On 26th July, eminent economist and social activist Professor H M Desarda delivered a special lecture on the Challenges of Equitable and Sustainable Development in India organized by the School of Economics, University of Hyderabad.

A strong advocate of the Gandhian perspective of sustainable development, Desarda is well-known for the Micro-Watershed development for proliferating rain-fed farming in the country. He started the session by tracing back to his association with the University of Hyderabad while serving as the academic council member from 2010-13 when he made efforts to establish solar energy panels on few buildings of the university, to implement vermicomposting in collaboration with his wife whose area of expertise is organic farming and installing rainwater harvesting systems. Naming such environmentally conscious steps taken on the campus during his tenure, he smoothly transitioned into the topic of sustainable development in India.

Prof . H M Desarda

He went on to impress on the importance of youth mobilization and egalitarian human rights, which are required to build a new economic strategy to ensure ecological sustainable development. He then shifted his focus to the incessant automobilisation of India and calls it the root cause of global warming in the nation. While explaining the spectrum of evolution from Adam to Adam Smith, Professor Desarda introduced the crowd to the term Anthropocene, a geological age where the human activity creates a major impact on the environment. Anthropocene began to manifest right after the industrial revolution and resulted in the continuous political instability in the 20th Century. Linking this phenomenon to overburdening of resources, he even mentioned how in 2018, the Earth’s resources for that year were exhausted by August 2018 and how the date is only advancing every year. As the forms of Anthropocene were instances like colonisation, overexploitation of resources and commercialisation of agriculture, the impacts are global warming, ozone depletion, chaotic climate change and rise in pollution. 

After exposing the group to the issue of imminent environmental degradation, Professor Desarda then brought in context the well-known American conservationist, Rachel Carson and remarked that her book ‘The Silent Spring’ had changed the global discourse of ecological conservation. After discussing her insights at length, the speaker pointed out that the work of an economist or an environmentalist will only yield fruit when the politicians are wise enough. 

He suggests few methods in which the campus can contribute to the sustainable development discourse. Recalling how most of the produce is infused with harmful pesticides, Professor Desarda suggested that atleast 10% of the campus area could be put under organic cultivation that could cover the vegetation needs of the entire campus. He also mentioned that the campus receives a fair amount of rainfall in the monsoons which puts it in a favourable position to build rainwater catchments to meet the growing water needs in the campus. 

The lecture was attended by students, faculty and non-teaching staff of the University.

Contributed by Ujjvala Kaumudi, Department of Communication.