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 Defining Sustainable Development

 Illustrating Sustainable Development
 Concepts of Sustainable Development
 Agenda 21
 Sustainable Development and Everyone
 Sustainable Development – The Indian Scenario


In simple terms, sustainable development is the state of development

where human race develops without disturbing the state of environment. It is
actually an environment friendly development that takes equal care on the
development and the environment. However there are lots of academic
definitions, which the student has to use for technical explanations. The first one
is the most preferred.

 Sustainable development is said to ‘meet the needs of the present without

compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs.’(United Nations World Commission on Environment and
Development, Brundtland Report, 1987).

 Goodland and Ledec define sustainable development as, ‘a pattern of

social and structural economic transformation (i.e. development) which
optimises the economic and other societal benefits available in the present
without jeopardising the likely potential for similar benefits in the future.’
 Barbier and Markandya (1990) emphasise the processes rather than the
aims: ‘in general, the wider objective of sustainable development is to find
the optimal level of interaction among three systems – the biological and
resource system, the economic system and the social system, through a
dynamic and adaptive process of trade-offs.’

The concept of sustainable development is a process of consensus-based

decision making in which the impact of economic activities (the economy) the
environment (ecosystems), and the health (well-being) of society are integrated
and balanced, without compromising the ability of present and future generations
to meet their needs, so that all three - the economy, the environment, and the
health of society - can be sustained into the future.

It would be apt to present a historical overview of sustainable development

because this is an internationally bound concept on which the whole world is
interested. With raising concerns on environment and its problems way back in
1972, the UN organized a convention titled “United Nations Conference on
Human Environment” at Stockholm where representatives of more than 90
countries met together and agreed to take care of environmental issues. They
also decided to meet once in 10 years. However they could not meet in 1982
owing to various political reasons. In 1987, UN formed a commission United
Nations World Commission on Environment and Development under the
chairmanship of Mr.Brundtland. Thanks to the serious efforts of the committee,
representatives from more than 125 countries met for the 2nd ten year conference
at Rio de Janiero in June 1992.

The conference was called “United Nations Conference on Environment

and Development” and addressed serious issues of environment, economics and
social well being. It was on this conference the principle of sustainable
development was proposed. All the nations were asked to go for sustainable
development rather than economic development. The conference brought about
lot of details about sustainable development in Agenda 21, the blue print
document relating to sustainable development. In 2002, the convention took
place at Johannesburg and was called World Summit for Sustainable
Development. In this convention also, all countries were requested to register
mechanisms of sustainable development and review existing mechanisms.


In a nutshell, Sustainable development is where economy, environment
and society go together. However there have been a few pictorial
descriptions/illustrations that are aimed to make its definition more clear. Even a
few examiners would expect you to come out with such illustrations and you
have to understand that a picture would speak 1000 words. The three most
common and catchy illustrations of sustainable development are listed in the
following page.




The concepts of sustainable development can be listed as below

• Use renewable resources at a rate that can be maintained over time.

• Gradually reduce reliance on and limit the release of toxic substances that
do not readily break down in nature
• Use all resources as efficiently and fairly as possible so that present and
future generations can meet their needs.
• Reflect the inter dependence of social, economic and environmental
• Preserve the integrity of ecological process and biological diversity.
• Use land, air and water in ways that meet people’s diverse needs and
preserve land’s ability to meet future needs.
• Reduce the amount of materials and energy used to produce goods and
• Promote the use of recyclable / reusable products and services.

The concept of sustainable development was introduced in the 1992 Earth
Summit held at Rio. In the conference, a legal document/blue print for
sustainable development called Agenda 21 was put forth.

