard of living relative to developed countries.
  • [2] “BRICS countries” refers to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
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