[PDF Notes] Get complete information on concepts of sustainable development

Sustainability is a term which, when loosely defined, means that a resource is used in such a way that it continues to be available. Some define it as ensuring that future generations have access to every resource that is available to the present generation. Sustainable development is one that is economically viable, does not harm the environment and is socially just. These three factors, though seemingly widely disparate, have to be brought together, for sustainability.

Sustainability is useful because it involves various people from various backgrounds; the economist, the earth scientist, the community leader, etc. to chalk out common strategies to issues, people think are critical

In the case of India, despite decades of plunder and destruction of the wilds, natural habitats support some of the world’s rarest plants and animals. For this, credit must be given to the indigenous people of India, the tribals, and the villagers.

The highly evolved ‘live-and- let-live’ attitudes of the people who have respected the earth for generations have helped India retain its pristine glory. Studies have pointed out the fact that it is only with the help of wild species that our biosphere produces those three foundations, the best things in life, that are the throb of survival-air, water and food.

For this, man has been rewarded intensely from nature’s bounties. As pointed out by many earth scientists, our natural resources are the only safety net, the best quality of life index for millions of people who eat fish from the seas, rivers and lakes, graze cattle in the common lands and grow food on marginal farms using traditional methods. In reality, there is probably no other group that is more dependent on the immense natural capital of India.

The Roots of Conflict

Whereas the ‘earth people’ live harmoniously with nature, some vested interests egged on by urban people who have lost contact with nature, hurry to strip the priceless wilds bare for making a few bucks. Where fishing communities see breeding grounds for marine fishes, industrial giants see ports and prawn farms.

Where marginal farmers see soils to feed families, engineers see sites for hydroelectric projects. Such are the seeds that have fashioned the tangle of conflicts that await resolution.

Fortunately, now at least a group of people have teamed up with the ‘earth communities’ to prevent all natural wealth from being converted to commercial wealth. These people now caution the society that the situation with the biosphere is going beyond control and the planet is over-heating, sea levels rising and ozone hole widening.

Win-win Possibilities

It is our assumption that the earth has the capacity to produce endless resources and handle endless wastes. But such high-flying notions have been grounded as even a seemingly inexhaustible resource like fish from the sea has been depleted beyond redemption in certain regions. But we have possibilities to keep on going, albeit in a safe and less consumptive way.

Nowadays, we have more sophisticated technology and communication that we can always think of and have many win-win alternatives based on the magic word ‘efficiency’. The term ‘small is beautiful’ holds water in more than one sense of the term, as we have just entered another millennium.

Let us, for instance, have a look at the mega-projects like hydroelectric and power projects, which are being touted as the ‘temples of India’. These projects have the enormous capacity to destroy as even China has been learning to ‘its pain’ on the Three Gorges Project. Instead, the dam builders, the World Commission on Dams, the industrialists and all the other stake-holders in the mega-projects can sit down and hammer out a proposal, a consensus that satisfies every one.

This language of ‘dialogue’ can open up new vistas and every one can end up winning. The chances are that some projects may be carried out and others dropped. Moreover, without resorting to short-term but intensive prawn farming, the stress can be on less intensive long- term farming, an example was being polyculture of prawns along with rice cultivation. This, way the coastline can be kept pollution-free and there can be profits, though at lesser margins.

Moreover, we can use environment-friendly techniques for mining and restore those disturbed habitats back to their original form, once the job is done. The key is to properly evaluate our ecosystem and proceed accordingly. This may also involve a ‘paradigm shift’ in our approach towards projects. Instead of ‘modifying the ecosystem to fit a project’, we would need to ‘modify a project to fit the ecosystem’.

Better Alternatives

As the world uses up its non-renewable energy sources very fast and is hurtling towards an energy crisis, we have the huge untapped option-that of the unconventional energy sources. Sources such as biogas, solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, small hydropower projects, etc. are some of the new emerging technologies.

Significant amounts of money and manpower to assess the nation’s true energy potential are needed, so that cutting-edge technology can wean away investments from hazardous energy options towards these alternate and safer options.

With every passing day, the latter projects considered too expensive are being proved to be more attractive, when environmental and social costs are tabulated. If the same alternate options can be extended to other sectors, India can become a self-reliant world power without being crippled by debt or ecological rain.

Working Partnerships

Some very unlikely and tactical partnerships are emerging nowadays that could play a vital part in sustainable development. Environmentalists have teamed up with coastal community organizations to protect them and the seas, mangroves and estuaries from overexploitation by the mechanized trawling industry.

Administrators and activists who work for the uplift of the villagers can have a positive influence on the environment as shown by Tarun Bharat Sangh in the state of Rajasthan, where a perpetually dry river was transformed into a perennial river.

Perhaps the most exciting partnership of all might turn out to be the one between two antagonists-the hydroelectric power sector and the one seeking to protect biodiversity.

The point of interest lies in the afforestation of the catchment area, thus preventing silting, enhancing the lean-season flow and producing more hydroelectricity-all proving to be a boon for the hydroelectric sector. For the biodiversity sector, increased forest cover may increase and protect the biodiversity. Hence,’ as the adage stands, ‘good ecology is good long-term economics’.

Global warming

Global warming refers to a gradual rise in the surface temperature of the earth. It is a complex process involving weather and climate, greenhouse gases and the ‘enhanced’ greenhouse effect. This section examines these concepts and their inter-relationship:


Weather is the condition of air or atmosphere (the huge blanket of gas that circles the entire earth) at a particular place and time. When someone asks you what the weather is like, they are asking what the condition of the air around you is right now. Weather is measured in terms of wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness and precipitation. A snow flurry or rainstorm is weather. A clear sunny day is weather.

Climate and Climate Change

Climate is the ‘average weather’ in a location over a long period of time. For example, Vancouver has a wet and moderate climate. The area receives a high level of annual rainfall and temperatures are relatively moderate throughout the year. In contrast, the Canadian Arctic has a dry and cold climate.

The region receives very little annual rain or snowfall and experiences severe cold temperatures for most of the year. Climate change is a change in the climate or ‘average weather’ in a location over n long period of time.

Climate Systems

The earth is like a living organism. The climate (temperature, wind and rain), geography (mountains and plains), natural ecosystems (forests, marshes and deserts), and social systems (cities, factories and farms) are all tied together into one system. Changes in one will affect the other.

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