Policy Tracker: Water and Energy Outlook of the 12th Five Year Plan

India Carbon Outlook catches up with a Planning Commission consultant to discuss the Approach paper for the 12th Five Year plan; the stakeholder consultation process followed this year and the position of ‘water’ and ‘energy’ in the plan.

Before the Twelfth Five Year Plan commences in 2012-13, the Planning Commission will be releasing an Approach Paper which will present the major targets and objectives of the plan, the key challenges that could be faced in meeting these objectives and the broad approach that must be followed to achieve the objectives. This Approach Paper would need to beapproved by the Cabinet and the National Development Council which includes all the Chief Ministers of the States and will provide the framework for the next plan with the details further fleshed out in the Plan document.

On 21st April, a meeting was convened by the Planning Commission during which the centre-piece of the discussion was a document called ‘Issues for the Approach to the 12th Plan”. Based on those deliberations, the Planning Commission is working on the draft Approach Paper which is expected to be finalized soon.

India Carbon Outlook recently spoke with Harsh Srivastava, Consultant with the Planning Commission who is working closely on preparing the Approach Paper. Based on the conversation, here’s taking a look at what the 12th Five Year Plan could entail for India and the ‘energy’ and ‘water’ outlook and challenges to be touched upon in the plan.

The Theme, the Past and the Way Forward
“The main theme of the 12th plan is sustainable growth – faster, more inclusive and sustainable growth” said Harsh. The theme of the 11th Five Year Plan was only ‘faster and inclusive growth’. The inclusion of the word ‘sustainable’ in the next plan seems to indicate it is high on the government’s radar given that environment and natural resources (like energy and water) will represent serious challenges in the long run. “In this plan we wanted to reach out and do more, hence including sustainable growth in the plan is a completely novel concept” said Harsh.

The GDP target for the 11th Five Year Plan is 9% though due to drought and global recession it seems likely that the GDP growth may only end up at 8.2%. On the parameter of ‘inclusiveness’, the planning commission indicates that progress has been made, though it has been less than the target. The Millennium Development Goals might be missed altogether, except maybe the goal on poverty.

One of the key issues identified seems to be the GDP target in the upcoming 12th Five Year Plan. While a target of 10% is being mentioned, the Planning Commission internal assessment indicates that due to a number of constraints, achieving even a 9% GDP growth would be difficult. Hence, a target GDP growth range of 9-9.5% is being proposed.

Another key objective of the 12th Plan is to try and address energy, water and environmental challenges without sacrificing the country’s growth plans.

Process of 12th Plan Formulation: Some new strategies
The Planning Commission commenced a wide consultative process for seeking stakeholder inputs for the 12th plan engaging more than 900 industry associations, think tanks and civil society organizations.

With an aim of ‘participatory planning’, the power of internet and social media has been used by the Planning Commission for the first time to collect feedback and suggestions from the larger community and several hundred sectoral experts. A dedicated website and a Facebook page were also launched and Harsh shares that more than 32,000 netizens have visited these sites and provided useful comments.

But although social media is a powerful and increasingly important medium of sharing ideas, it is essential to capture and use only the essential information. “Various groups/individuals have been pushing for their own cause as well, so we have to be specific in capturing the issues that actually affects the entirety of the country” said Harsh while talking about the use of social media in collecting citizen feedback.

Where does water and energy figure in the 12 plan discussion?
’The importance of the issue of sustainability hasn’t been very high among the citizen groups. Unemployment, health, education has been taking precedence among all the requests coming from the citizen groups. However, sustainability is a big issue from the GOI’s perspective’’ said Harsh.

Water is a key focus area for the plan
Water is one of the key challenges in India both in terms of potable water and irrigation water availability. On top of that, the urban and industrial demand of water is shooting up as well.
“Water is being taken very seriously in the upcoming plan – understanding the constraints and tradeoffs. All state governments are talking to the planning commission and discussing their plans for next year in relation to water – consumption, saving etc.’’, said Harsh Srivastava.

The 12th Plan aims to put in place an integrated strategy to counter the water challenge with initiatives like:
• Remapping India’s water balance basin-wise over the next five years to prepare aquifer management plans
• Restructuring of the “Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme” to incentivize irrigation reform and efficiency of water use
• Prioritization of watershed management with better technical support
• Water recycling by urban areas and improved water quality in industrial areas
• Better legal and policy framework around water issues
• Introduction of a National Water Commission for monitoring water regulations compliance

Energy- Coal stays as centre-piece of the plan!
In order to sustain a GDP growth at 9%, the commercial energy demand would be increasing at a rate of 7%. There are a number of issues being faced by the power sector like coal availability and AT&C losses (in case of coal) and forest and environment clearance issues (like in hydro).

Every form of energy has a challenge. From an energy standpoint –though there are challenges associated with coal, it is not easy to say that we just want energy from renewable sources to continue to meet India’s need for power. As far as the next plan goes, the most prominent source for power will be coal, not solar or nuclear”, said Harsh Srivastava.

It seems that in 2017-18, almost 250 million tonnes of coal would need to be imported which requires a corresponding expansion of rail and port capacity. This also implies that environment and forest clearance of a few private sector captive projects will be critical.

Planning Commission suggests the continuation of the nuclear power programme with necessary safety review, while the solar mission remains underfunded and requires more support. There also seem to be plans for a longer term cooking solution for rural areas like a better LPG network (with cash subsidies instead of subsidized prices), off-grid solar and biomass energy.

The Way Ahead!
As Planning Commission prepares to submit its Approach Paper based on the ongoing consultations, it is yet to see how the energy and water challenges would be met in the 12th Plan. Here’s hoping that the ‘sustainable growth’ angle of the plan is taken more seriously and not compromised for a ‘faster growth’.

The author Roselin Dey is a part of the India Carbon Outlook team.


Image(s) Courtesy:
bijoy mohan
romana klee

Author: Roselin Dey