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  Home >> 11th five year plan  >> Responses to the approach paper to the 11th five year plan

 To the Planning Commission of the Government of India  

Following the offer of the NGO Council, I am pleased to contribute some comments and suggestions to the 11th Five Year Plan of India. I appreciate the forward-looking analysis and conception of the planning commission as a valuable preparation of the Indian economy and society to face the challenges of tomorrow. May the strategy of “faster and more inclusive growth” lead India to an ameliorated and sustainable standard of living. Environmental sustainability isn’t only “not necessarily in conflict” with human well-being (as mentioned in 1.3e), but rather a prerequisite on long term. Exploiting natural resources above the level of reproduction might allow a high standard of living for a limited group of people and limited time – as today in the USA and Europe. But on the long run such societies collapse with the decline of their non-renewable basement, except they include ecologic measures into their economic framework on time. Copying the failures of the so called high-industrialised nations cannot be forbidden to developing countries; however the raising consumption level of billions of people accelerates the decline of valuable resources. As mentioned in 2.3b), a raising oil price jeopardizes the Indian economic growth. However it has to be considered that the increasing demand of India and China influence the oil price vice versa. This dilemma can only be solved if the economic development is decoupled of the demand for fossil fuels.  

Energy Farming

The last sentence of chapter 3.1 mentions a negative aspect of Jatropha Biodiesel planting; however the positive aspects might fill a separate section. As discussed, demand and supply side interventions are necessary to promote agriculture, which employs more than halve of the population. If the demand for energy is deviated to the agricultural sector, this enables:

-         new income opportunities and employment in rural areas,

-         greening of wasteland and therewith reduction of soil erosion,

-         growth of agricultural GDP instead of import growth and economic problems due to the rising oil prices.

Certainly concerns regarding monocultures have to be analysed, however a considerable share of the petroleum import could be substituted by biofuels (today’s consumption would require about 100 Mio ha Jatropha plantation, developed from wasteland). I know that the Indian government already supports Jatropha cultivation; nonetheless this fruitful potential is worth mentioning in the five year plan as it perfectly combines the energy problem with the target to raise agricultural growth. Foreign direct investments could fasten the expansion of energy farming. 

Limiting fuel demand and road construction

Regardless of alternative fuels, uncontrolled increase in energy consumption has to be prevented. Mobility may support economic growth; however the related costs should be paid by the consumer and not by the society respectively by the state. New highways will soon be crowded again if the costs are not paid by the user, as can be observed in US-cities as well as on European highways. Long distance transports should be shifted to railroad, while the maintenance costs of the metropolitan road network has to be financed by road pricing. Uncontrolled traffic growth would raise air pollution and oil imports. Highways may be financed by private parties who collect their returns directly from the users, whereas the limited governmental funds should be used to provide the basic connections for rural villages. 

Decentralisation of electric power generation

Connecting the scattered villages to a centralised power grid is a great challenge. Not only the capacity has to be developed but also the distribution network is expensive and causes transmission losses. Solar, wind and biomass energy is independent of the grid infrastructure and the availability of fuels as they are produced locally. Considering the distribution costs, the autonomous energy supply might be cost efficient today, and certainly is when considering external costs and regarding the future of energy price development.

Furthermore, the power grid could be strengthened by cogeneration of heat and power. Heat demanding industries should be motivated to run their process with the waste heat of small company owned thermal power blocks. 


Another idea combines the control of fossil fuel consumption with a social benefit for the poor. The natural resources as petroleum belong to everyone, so everyone should have a right on certain amount of petroleum. Rich consumers generally using more petroleum than poor people must pay for such consumption rights, if they want to consume more than the average (besides paying the normal price for the fuel). The petroleum points move back the supply chain to the oil company which may produce or import as much petroleum as it has acquired points for. Compared to a steering tax, there is a control of the volume – which is the relevant measure – instead of the price. The price is developed on a market comparable to emission certificates, however every citizen receives a certificate and therewith directly profits from the sale – as long as he consumes less than the average, which is usually the case for poor people. Therewith some redistribution is achieved through private dealing with environmental rights rather than expensive subsidy programs uncertain to reach the target group.

(I plead for such a system globally; therewith European and US consumers would have to compensate the majority of the world population who is cheated about it’s right on the fossil resources.) 

I hope these ideas may contribute to a sustainable development of a forward-looking country which has the chance to recognize the dead-end of the enticing oily path. The ability of a nation to manage its energy consumption will adjudicate on its success in the upcoming millennium, regardless of its fragile current economic power. I look forward to your response and stand willingly at disposal for a further discussion. 

Yours sincerely,

Henry Studer 

Industrial Engineer ETH

Sichternstr. 18

4410 Liestal – Switzerland 

aaa It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Charles Dudley Warner