WASHINGTON, D.C. -- India is one of the world's fastest growing economies, but it is also trying to become a green economy along the way. As the country hosts World Environment Day on Sunday, Gallup surveys show Indians narrowly prioritize environmental protection (45%) over economic growth (35%).
India's burgeoning population, annual economic growth in the 8% to 9% range, and rising energy demands continue to place intense pressure on the country's fragile ecosystems, particularly its forests. However, India has been fighting land degradation and desertification and investing in green technology, including one of the world's largest green energy projects that will generate thousands of megawatts of solar and wind power.
Such investments likely find support among many Indians, though the country's poorest residents remain more focused on the economy. Thirty-nine percent of Indians who say they are finding it very difficult to get by on their household incomes prioritize the economy, while 29% favor the environment and many (23%) don't have an opinion.
The bulk of the population, those who are getting by on their present incomes or finding it difficult to get by, remain more focused on the environment than the economy. Indians living comfortably -- and less likely to worry about putting food on their tables -- are equally divided.
Indians are more likely to say they are satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment (45%) than to say they are dissatisfied (38%). The country's poorest citizens stand out -- those finding it very difficult to get by are the least likely to say they are satisfied with efforts, but they are also the least likely to have an opinion.
India is "at the forefront of some of the 'green shoots' of a Green Economy that are emerging across the globe," U.N. Undersecretary-General and U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) Director Achim Steiner said when the UNEP announced India's selection as the global host for World Environment Day. Gallup's data suggest India currently has some public backing for efforts to protect the environment that will help it stay at the forefront, but that a sizable number -- particularly its poorest citizens -- still see the economy as more important.
All large and growing economies, including India and the United States, face trade-offs between the needs of their economies and their environment. Like many Indians, many Americans also believe the environment should be given priority, but Americans have tended to favor the economy in the recent tougher economic times. Indians' inclination to prioritize the environment merits watching if leaders want the green economy to take root.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 6,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in May and June 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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