Within the dynamic nature of India’s economic framework, the bioeconomy is swiftly rising as a pivotal player. The country’s daily waste production, an alarming 160,000 tonnes, underscores the pressing nature of its waste management challenge. If this trend persists unchecked, by 2050, India could face a daunting 436 million tonnes of municipal solid waste.
This looming issue requires urgent resolution. As India teeters on the brink of significant expansion, Shaik Ismail, Special Correspondent, Clean India Journal delves deep into the nuances of bioeconomy, exploring its potential for a greener India.
Bioeconomy refers to the production and utilisation of biological resources, processes and principles to sustainably provide goods and services across various sectors. It encompasses a wide range of activities, from agriculture and forestry to pharmaceuticals and energy production, all rooted in the power of biology.
Integral to the bioeconomy is the concept of waste management. By transitioning from a fossil-fuel-based economy to a biological-based one, the bioeconomy emphasises the importance of leveraging renewable biological resources, including organic waste, to meet our societal, material, and energy needs.
This shift not only promises economic growth but also offers innovative solutions to waste management challenges. Organic waste, which often ends up in landfills, can be repurposed within the bioeconomy framework to produce biofuels, fertilisers and other valuable products. By doing so, the bioeconomy reduces our carbon footprint, conserves biodiversity and significantly diminishes waste-related environmental issues.
Currently valued at a staggering $100 billion, it is poised to reach an ambitious $500 billion by 2047. This projection is not just a testament to the country’s economic prowess but also a reflection of its commitment to sustainable growth and environmental stewardship.
Catalysts of growth
Several factors are propelling India’s biotech industry to new heights. Government support has been unwavering, with policies that foster innovation and entrepreneurship. The startup ecosystem, vibrant and dynamic, is playing a pivotal role. Every day in 2021, three new biotech startups were established, signalling a bright future for the sector.
The challenges India grapples with, from swift urbanisation to escalating waste production, mirror those of many developing nations. By spearheading innovative solutions in the bioeconomy, India stands as a model to the synergy of innovation, technology and policy in addressing these universal challenges.
The rise of the bioeconomy promises to create numerous job opportunities, from research and development to manufacturing and distribution. This sector has the potential to uplift many from unemployment and underemployment, especially in rural areas where agricultural waste can be transformed into bio-products.
Particularly in rural regions, where over 60% of India’s population resides, the bioeconomy presents a unique opportunity. Agricultural waste, often seen as a challenge, can be innovatively repurposed into valuable bio-products, providing rural communities with sustainable livelihoods and reducing waste.
Moreover, the bioeconomy can play a pivotal role in women’s empowerment. With the right training and resources, women can lead the charge in grassroots-level bio-projects, fostering community development and gender equality.
The environmental benefits of a thriving bioeconomy are manifold. Reduced dependency on fossil fuels, decreased greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable use of agricultural waste are just the tip of the iceberg. As India grapples with challenges like air pollution, water scarcity and land degradation, the bioeconomy presents solutions that are not only economically viable but also environmentally sound.
Challenges and roadblocks
However, the road to a sustainable bioeconomy is not without its challenges. Despite its potential, the growth of the bioeconomy in India is currently not aligned with the desired funding and policy support. The Department of Biotechnology’s ‘Bioeconomy Report 2022’ indicates that India’s bioeconomy contributes a mere 2.6% to the GDP. To achieve our ambitious targets, aggressive investment and policy support are imperative.
Moreover, guidelines for Genetically Engineered (GE) insects and other biotechnologies remain uncertain, posing challenges for researchers and industry stakeholders. It is crucial for policymakers to provide clarity and direction in these areas to foster innovation and industrial action in biotechnology.
Integration of technology
The future of waste management in India is intrinsically linked with technological advancements. The integration of AI and other technologies can revolutionise this sector. Drones can monitor waste collection, optimise routing and even identify recyclable materials. Such innovations can elevate the efficiency of our waste management systems.
Moreover, the potential of AI extends beyond mere logistics. With the power of data analytics, we can predict waste generation patterns, optimise recycling processes and even develop new bio-products tailored to market demands.
As India stands at the crossroads of economic growth and environmental sustainability, the bioeconomy offers a roadmap to a brighter, cleaner future. It’s a journey that requires collaboration, innovation and determination. With the collective efforts of policymakers, industry leaders, and the public, India’s bioeconomy can reach new heights, setting a global standard in sustainable development.