Development is a continuous process. Man needs development in various sectors for the fulfilment of his requirements. Man has also been making headway in such sectors for years. However, such development activities have given rise to negative consequences. Development is necessary but not at the cost of other sectors like the environment and natural resources.
With this in view, the concept of sustainable development has emerged. The basic thrust of the concept is to carry on development activities without disrupting nature and the environment. Nature and the environment indubitably provide natural resources and ecological benefits for mankind for survival. It is indispensable for the system of nature and the environment to be stable all the time. So the stability and integrity of such a system should be perpetuated, failing which there will be a disruption of the system.
The concept of sustainable development is based on the Brundtland Report, which was brought out by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. The report contains guiding principles of sustainable development. The report points out that global environmental problems are the upshot of poverty in the South and non-sustainable patterns of production and consumption in the North. It sees the solution to these global issues in sustainable development couched in a framework of development and the environment.
In 1989, the UN General Assembly discussed the report and decided to hold a conference on Environment and Development. Humans have countless needs. Such needs are growing because the world population is increasing day by day.
To meet such needs, man has exploited natural and other resources. The concept of sustainable development dictates that man should not overexploit natural and other resources to meet his/her present needs without caring for the needs of the future generation. What we have today should be handed over to our posterity. There should be intergenerational equity. When there is such equity, the needs of both present and future generations can be met without compromising the future generation.
The concept of sustainable development focuses on three factors: economic development, social development and ecological conservation. These factors are interlinked and should always be in equilibrium. This means economic development should not be pursued by ruining social values and the environment. Therefore, there should be economic sustainability, social sustainability and ecological sustainability. Economic sustainability focuses on a proper mechanism of production, distribution and consumption.
Social sustainability is concerned with proper health systems, peace, respect for human rights, decent work systems, elimination of gender bias, quality education, proper sanitation systems, the rule of law and the like. Likewise, ecological sustainability deals with proper physical planning, land use patterns, conservation of the environment, including biodiversity and so on.
In fact, sustainable development is the concern of all the countries in the world. The United Nations, in 2015, came up with the framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The framework has 17 interlinked goals, including zero hunger, health, education and sanitation. The goals are to be achieved by 2030. It may be noted that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) put forward by the UN in 2000 could not be fulfilled in their entirety. As a continuation of these goals, the SDGs were put forward after the expiry of the deadline of the MDGs.
The UN has taken proactive measures for the SDGs to be met by the set deadline. Specific targets for each goal have been set and indicators have been developed to measure progress against the targets. There are many challenges besetting humankind. Prominent among them are climate change, depletion of the ozone layer, water scarcity and loss of vegetation owing to deforestation and other factors. Other challenges are hunger, deprivation, poverty, lack of adequate health facilities, lack of sanitation facilities, inequality and insecurity.
It is hoped that the fulfilment of the SDGs will address most of these issues. Development planners and policymakers should keep in mind the concept of sustainable development while formulating development plans and development projects should be executed accordingly. They should be ready to adopt new development paradigms. Under these development paradigms, there should be a balance between economic sustainability, social sustainability and ecological sustainability.
A case in point is the proposed Nijgadh airport construction project. While proposing the construction of the Nijgadh airport, hundreds of thousands of trees were proposed to be cut down. After destroying the forest cover on such a large scale, would it be possible to replenish the lost cover? Do we need such development at the cost of the environment? So before embarking upon such a mega-project, it is imperative to thoroughly assess the impact of a development project on the environment. However, the Nijgadh airport project is in limbo because of controversy.
Protecting the environment is a must in today’s world. In this connection, the role of people is all the more important. They should be conscious of the fact that their survival depends on how they behave towards the environment.
Their behaviour towards the environment regarding their production, distribution and consumption patterns, the environment and the preservation of social values plays a catalytic role not only in their survival but also in the survival of their posterity. Moreover, local people have a good knowledge of the environment and biodiversity in their vicinity. So while formulating development plans or projects, it would be prudent to seek their views. After all, popular participation in development activities is desirable, which can contribute to sustainable development.
(Former banker, Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000. firstname.lastname@example.org)