The table of contents of Agenda 21 describes the nature of issues and topics
related to sustainable development. You need not memorize them. It is just to
provide you the spectrum of activities that is represented by sustainable

Chapter 1 Preamble
Section I. Social and Economic Dimensions
Chapter 2 International Cooperation for Sustainable Development
Chapter 3 Combating Poverty
Chapter 4 Changing Consumption Patterns
Chapter 5 Demographic Dynamics & Sustainability
Chapter 6 Human Health
Chapter 7 Human Settlements
Chapter 8 Decision Making
Section II. Conservation and Management of Resources for Development
Chapter 9 Protection of the Atmosphere
Chapter 10 Land Resources
Chapter 11 Deforestation
Chapter 12 Desertification & Drought
Chapter 13 Sustainable Mountain Development
Chapter 14 Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development
Chapter 15 Conservation of Biodiversity
Chapter 16 Biotechnology
Chapter 17 Protection of the Oceans
Chapter 18 Freshwater Resources
Chapter 19 Toxic Chemicals - Management
Chapter 20 Hazardous Wastes - Management
Chapter 21 Solid Wastes - Management
Chapter 22 Radioactive Wastes - Management
Section III. Strengthening the Role of Major Groups
Chapter 23 Preamble Major Groups
Chapter 24 Women
Chapter 25 Children & Youth
Chapter 26 Indigenous People
Chapter 27 Non-Governmental Organizations
Chapter 28 Local Authorities
Chapter 29 Trade Unions
Chapter 30 Business & Industry
Chapter 31 Scientific & Technological Community
Chapter 32 Role of Farmers
Section IV. Means of Implementation
Chapter 33 Financial Resources
Chapter 34 Technology Transfer
Chapter 35 Science for Sustainable Development
Chapter 36 Education, Public Awareness & Training
Chapter 37 Capacity Building in Developing Countries
Chapter 38 International Institutions
Chapter 39 International Legal Instruments
Chapter 40 Information for Decision-making


You should have understood that every country is headed towards
sustainable development. Sustainable development can be achieved only by the
active participation of all sorts of people in a country. From the Government to
the people, everyone has a role to play in order to achieve sustainable
development. They are listed below

 Provide a broad range of opportunities for learning about sustainable
development concepts and practices.
 Reform regulations and develop incentives to encourage practices that
have net environmental, economic and community benefits over the long
 Provide incentives for business interested in developing and adopting
sustainable practices and technologies.
 Examine the role of taxes and subsidies in encouraging sustainable
 Establish new institutions / organizations outside of Government to aid in
facilitating sustainable development.
 Government should set an example of sustainability in own operations and

 Promote environmentally sound business
 Look for opportunities to turn waste streams into profit streams.
 Support the development of renewable energy resources.
 Educate others about the necessity and essentials of sustainable
 Join in NGOs / Institutions involved in the activity and contribute your skills
towards the development of nation.


 Cooperation and coordination of international and regional organizations.
 Governments and non-governmental organizations should develop
programmes for children collaborating with UNICEF.


India presented its perspective on sustainable development before the World
Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 as detailed study
“Empowering People for Sustainable Development” (EPSD). It was brought out
by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The Indian Government did not feel the need for a separate specific strategy for
sustainable development. The Five Year Plans provide medium-term strategies
for overall development. However, after the WSSD, the Indian government
initiated a process of preparing and implementing a national strategy for
sustainable development by 2005.
EPSD introduces the essential framework for sustainable development in India:
democratic continuity, devolution of power, independent judiciary, and civilian
control of the armed forces, independent media, transparency and people's
participation. It follows multidimensional, sectoral and cross-sectoral approaches.
The EPSD has four main objectives

 Combating poverty
 Empowering people
 Using core competence in science and technology
 Setting environmental standards

The Indian Government has set the following targets for sustainable development
in the 10th Five year plan.

 Reduction of poverty ratio by 5 percentage points by 2007 and by 15

percentage points by 2012
 All children in school by 2003; all children to complete 5 Years in school by
 Reduction in gender gaps in literacy and wage rates by at least 50 % by
 Reduction in population growth between 2001 and 2011 to 16.2 %
 Increase in literacy rate to 75 % by 2007
 Reduction of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) to 45 per 1000 live births by 2007
and to 28 by 2012
 Reduction of Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) to 2 per 1000 live births by
2007 and to 1 by 2012
 Increase in forest cover to 25 % by 2007 and 33 % by 2012
 All villages to have sustained access to potable drinking water by 2007
 Cleaning of major polluted rivers by 2007 and other notified stretches by

Let us hope that the targets are achieved and sustainable development is
attained in our country.