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Sustainable Development

Article by:
S.Suyampirakasam, Madurai

01.Economic growth has been considered as one of the parameters for measuring the
performance of a Nation. A Nation endeavors to achieve the growth by harnessing all
resources available in their possession. In the process, all resources are getting depleted
without replenishment, making it impossible for the future generations to have the
required economic growth for them. Though there is economic progress there, which is
essential for the nation, the development thus achieved cannot be sustained, as the
resources are getting depleted .A lot steam has been generated on this subject and a global
level discussions are going on and a lot of strategies have been formulated how to make
the economic development a sustainable one.

02.Economic Growth and depletion of resources.

A Nation puts its resources for development to achieve its economic growth in terms of
GDP.Such a growth is achieved through technological advancement in areas such as
agriculture, power, infrstructure facilities such as Road, Sea and Air transport,
manufacturing of Textile, leather products, urbanization of forests etc.

The efforts of the government did result in economic growth in terms of agriculture and
Industrial outputs, besides improving the per Capita income of the people. While the
development of nation deserves a lot appreciation, it is a matter of concern that the
technological advancement results in the form of environmental degradation such as
pollution of water and Air, deforestation and the resultant scanty rain fall, pesticides
causing innumerable heath hazards to people, emmision of gases causing global warming
and so much so on.

03.Envirnmental Degradation

It refers to the diminishment of local eco system or the biosphere as a whole due to
human activity. It occurs when nature’s resources such as trees, habitat, earth, water and
air are being consumed faster than nature can replenish them and in such circumstances,
unsustainable situation occurs. Alternatively, it is a state of level at which human activity
is to be kept at minimum level so that nature’s resources can be replenished naturally.
This concept is called as sustainable Development. The following are some of the
environmental degradation, we often encounter in India.

i) Cities like Tirupur, Coimbatore and Erode in Tamilnadu, which registered a

good growth in Industrial output suffered on account of acute pollution of
land, air and water by the discharge of untreated effluents in to the waste lands
and river beds, that comes from dyeing factories and tanneries.
ii) Green House gas emissions resulting in increase of global mean temperature
and consequent global warming
iii) Depletion of ozone in stratosphere resulting in allowing infrared rays to pass
through to affect the mankind.
iv) Recent evidence indicates that current atmospheric cabon –di- oxside
concentrations are high compared with the levels over the last million years.
This has caused global warming resulting in raising sea levels by about 2 Cm
per decade and the rate is expected to rise with increasing atmospheric
concentration of Carbon di oxside.
v) Agriculture models suggest that climatic warming will tend to reduce
agriculture productivity in tropical countries.
vi) There are indications that of changing oceanic circulation patterns, notably in
the North Atlantic Gulf Stream, which could lead to disruptive climate change

04.Causes and Effects of Environmental Degradation

It has been found by United Nations that intensified and unsustainable demand for land,
water marine, and coastal resources resulting from the expansion of agriculture and
uncontrolled urbanization lead to increased degradation of natural ecosystems and erode
life supporting systems that uphold human civilization. Caring for natural resources and
promoting their sustainable use is an essential response of world community to ensure its
own survival and well-being.

05.Concept of Sustainable development.

From the discussions as above, we shall proceed to explain what exactly the term
“Sustainable Development” means. It is a process of developing land, cities, business and
communities to meet out the needs of the people or nation, without compromising on the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Alternatively, it means a process that should overcome environmental degradation, but at

the same time not to forego the needs of economic development. In short, it should be a
sustainable development.

In the year 1987,United Nations have given a serious thought to the development of
nations accompanied be environmental degradation in their repot called “Brundtland

In the recently held World Summit of 2005,UN refers to Economic and Social
developments coupled with Environment protection as three pillars of sustainable
Development. The meet suggests that a suitable sustainable Development strategy be
developed with an objective to enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their
basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life, without compromising on the quality of life
of future generations.

