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Paper 2: Economic and Social Issues

Topic: Sustainable Development and Environment Issues

After the Second World War there was an unprecedented surge in the economic and
industrial activities, as the comparative peaceful world order and independence of new
countries, resulted in massive investment to spur growth and output. The environment
aspect was not a factor in the minds of policy maker of that era. In 1972, an research
paper named Limits to growth was published by MIT, in which the authors argued the
constraint of the limited capacity of the planet to support the economic activity, and after
considering many parameters, they concluded that, present economic activities were
untenable. The report was dismissed as neo-Malthusian but people began to realize
that environment is also a key factor in realizing environment growth.
In 1980s, with increased focus on environment dimensions, United Nations formed
World Committee on Environment and Development (WCED) to look after the impact of
development on the environment. Brundtland commission, in its report Our common
future, provided the iconic defnition of sustainable development. It
defned Development to satisfy the needs of present generation without compromising
the ability of future generation to fulfll their needs .
The combined eforts of various stakeholders culminated in Rio declaration 1992,
where the Agenda 21 was established to ensure the focus of policy makers on ensuring
environment conservation vis--vis economic growth and development. UN framework
convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) was a binding agreement on all the
consenting parties in this regards.
India's Perspective
India has always been a vocal supporter of the cause of the environment. Having a
large coastal line, an monsoon dependent economy, the conservation of environment is
also in the national interest of our country. Although, it does not believe in following the
diktat of western countries for environment conservation. The philosophy of India is
common but diferentiated responsibilities, and we believe in the voluntary control on
our environment foot print rather than coercing binding treaty.
The 12th Five year plan's aim is to have faster, more inclusive and sustainable growth,
which shows the emphasis laid on sustainable development front. Prime minister has
also launched 8 missions under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in
this direction.
Dimensions of Sustainable Development
It would be too myopic to concentrate on the environmental dimension, because,
sustainable development also talks about fulflling the needs of people. The needs
should be construed in holistic manner, and the needs of poor and unprivileged sections
of society should also be taken care of.
Thus sustainable development covers following dimensions:
a) Economic : Growth in the economy and GDP
b) Social : Equitable distribution of the economic growth
c) Environment: The carrying capacity of environment should not be depleted.
To realize the aims of sustainable development, we have to utilize Natural, social as well
as economic capital. The concept of Sustainable development is based on the belief
that, the aims of economic growth and environment conservation are not conficting and
in the long rum they have to be in harmony with each other. It's not about good
environmentalism is bad economics
How to go about Sustainable Development
To realize the goal sustainable development, following structural changes would be
a) Integration of economics and environment: One of the major hindrances in
environment conservation is that, there is no economic metric to capture the impact of
an activity on the environmental health. Most of the growth numbers solely consider the
economic activites only. We need a better indicator of GDPs efect on environment.
Green GDP or Green Accounting is a welcome step in this direction.
b) Conservation of Environment and Natural Resources: With more than half of the
world population directly dependent on natural resources, there conservation is of
utmost signifcance.
c) Community Involvement: Community involvement is the crucial cog in the wheel of
environmental management. In the past, movements like chipko andolan are a
testimony to the impact of community awareness towards management of the
environment. More training and awareness should be provided to communities, which
are living directly in contact with the natural environment, so that they can conserve the
environment in an efective manner.
The way forward
It's clear as of now, that developmental activities cant be stopped to preserve the
environment so we need to devise better strategies for sustainable development :
a) Proper Planning: Proper planning for development is crucial to minimize the impact
on environment. Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is a highly useful step in this
direction. A proper EIA mitigates the risk of any environmental spill-over
b) Efcient Monitoring: The task of development doesn't end with planning only. There
should be constant monitoring by the authorities and community to ensure that the plan
is being followed in the letter and spirit.
c) Robust Standards: government should also come up with robust standards to check
environment degradation and principle like Polluter-pays.