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GS3 PYQ 2019 (Mains Answer Writing): Carrying Capacity Notes | Study Environment & Additional Topics for UPSC CSE - UPSC

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Define the concept of carrying capacity of an ecosystem as relevant to an environment. Explain how understanding this concept is vital while planning for sustainable development of a region.(UPSC MAINS GS3 2019)

Introduction 
In ecological terms, the carrying capacity of an ecosystem is the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely upon the available resources and services of that ecosystem. India’s rapid growth of population which is expected to surpass China by 2024 according to a report by United Nations Population division. Already, world’s more than 17% of population thrives on 2.4% of the Indian mainland. There is a rising concern regarding ecosystem collapse in India hence it becomes vital top consider carrying capacity of an ecosystem while planning for sustainable development of a region.

  • Carrying capacity of an ecosystem as an anchor for planning sustainable development of a region Living within the limits of an ecosystem depends on three factors: 
    • the amount of resources available in the ecosystem,
    • the size of the population, and
    • the amount of resources each individual is consuming. 
  • The first concept suggests that there should be optimum utilization of resources in an ecosystem which must be based on its per capita use. This can be used for micro-planning and as resources are fixed and limited, limitation on population growth rate can drive society to develop in a better way. 
  • Size of population matters during planning as any resource can’t resist its overutilization. Excessive and over use of natural and manmade resources reduces its life period. For example: In Indian mega cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai excessive use of ground water resources andland resources have led to decline in water table. Recent water shortage in Chennai and floods in Mumbai are fine examples of it. Heavy traffic congestion and air pollution are also result of overpopulation which are exceeding carrying capacity of an ecosystem. 
  • Overconsumption of resources by individuals in a society also affects sustainable development of a region. Commercialization of residential colonies by opening small factories leads to depletion and pollution of ground water table. Air pollution caused by these units are beyond the selfsustaining criteria of the environment. 
  • Concentration of resources in India is a major problem. It has led to inequality and kept the Indian society away from inclusive development. Hence, planning must concentrate on limiting overconsumption by individuals in a society to check exceeding the carrying capacity of the ecosystem. 

Conclusion 
While considering carrying capacity of an ecosystem as an anchor for sustainable development and planning, it must be taken care that resources are not concentrated in fewer hands. There must be equitable distribution of natural resources as well as manmade resources such as education, health care system and transportation without any discrimination. These steps will help India to fulfill its domestic commitments such as reduction of inequality, poverty and achieve its international obligations of attaining sustainable development goals by 2030.

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