How Resilient is India to Nanotechnology Risks? Examining Current Developments, Capacities and an Approach for Effective Risk Governance and Regulation

Shilpanjali Deshpande Sarma


Over the last decade the Indian state has strived to establish an adequate foundation for advancing nanotechnology resulting in the expansion of R&D and commercialization of nanoproducts. A greater focus on technology development has meant that India’s engagement with the overdue but not less significant risk debate appears to be far behind global discourses. The main focus of the paper is to examine whether India possesses sufficient resilience to avoid or address the environment and health risks that the development of nanotechnologies poses, given its existing capacities. It does so by analyzing the motivations and initiatives by the state to address nanotechnology risks as well as identifying key actors and efforts in the direction of risk appraisal and management. Furthermore it also examines this issue by locating nanotechnology’s development in a larger context- that of the existing milieu in India for attending to environment and health issues in general. Based on this analysis it argues that the nation is vulnerable to the potentially adverse impacts of nanotechnology for a variety of reasons given the rapid unfolding of R&D in India and the substantial evidence of risks from specific nanomaterials. The lagging attention to risk regulation, ambiguity in roles and responsibilities, gaps in risk appraisal and governance especially in the capacities to formulate effective legal frameworks in addition to prevailing deficiencies in enforcement of regulations create an environment where India could be especially susceptible to nanotechnology’s risks. In conclusion the study suggests that a comprehensive and flexible strategy to address the multidimensional risks is imperative and highlights what could be key elements of such a framework. Mechanisms for inter-agency coordination and inclusive dialogue on risks are highlighted as key measures besides the need to broaden the scope of risk appraisal and management initiatives.

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