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Reducing Poverty, Protecting the Planet: Japan, India Partner to Push for Sustainable Development




Japan has been at the forefront of fully implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Here’s how it is working with like-minded countries such as India. 


In his first policy speech to the Diet, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged to achieve zero emissions of greenhouse gases and net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, thus bringing global goals of sustainable development and growth into focus.


Achieving this hinges on introducing economic spurs for energy production and usage.



Suga’s predecessor, Abe Shinzo, had also promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% and reach carbon neutrality by the second half of this century.


The energy needs of Japan, the world’s third largest economy, remain outward looking. Its domestic supplies are limited, producing only 9% of its energy requirements. This makes for heavy reliance on imports of fossil fuels, oil, coal, and natural gas. Japan has been at the forefront of committing itself to turn towards renewable energy sources, which, according to a few estimates, is as much as 50% of its supply. 


When United Nations member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 — by means of a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030 — Japan was determinedly at the forefront to fully implement them.



The Abe government established the SDGs Promotion Headquarters in May 2016. Headed by the Prime Minister, it sought to ensure a whole-of-government approach to implement the 2030 Agenda in a comprehensive and effective manner, following the SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles.


Working with partner nations to achieve SDGs and economic growth targets has been a perennial effort of Japan and like-minded countries such as India. The March 2020 update on Official Development Assistance (ODA) loans funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency covers investments in India’s crucial sectors. These include infrastructure development in India’s northeast. 


Japanese ODA has no doubt aided in bridging India’s infrastructure deficit to a large extent. But Tokyo’s pivotal role in developing overall infrastructure across India will be a defining turn in the confluence of India’s “Act East” initiative with Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific framework.


Here is a look at the agreements signed between JICA and the government of India to achieve these goals, while setting an example for the Indo-Pacific region. They provide a total of up to ¥374.44 billion JPY ($3.6 billion USD) in loans for nine projects spread across India.



  1. Dedicated Freight Corridor Project (Phase1) (IV) (loan amount: ¥130 billion JPY) ($1.252 billion USD)
  2. Mumbai Metro Line 3 Project (III) (loan amount: ¥39.928 billion JPY) ($385 million USD)
  3. Ahmedabad Metro Project (II) (loan amount: ¥13.967 billion JPY) ($134.5 million USD)
  4. Mumbai Trans-Harbor Link Project (II) (loan amount: ¥66.909 billionJPY)($644 million USD)
  5. North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project (Phase 4) (loan amount: ¥14.926 billion JPY) ($144.4 million USD). 
  6. Madhya Pradesh Rural Water Supply Project (loan amount: ¥55.474 billion JPY)($534 million USD)
  7. Project for Pollution Abatement of Nag River in Nagpur, Maharashtra (loan amount: ¥29.082 billion JPY)($279 million USD)
  8. Project for Ecosystem Restoration in Gujarat (loan amount: ¥13.757 billion JPY)($132.5 million USD)
  9. Project for Community-Based Forest Management and Livelihoods Improvement in Meghalaya (loan amount: ¥10.397 billion JPY)($100 million USD) 


The objective of the North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project (Phase 4) is to improve the connectivity in the northeastern region of India by establishing and improving National Highway 208 (Kailashahar–Teliamura), thereby promoting regional economic development. The executing agency is the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, and completion of the project is slated for March 2024, with the start of road operations.


The objective of the Project for Community-Based Forest Management and Livelihoods Improvement in Meghalaya is to restore and conserve natural resources within the villages through sustainable forest management, livelihood improvement, and institutional strengthening. This will contribute to conservation of the environment, biodiversity, and improvement of the socio-economic conditions of people in the state of Meghalaya. The executing agency of this project is the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority, Government of Meghalaya, and completion of the project is slated for March 2030, with completion of all activities.


Most significantly, all of the above-mentioned projects will directly contribute to the achievement of United Nations’ SDGs by 2030, specifically, goals 1, 3, 6, 9, 11, 13, 14, and 15, elaborated as follows: 



SDG Goals                                                            

Goal 1. Eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day.

Goal 3. Reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.

Goal 6. Ensure availability, affordability, and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 9. Build resilient quality infrastructure, including regional and trans-border infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.

Goal 11. Make cities, housing, and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, and upgrade slums.

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, including climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development, and prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution.


Goal 15. Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss; ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements. 


Japan has placed special emphasis on cooperation in India’s northeastern region for the latter’s geographical importance connecting India to Southeast Asia, while India simultaneously promotes its own “Act East” policy. As for Tokyo, securing projects in Southeast Asia is vital since the region has been a traditional locus of Japanese foreign direct investment and supply networks.


Strategies to continue upon the existing avenues of sustainable development ー and facilitating new ones — through these multiple ODA projects remain important for both countries. They provide a benchmark measuring the strategic basis of India’s symbiotic relationship with Japan. At the same time, they relentlessly push both toward innovative technologies and collaborative strategies to achieve U.N. prescribed SDGs in the Indo-Pacific region. 


Author: Monika Chansoria


Dr. Monika Chansoria is a senior fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo and the author of five books on Asian security. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of The Japan Institute of International Affairs or any other organization with which the author is affiliated.


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