The world’s fastest-growing country is betting on solar to power its future, but daunting sustainability challenges remain
Spot the real India:
• A vast state-of-the-art green building, solar panels glistening over a pristine campus, home to Infosys, one of the world’s most successful IT corporations.
• Waste pickers crouched on the kerb of a Mumbai thoroughfare, breathing in filthy bus exhaust while painstakingly recycling heaps of plastic.
• Young people with smartphones living in houses without tap water.
• A government that repeatedly exceeds ambitious targets for renewable energy, working from offices in the most polluted capital on earth.
• The world’s fifth largest economy, and one of its fastest growing, where up to half the population lack reliable electricity despite the fact that India is the third largest emitter on the planet.
• An increasingly powerful and self-confident modern nation whose lifeblood rests on an uncontrollable, and increasingly capricious, set of annual rains.
The answer, or course, is all of the above. If there were ever a case for deploying the journalistic cliché, “the land of contradictions”, India would be it. When it comes to progress towards sustainability, the sheer scale of the task can be daunting. Most pressing is air pollution, from industry, traffic, cook stoves and crop burning, which kills an estimated 600,000 Indians a year,...