Sustainable development, in terms of nature’s ability to replenish, can be classified as

S.No Consumption of renewable sources State of Sustainability

01. More than nature’s ability to Environmental Not Sustainable
replenish degradation
02. Equal to Nature’s ability to replenish Environmental Sustainable
degradation growth
03. Less than Nature’s ability to replenish Environmental Sustainable
renewal growth

A few countries have introduced the principle of sustainable development in to their laws.
By and large, all countries realized the importance of Sustainable development, which is
devoid of environmental degradation and initiated appropriate strategies to enable their
people to lead a healthy life, without destroying the environment and without
endangering the future welfare of people and the planet.

It has been observed that there is considerable progress in reducing air pollution and
ozone depletion because governments, businesses and government organizations have
taken these changes seriously.

We do have still problems where we need to address more: we need reliable and clean
energy for industrial and economic development and the problem of climate change can
be addressed by enforcing effective pollution control measures for vehicles. In fact, the
world is gradually shifting to cleaner forms of energy but traditional biomass is widely
used in the household sector of some developing countries.

The phase out of leaded petrol is a global success story. However, air pollution and
sulphur- di -oxside emissions remain high in many developing countries. Similarly, the
transport sector has seen substantial growth in green house emissions from international
aviation. in developed countries.

06.Strategies for Sustainable Development.

Brundtland Report defined Sustainable Development as” development that meets the
needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs”. That is the strategy demands a long-term perspective about the consequences
of today’s activities. It goes beyond economic aspects to include environmental and
social concerns in formulating all types of policies. At the same time, global cooperation
also is required to achieve sustainable economic, environmental and social conditions
But putting this concept in to practice is not so simple as perceived. It needs a
methodological approach to align the economic, environmental and social pillars of
sustainable development in decision-making. This is also followed by their efforts in
forecasting the future costs and the benefits arising there from on account of actions taken
07.Role of subsidies in developing countries.

Social policy of a nation include, among others, subsidy, a powerful government support,
extended to a section of people. This often causes environmental and social distortions
with unintended consequences. While fuel tax rebates can encourage overuse of fossil
fuels and emissions, agriculture subsidies can lead to overuse of pesticides and fertilizers.
During 1998- 99,the OECD looked at the costs and benefits of subsidies.

Thus, for example, adjusting subsidies for water can help to reduce water use; but
removing subsidies for waste water collection and treatment may mean more harm to the

A workshop in 2005 discussed integrated assessments examining the economic,

environmental and social costs and benefits of subsidy reform at both national and
international levels. The ecological impacts of subsidies in terms of over use of resources
and higher emissions easily spill over to the global sphere. Socially, these supports can
redistribute income across the regions and countries, with adverse effects on overall
living standards and livelihoods.

Countries tend to have different concepts and measures of sustainable development

because of their different attributes, industrial structure, political and social environment
and other variables. A country with marine wealth is likely to see a sustainable level on
fish stocks and marine pollution levels as vital for sustainable development. However, a
land locked country neighbor will be far more interested in the level of nutrients in the
soil or perhaps air pollution.

Thus, it is imperative that a sustainable development can be achieved in a country;

taking in to account the economic resources available there and how best these resources
can be utilized for the people without environmental degradation. A general awareness is
to be created in the minds of the people by making known to them the hazardous effects
of pollution, caused on account of depletion of resources that cannot be replenished by

Many people have criticized that the term “Sustainable Development” is an oxymoron.
They claimed that economic growth and continued depletion of resources cannot be
sustainable, since the term implies resources remain constant. For example, resources
such as petroleum are consumed much faster than they are created by natural process and
are continually being depleted. It means that there is a trade off between economic
growth and depletion of resources. However, technologies such as renewable energy,
recycling and the provision of services can, if carried out appropriately, provide for
growth in the economic sense either without the use of limited resources or by using a
relatively small amount of resources with a small impact. Even here, the small use of
resources may be unsustainable, if continued indefinitely.

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