GDP Fixation

Despite the overwhelming focus on improving a developing country's GDP, its citizens have to realize, as renowned environmental and policy analyst Vaclav Smil (1996) reveals, that there is little worth of China's impressive 10 % GDP growth if the true cost of environmental damage caused by this GDP increase is about 15 % of its GDP. The out-dated practice of “pollute now, clean up later” will only degrade the country's environment and quality of life and increase economic expenditure on future remediation efforts (Erkman and Ramaswamy 2003; Chiu and Yong 2004). Moreover, once a country's development paradigm and infrastructure are built on a foundation of modern consumerism reliant on profligate use of fossil fuels, corrective action to move towards sustainability will be expensive, complex and challenging to navigate. Some of the reasons for the resistance in developed

Fig. 11.1 Developed and developing countries (CIA 2013; Augusti 2008)

countries to redefine their development paradigms lie in their high accumulated debt and the enormous investments they have made in infrastructure that is not designed for sustainability (see Chaps. 6 and 7). When examined further, these aspects may reveal a potentially more optimistic picture for developing countries.

Previous Studies on IE in Developing Countries

Sustainable development is certainly not a simple, singular and well-tested path. Many different interest groups are in conflict over which environmental and social challenges to tackle first, as well as their solutions. As previous reviews on industrial ecology in developing countries suggest, IE offers an umbrella paradigm, a sort of panoramic vision within which individual local crises could be approached with pragmatic solutions. Industrial ecology based solutions offer the advantage of simultaneously addressing several other interlinked problems to yield concurrent benefits for all stakeholders (Chiu and Yong 2004; Lowe 2006). A SWOT analysis of IE in developing countries, based on a previous study that looked at IE in Asian developing countries (Chiu and Yong 2004), is presented in Table 11.1. Some strengths, such as rapid economic growth, can also be viewed as a weakness, opportunity and threat.

In the developing world context, characterized by immediate development challenges brought on by rapid industrialization and urbanization, Chertow (2008) suggests applying a narrower focus to the word “industry” in IE, rather than using it in its broad sense to cover a range of anthropogenic activities. This suggestion may hold well in contexts such as in Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs) where resources are cycled between industrial firms and collective benefits are realized to reduce environmental and social impacts. However, even in these contexts it is important to realize that, in

Table 11.1 SWOT analysis for the potential of IE in developing countries (Adapted from Chiu and Yong 2004)



1. Economic growth: Most developing countries are growing fast with large foreign direct investments and domestic industrialization, especially in the BRICS countries. This situation can provide the economic impetus for funding industrial ecology research and implementation in policy and industrial innovation.

1. Developing country specific IE based models and data: Models specific for understanding flows of resources and their interaction with socio-economic groups in developing countries need to be developed, especially in the unorganized/informal sector. Specific metric and indicators more suited for developing countries should be identified. Background data especially that of life cycle inventories (LCIs) for life cycle assessments (LCAs) are lacking for most developing countries.

2. Human resources: Most developing countries have high population densities with demographics emphasizing youth populations, especially in countries like India.

2. Scarcity in financial resources: There is meager funding for research and development of IE in developing countries.

3. Research: In some developing countries, the research and academia have been exposed to industrial ecology, making this an ideal stage for the setting up IE research and education centres.

3. Dearth of education programs: There are very few specialized educational programs in IE in developing countries. Most of these programmes are in China

4. Awareness: People are aware about sustainability and are looking for methods and tools to implement solutions for it. This awareness is present amongst the corporates, citizens and the government.

4. Inadequate clarity in the role of different governing bodies: In several developing countries, there is a lack of clarity in the roles of governing bodies for resource management. In many cases, there are gaping gaps in governance and in some cases there is overlap in the responsibilities of public sector institutions. There is a lack of an integrated and collaborative approach to resource management.

5. Role of government: The government in some developing countries have shown interest in IE and implemented IE based policies, especially in China. Political cooperation can lead to growth of IE in groups of these countries such as South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Commonwealth countries, etc.

5. Insufficient data: Data necessary to make content informed policy decisions are insufficient and at times unreliable.

6. Scarcity of green tech: Lack of innovation and access to green and clean industrial technologies.

7. Insufficient enforcement: Lack of enforcement of sustainable policies and for management of resources.



1. Redefine sustainable development: Have an opportunity to redefine their development paradigm and polices to maximize social welfare while limiting environmental impacts of development focused on consumerism.

1. Strong focus on economic growth from rapid industrialization: There is strong focus on industrialization and economic growth rather than increasing social welfare. This thrust has already damaged the ecological health of developing countries to a great extent.


Table 11.1 (continued)



2. International co-operation: Several international institutions are collaborating with partners in developing countries to investigate systems using IE concepts and tools.

2. Inadequate industrial ecology awareness: Especially in the policy making and governing spheres and the public domain.

3. Development of new models and tools: Can contribute to the development of new models and tools in IE.

3. Insufficient data: Lack of sufficient macro and micro level data to inform policies on sustainable management of resources.

4. Global political arena: Several developing countries are allying with one another to further their negotiations in global agreements such as those regarding climate change. They can use these political collaborations to cross collaborate on IE based policies and strategies.

4. Focus on remediation: Stuck in the “industrialization – pollution – remediation” running wheel to further development. Lack insights into how to transition towards sustainable policy development and enforcement. IE may therefore be viewed merely as a technical “add on” or “fix” to remediate pollution, caused by inefficient management of resources and insufficient lack of enforcement of environmental policies.

5. Outdated policies: Policies in some cases prevent effective IE implementation. For example “Zero discharge policy” in India disallows water cascading among industries. In some countries laws inhibits the formation of waste exchange networks and industrial symbiosis.

6. High externalities of industrialization: In several countries, the externalities associated with industries are tremendous as proper working conditions, environmental protection and social benefits to affected communities are not included in the cost of production.

the absence of an overarching sustainable development paradigm, industrial residues that are expensive for industries to recycle will be disposed of in the cheapest and most often not the cleanest of ways. Moreover, polluting industries such as coal fired power plants in EIPs may be further locked-in in industrial networks, making it difficult to replace them with cleaner technologies such as plants based on renewable resources. On the policy front, it is important for developing countries to be aware of these interlinked complications and think of ways to avoid net long-term damage to their ecological, social and economic health, as explored in Chap. 6.

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