The principal objective of sustainable development is to define viable schemes combining the economic, social, and environmental aspects of human activity. These three areas must therefore be taken into consideration by communities, companies, and individuals in India and South Asia, writes Sudip Bhattacharyya for South Asia Monitor
By Sudip Bhattacharyya
Sustainability in the production process means that which can sustain itself and not self-destruct. In the social context it means acting in the best interest of future generations – with respect to the economy, the environment and society.
Sustainable development recognizes that growth must be both inclusive and environmentally sound to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity for today’s population and to continue to meet the needs of future generations without depleting natural resources and endangering the future. It must be efficient with resources and carefully planned to deliver immediate and long-term benefits for people, planet, and prosperity.
Demographic change, rising expectations, urbanization, and globalization are affecting and defining lives and economies throughout the world. These game-changing forces are shaping our business by creating new markets and opening up new opportunities.
Over the last two decades, economic growth has lifted more than 660 million people out of poverty in India and has raised income levels of millions more, but too often it has come at the expense of the environment and the poor and vulnerable communities.
There have been a variety of market, policy, and institutional failures, due to which Earth’s natural capital has been used in ways that are economically inefficient and wasteful, without sufficient reckoning of the true costs of resource depletion. While the burning of fossil fuels supported rapid growth for decades, it set forth dangerous consequences; climate change today has reached a point that it is threatening to roll back decades of the development process.
Simultaneously, growth patterns have left hundreds of millions of people behind: 1.2 billion in India still lack access to electricity, 870 million are malnourished, and 780 million are still without access to clean, safe drinking water. And in many instances, it has destroyed the traditional means of livelihood.
The three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth, environmental stewardship, and social inclusion – carry across all sectors of development. Cities are embracing low-carbon growth and public transportation. Farmers are picking up practices of climate-smart agriculture. Countries are recognizing the value of their natural resources, and industries are realizing how much they can save through energy and supply chain efficiency.
Education and value systems, health, energy efficiency and water are the main sustaining force for society. Government of India plans to rank states on the basis of their performance in education—from the quality of their school infrastructure to learning outcomes. A value system that supports and imparts consciousness and concern for areas of sustainable development must be developed and incorporated in curriculum. The idea of ranking is to instil a spirit of competition among states. It is also doing similar exercise for energy efficiency and, hopefully, will do for water conservation and the health sector.
UNDP has identified 17 goals /areas to be managed for sustainable development. These are: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and reduced inequality, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and partnership for the goals. In working towards these goals, the consensus of all participants in society is required to define objectives and implement them: private and public sector companies, associations, NGOs, unions, and citizens.
The principal objective of sustainable development is to define viable schemes combining the economic, social, and environmental aspects of human activity. These three areas must therefore be taken into consideration by communities, companies, and individuals in India and South Asia. The ultimate aim of sustainable development is to find a coherent and long-lasting balance between these three aspects.
Finally, in defining viable schemes and this balance, new technologies in marine resources, space, energy efficiency, material science and other evolving areas will facilitate their enhancement, to a great extent.
(The writer is a commentator on contemporary issues. He can be contacted at email@example.com)