Sustainable Development: Principles and Values
The well recognized principle of sustainable development for the protection and improvement of environment has been unanimously accepted by the world countries as a strategy that caters to the needs of the present without depriving the future generations of their right to available natural resources. It has been rightly said that sustainable development is meant to secure a balance between developmental activities for the benefits of the people and environmental protection and therefore, “it is a guarantee to the present and bequeath to the future generations.” The principle of sustainable development seeks to harmonise the conflict between development which may be industrial, economic or social, and right to healthy environment. In other words, the balance between environmental protection and developmental activities could only be maintained by strictly adhering to the principle of sustainable development.
Environmental studies have shown that the environment related problems of developed countries are mainly due to industrial and technological development whereas undeveloped countries have environmental problems because of poverty, over-population and illiteracy. Undoubtedly, encouragement and boost to developmental activities is in the socio-economic interest of a nation but this should not be at the cost of environmental degradation, because this will not only affect the present generation but have its adverse impact on the future generations.
What is Sustainable Development
The principle of sustainable development has evolved on the basic assumption of co-existence of two apparently conflicting notions i.e. development and environment. But from the practical point of view, ecological, economic and social aspects of sustainability are inseparable. The principle of sustainable development emphasises on two basic needs, firstly, need for socio-economic development and secondly, need of limitation imposed on the environment’s capability to cope with the present and future requirements.
Basic objectives of Sustainable Development
The principle of sustainable development seeks to achieve the following three basic objectives:
(1) to maintain production of goods and services for development and efficiency
(2) conversation and management of neutral resources including preservation of bio-diversity and maintenance of biological integrity
(3) maintenance and enhancement of the quality of life adopting the principle of equitable distribution of wealth and material resources.
These objectives may respectively be called as economic, environmental and social objectives of the principle of sustainable development.
Salient Principles of Sustainable Development
(1) Inter-generational equity
(2) Use and conservation of natural resources
(3) Environmental protection
(4) The precautionary principle
(5) Principle of liability to help and co-operate
(6) Poverty eradication
(7) Principle of public trust.
(1) Inter-Generational Equity. – The principle of inter-generational equity pre-supposes the right of each generation of human beings to benefit from cultural and natural resources of the past generation as well as the ‘obligation’ to preserve such heritage for future generations. The principle emphasises on conservation of biodiversity resources and of the renewable sources like forests, water, soil etc.
2. Use and Conservation of Natural Resources – This principle requires that earth’s natural resources should be carefully used in such a way that they may be conserved and enhanced for the future generation. It must be borne in mind that natural resources are already depleting due to poverty, over- population, urbanisation, industrialisation etc. and there is likely to be acute shortage of these resources in future.
The principle of use and conservation of resources is founded on the theory that the present generation should be modest in their exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of the future generations. This will secure the conditions of survival for future generations.
3. Environmental Protection -Environmental protection is an integral part of sustainable development. Most of the nations have enacted environmental protection laws to ensure sustainable development within their territories. In order to reinforce sustainable development, an effective environmental protection mechanism is needed. It is generally seen that inadequate protection of environment or its degradation affects the poorest sections of the society most as they draw a large part of their livelihood from unmarked environmental resources such as forests, water from hand pumps, air polluted and noisy slum dwellings etc. The problem of environmental protection generally emanates from water resources, forests, agriculture, industry, energy and power etc., therefore, policy decisions in these sectors should be environmental oriented and well planned so as to ensure that there is no degradation in the natural environment.
4. Precautionary Principle -The precautionary principle seeks to ensure that a substance or human activity which may cause a threat to the environment is prevented from causing harm to environment, even if there is no conclusive scientific proof of linking that particular substance or human activity to environmental damage. Thus, precautionary principle pre-supposes that onus of proof is on the industrialist to show that his action is benign, that is not harmful to environment.
The precautionary principle in the context of environmental protection is essentially about the management of scientific risk. It is a component of the concept of ecologically sustainable development and has been defined in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration, 1992.” According to this principle, “where there is threat of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.” In other words, any human activity or behaviour which bears the harmful effect to the environment, has got to prevented at all costs.
5. Principle of Liability to help and Co-operate -This principle has been specifically incorporated in Principle 9 which provides that the States should co-operate to strengthen indigenous capacity building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies including new and innovative technologies.
6. Poverty Eradication –Poverty is perhaps the worst contributing factor for polluting the environment and causing its degradation. Smt. Indira Gandhi, the Late Former Prime Minister of India, addressing the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment in 1972 said, “of all pollutants we face, the worst is poverty”. Most of the developing countries are facing the problem of poverty which is adversely affecting the environmental quality.
India being a developing country, its more than 30 per cent people are living below the poverty line. The pitiable condition ‘of slum-dwellers, scarcity of food, fuel, kerosene oil etc. are serious threats for environment. Due to lack of residential, houses crores of poor men, women and children are compelled to live in slums and even on road-side temporary hutment in most unsanitary conditions without sufficient food and water. Thus, they have to live in unwholesome environmental conditions. Therefore, India needs cooperation and assistance from the developed countries to help and support the poverty alleviation programme and maintenance of wholesome environmental conditions.
Protection of Forests
It must be stated that awareness about the protection of forests is also closely connected with the principle of public trust applicable for the preservation of natural resources. The State being a trustee of forest-resource, it is the moral and legal obligation of the Government to protect forests from being destroyed by indiscriminate felling of trees. If forests are well preserved, it will reduce soil erosion and increase fertility of land and also cause sufficient rainfall which is necessary for cultivation and domestic purposes in the form of water. Unfortunately, destruction of forest still continues and nearly 1,70,000 sq. k.m. forest land has been converted into plain for construction of industries, complexes and other commercial purposes. Besides, seven lakh hectare land has turned into desert and gallons of polluted water is being flowed in rivers, lakes and seas causing irreparable damage to environment and ecosystem.
In view of this destruction of forests, the Government is failing in its duties as trustee of this valuable natural resource and causing damage to its beneficiaries i.e., the peop1e could not exploit it for their own use, what to talk of leaving it for use by future generations. Even now, it is not too late and there is need on the part of the State to protect and preserve the valuable natural resources as a trustee and people to cooperate with the administration to protect environment from being degraded.
It is true that in order to improve and protect the environment from pollution sustainability must be there between environment and development. The concept of sustainable development based on the notion that natural resources should be exploited for the benefit of both present and future generation. As we know that increased industrial activity worldwide requires the use of natural resources which are depleting day by day. It is also true that the need for resource conservation, efficient use of resources and environment friendly corporate policies and behaviour has now been recognised worldwide. The country needs an Environmental policy and planning, while being globally sensitive must be based on local needs. Finally, if sustainable development has to move from mere wishful thinking and slogan-mongering into a reality, the world as a whole has to move towards a new world order in which new economic and technological orders are dovetailed. Such an order has to be aimed at benefiting the poor because in the chain of sustainable development, the weakest links are poverty and inequality. Last but not least, if the principles of sustainable development are followed then definitely with the economic growth and industrial development of a country environment protection can be maintained.