Environmental woes of India – a quality issue
Given the state of our environment it is evident that we are not meeting our stated environmental goals and objectives. At its core, the problem is an implementation issue and hence a quality issue. This article briefly examines 9 of the 14 points on quality management advocated By Edward Deming. Perhaps, by taking these points to heart, our environmental woes can be substantially improved.
1. Create a constancy of purpose focused on the improvements of products and services.
We can interpret this as meaning constancy of purpose focused on the improvement of the environment. This is a very important concept that policy makers often struggle with. As governments change hands so do economic , social and environmental policies. Constancy of purpose – protection and preservation of the environment – is lost. Hence, we need to ensure constancy of purpose across governments by ensuring autonomy and independence from government interference. Also they must have veto power over government projects, policies and decisions.
2. Adopt a new philosophy and recognize we are in a different era
Today the world faces an imminent crisis in the form of climate change. There are no ready solutions available on the horizon. It is time for nations to shoulder the burden of climate change together. Nations cannot adopt business as usual mentality. We need to adopt a new philosophy – clean energy, environmental preservation and protection, sustainable development etc. These ideas are here to stay and it is best we embrace it as quickly as possible.
3. Do not rely on mass inspection to control quality
This is based on the idea that prevention is better than cure. Rather than be reactive, we have to be proactive. We must invest in preventive measures and institute strict emission laws and regulations, invest in clean technology, provide incentives for businesses to switch to clean energy and renewables etc.
4. Do not award businesses to suppliers on the basis of price alone but also consider quality.
This applies to the choice of fossil fuel as the fuel to meet the energy needs of the nation. Largely it was an economic decision. Coal despite being the most pollutive of all the fossil fuels are favoured by nations because it is cheap – readily available and the conversion process is relatively inexpensive. ‘Cheap’ because its negative impact on the natural environment is not taken into consideration. However today coal is no longer the cheapest option in India. According to the The Economist India is the only country in the region where cost of producing solar power is almost 14% less than cost of electricity generated from coal. Based on the data compiled by global consultant Wood Mackenzie India’s levelised cost of electricity generation
· from fossil fuel stands at around $44.5 per MWh (Rs 3.05 per unit)
· from solar power generation stands at around $38.2 MWh (Rs 2.62 per unit)
· from onshore wind power generation stands at around $48.9 per MWh (Rs 3.36 per unit) 
In all the three instances, it is the cheapest provider in the region. It is a win win situation for India to move away from fossil fuels – particularly coal – and invest in renewables.
5. Focus on continuous improvement
Focus on continuous improvement in terms of attaining environmental goals. Constantly set new standards and hold the gains. This can only be assured when there is constancy of purpose and means to ensure constancy of purpose.
6. Practice modern training methods and invest in on the job training for all employees
Invest in new and emerging clean (modern) technologies like the High Efficiency Low Emission (HELE) technologies like the supercritical and ultra-supercritical combustion technologies . In fact clean technology like Fluidised Bed Combustion (FBC) provide a “very flexible method of electricity production – most combustible material can be burnt including coal, biomass and general waste. FBC systems improve the environmental impact of coal-based electricity, reducing SOx and NOx emissions by 90%.” That is a huge reduction. Currently the majority of the Indian coal plants are using subcritical (old) technology and count as some of the most pollutant plants in the world.
7. Improve leadership, practice modern supervision methods
The leadership must first educate itself on environment and energy matters. They must provide top priority to environment and energy concerns. The following are set of strategies recommended by the United Nations to promote renewable energy at a large scale (1) engage in awareness raising and access to information (2) develop academic curricula for renewable energy (3) remove policy and regulatory conflicts/gaps (4) pass renewable energy act (5) create regional grid and tackle imbalances through the grid. This will require collaboration and cooperation across nations. (6) focus on strategic development of a renewable energy industry and markets (7) develop product standards for biomass-derived fuels (8) map resources of renewable energy sources (9) tap into biomass energy potential . These should be the focus areas for the leaders .
8. Drive out fear
Energy self sufficiency is the overwhelming cry behind the push for coal energy in India. The solar industry in India is largely dependent on importation of Chinese solar panels and photovoltaic cells. Chinese firms supply about 80 per cent of solar cells and modules to India . But than this is true for many other nations as well. China is the world’s leading supplier of solar photovoltaic cells and panels, supplying 2/3 of the global supply. China accounts for 95% of rare earth production globally. The rare earth minerals are essential input in developing electronic and solar products. However, the rapidly rising domestic demand in China itself raises supply issues in the near future. For example, China already has solar capacity of 208GW, the highest in the world . India has 31GW solar capacity. China reached their 2020 solar target of 105GW in July 2017 - three years earlier where as India in all likelihood will miss its own stated target of 100GW of solar capacity by 2022 . Reverting back to the rare earth minerals, it is indeed highly likely that China will stringently control the production of these minerals in the years to come. Well as it turns out rare earth is not all that rare. Deposits exists outside of China, including in India . However, mining and processing poses considerable challenge with extensive negative environmental impact . But there is a silver lining here as well. Alternatives to rare earth materials are being researched and Lund University, Sweden, has come up with iron-based dyes to be used in solar cells in the future. ‘By using iron instead of other more expensive and rare metals, the production of solar cells and light catchers will become cheaper and more environmentally friendly.’ 
9. Eliminate targets, slogans, and numerical goals for the workforce
Zero Defect, Zero Effect has been the outcry of the Narendra Modi Government. The government has developed zed program with Quality Council of India to realize this goal. Under this flagship program incentives are provided to MSMEs to get ZED certified. ZED certification is based on the ZED Maturity Assessment Model. Training and education programs are provided to assist MSMEs in adopting the system . However, the government needs to push the program more. While majority of the stakeholders have heard the term Zero Defect, Zero Effect, few are aware of the ZED initiative behind the slogan. Detailed evaluation and audit concerning the effectiveness of the program should be carried out.
These than are a brief look at quality principles and how it can be applied to the management of the environment in India. Despite the government’s ‘stated commitment to environmental protection’, the ground reality is very different. According to data compiled by IQAir AirVisual's 2019 World Air Quality Report India accounts for twenty one of the world's 30 most polluted cities in the world with six cities in the top ten most polluted in the world. Greenhouse gas emissions, with the burning of fossil fuel a key driver of the climate crisis, is also a major cause of dirty air. India has just recently announced its goal to be energy self sufficient and increase its reliance on coal. Under the Make in India program, the government has ‘diluted environmental and labor laws’ to attract domestic and foreign investors. Social and ecological considerations have been placed on the back burner . With all these contradictory policies and goals and lack of clear environmental stewardship, sustainable development and green growth will remain a major challenge for India in the years to come.
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