“You have to decide whether development means affluence or                                                   whether development means peace, prosperity and happiness.”  SUNDARLAL BAHUGUNA

Sustainable development has become a hot topic in the last decade. Quite simply, it means meeting people’s needs without destroying the environment. The idea of sustainable development grew from numerous environmental movements in earlier decades and was defined in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission 1987) as:

History has led to vast inequalities, leaving almost three-fourths of the world’s people living in less-developed countries and one-fifth below the poverty line. The long-term impact of past industrialization, exploitation and environmental damage cannot be wished away. It is only right that development in this new century be even more conscious of its long-term impact. The problems are complex and the choices difficult. Our common future can only be achieved with a better understanding of our common concerns and shared responsibilities.

Sustainable Development :“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

This contributed to the understanding that sustainable development encompasses a number of areas and highlights sustainability as the idea of environmental, economic and social progress and equity, all within the limits of the world’s natural resources.Blocking development opportunities for the world’s poor won’t do anything for environmental conservation. For the past few years a range of activist groups have been rallying against primary industry imports from Malaysia and Indonesia into Australia and other developed countries.The basis has been that forest conversion for agriculture and allied industries leads to environmental degradation and habitat loss for wildlife. The key target has been Malaysia and Indonesia’s growing palm oil industries. Timber has also been targeted.

Achievements till now :-

However, the record on moving towards sustainability so far appears to have been quite poor. Though we might not always hear about it, sustainable development (and all the inter-related issues associated with it) is an urgent issue, and has been for many years, though political will has been slow-paced at best. For example, there are

  • 1.3 billion without access to clean water;
  • about half of humanity lacking access to adequate sanitation and living on less than 2 dollars a day;
  • approximately 2 billion without access to electricity;

And this is in an age of immense wealth in increasingly fewer hands. The inequality of consumption (and therefore, use of resources, which affects the environment) is terribly skewed:

“20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%” according to the 1998 United Nations Human Development Report.”

The Earth Summit In 1992 Attempted To Highlight The Importance Of Sustainability :

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit was attended by 152 world leaders, and sustainability was enshrined in Agenda 21, a plan of action, and a recommendation that all countries should produce national sustainable development strategies. Despite binding conventions and numerous detailed reports, there seems to have been little known about the details to ordinary citizens around the world.

In the 10+ years since Rio, there has been little change in poverty levels, inequality or sustainable development, as the World Development Movement notes.

“Despite thousands of fine words the last decade has joined the 1980’s as another ‘lost decade for sustainable development’ with deepening poverty, global inequality and environmental destruction”.

Changing Unsustainable Patterns of Consumption and Production :-

With increasing purchasing power, wasteful consumption linked to market driven consumerism is stressing the resource base of developing countries further. It is important to counter this through education and public awareness. In several areas, desirable limits and standards for consumption need to be established and applied through appropriate mechanisms including education, incentives and legislation.

Several traditional practices that are sustainable and environment friendly continue to be a regular part of the lives of people in developing countries. These need to be encouraged rather than replaced by more ‘modern’ but unsustainable practices and technologies. Development decisions regarding technology and infrastructure are a major determinant of consumption patterns.It is therefore important to evaluate and make development decisions which structurally lead to a more sustainable society. Technologies exist through which substantial reduction in consumption of resources is possible. Efforts to identify, evaluate, introduce and use these technologies must be made.Subsidies often lead to wasteful and unsustainable consumption by distorting the value of a resource. All pricing mechanisms must be evaluated from a sustainable development point of view.

Protecting and Managing the Natural Resource Base of Economic and Social Development:-

The integration of agriculture with land and water management, and with ecosystem conservation is essential for both environmental sustainability and agricultural production. An environmental perspective must guide the evaluation of all development projects, recognizing the role of natural resources in local livelihoods. This recognition must be informed by a comprehensive understanding of the perceptions and opinions of local people about their stakes in the resource base.To ensure the sustainability of the natural resource base, the recognition of all stakeholders in it and their roles in its protection and management is essential. There is need to establish well-defined and enforceable rights (including customary rights) and security of tenure, and to ensure equal access to land, water and other natural and biological resources. It should be ensured that this applies, in particular, to indigenous communities, women and other disadvantaged groups living in poverty.  Water governance arrangements should protect ecosystems and preserve or restore the ecological integrity of all natural water bodies and their catchments. This will maintain the wide range of ecological services that healthy ecosystems provide and the livelihoods that depend upon them. Biomass is, and will continue for a long time to be, a major source of fuel and energy, especially for the rural poor.Recognizing this fact, appropriate mechanisms must be evolved to make such consumption of biomass sustainable, through both resource management and the promotion of efficient and minimally polluting technologies, and technologies which will progressively reduce the pressures on biomass, which cause environmental degradation. The traditional approaches to natural resource management such as sacred groves and ponds, water harvesting and management systems, etc., should be revived by creating institutional mechanisms which recapture the ecological wisdom and the spirit of community management inherent in those systems.

Means of Implementation:-

Finance :-

Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) is declining. The commitments made by industrialized countries at the Earth Summit in Rio a decade ago remain largely unmet. This is a cause for concern which has been voiced  by several developing countries. Industrialized countries must honour their ODA commitments. The new instruments and mechanisms, e.g., the Clean Development Mechanism, that are trying to replace ODA need to be examined closely for their implications for the developing countries.

In view of the declining trend in ODA, developing countries must explore how they can finance their sustainable development efforts, such as by introducing a system of ecological taxation. Private investment cannot replace development aid as it will not reach sectors relevant for the poor. Such investments and other mechanisms can at best be additional to, not replacements for, development assistance.

Technology :-

Developing countries need not follow the conventional path to development with regard to technologies but must use to their advantage the cutting edge technology options now available to ‘leapfrog’, and put the tools of modern technology to use. Mechanisms must be put in place to make available to developing countries the latest technologies at reasonable cost.

Technology transfer must be informed by an understanding of its implications in the social, economic and environmental contexts of the receiving societies. Technologies must be usable by and beneficial to local people. Where possible, existing local technologies must be upgraded and adapted to make them more efficient and useful. Such local adaptations should also lead to the upgradation of local technical skills. Local innovations and capacity building for developing and managing locally relevant and appropriate technologies must be encouraged and supported.

Trade :-

Trade regimes, specifically WTO, are sometimes in conflict with sustainable development priorities. Imperatives of trade, and the concerns related to environment, equity and social justice however need to be dealt with independently. Environmental and social clauses which are implicitly or explicitly part of international agreements must not be used selectively to erect trade barriers against developing countries. Developing countries will suffer a major trade disadvantage if the efforts to put in place globally acceptable Process and Production Methods (PPMs) are successful.

Instead, existing disparities between the trade regimes and multilateral environmental agreements, such as those between Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regime and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), should be thoroughly addressed. Mechanisms to resolve such conflicts between multilateral agreements should be set up.

Finally we can state that: There is both a need and a scope for regional and global cooperation in sustainable development. Some of the areas of common concern are marine and riparian issues, transboundary environmental impacts, management of bioresources, technology sharing and sharing of sustainable development experiences. Efforts must be made, especially by developing countries, to work towards synergizing experiences and raising shared regional concerns as a strong united front in international forums. Mechanisms must be put in place to facilitate such international exchange of domestic and global experiences in sustainable development.

                                  “We cannot have a ecological movement designed to prevent violence against nature, unless the principle of non-violence becomes central to the ethics of human culture.”– MAHATMA GANDHI

Anamitra – SCIT MBA(ITBM) 2013-2015

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