India's biophysical economy, 1961–2008. Sustainability in a national and global context

India's economic growth in the last decade has raised several concerns in terms of its present and future resource demands for materials and energy. While per capita resource consumption is still extremely modest but on the rise, its sheer population qualifies India as a fast growing giant with material and energy throughput that is growing rapidly . If such national and local trends continue, the challenges for regional, national as well as global sustainability are immense in terms of future resource availability, social conflicts, pressure on land and ecosystems and atmospheric emissions. Using the concepts of social metabolism and material flow analysis, this paper presents an original study quantifying resource use trajectories for India from 1961 up to 2008. We argue for India's need to grow in order to be able to provide a reasonable material standard of living for its vast population. To this end, the challenge is in avoiding the precarious path so far followed by industrialised countries in Europe and Asia, but to opt for a regime shift towards sustainability in terms of resource use by building on a host of promising examples and taking opportunities of existing niches to make India a trendsetter.