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What is Sustainable Development?


The concept of sustainable development was emphasised by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which defined it as: ‘Development that meets the need of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their own needs.

The definition's usage of the term 'needs' refers to resource distribution. The seminal report—Our Common Future — that gave the above definition explained sustainable development as ‘meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.

The Brundtland Commission emphasises the need of preserving future generations. This is consistent with the reasoning of environmentalists, who argue that we have a moral duty to leave the Earth in good condition for future generations; that is consistent with the saying that we didn't inherit the earth from our forefathers but have rather borrowed it from the future generations, so we owe them this, and must hand it over in the healthy state. The current generation should leave a better environment for future generations. At the very least, we should leave the future generation a stock of 'quality of life' assets equal to or greater than what we have received.

The current generation can promote development that improves the natural and built environment in ways that are compatible with

  • conservation of natural assets,

  • preservation of the world's natural ecological system's regenerative capacity, and

  • avoiding the imposition of additional costs or risks on future generations.

According to Herman Daly, a famous environmental economist, the following steps must be taken to achieve sustainable development:

  • reducing human population to a level that is within the carrying capacity of the environment.

  • technological progress should be input efficient rather than input consuming;

  • renewable resources should be extracted in a sustainable manner, that is, the rate of extraction should not exceed the rate of regeneration; and non-renewable resources should be extracted in a sustainable manner. The pace of depletion should not exceed the rate of generation of renewable replacements, and

  • pollution-related inefficiencies should be rectified.

India and SDG

In September 2015, 193 countries including India committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as detailed in the UN resolution, “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The SDGs comprehensively cover social, economic and environmental dimensions and build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which covered the earlier fifteen-year period from 2000 to 2015.India has been making strides towards achieving the social, economic and environmental goals covered under SDGs.

India’s federal structure implies that states must take charge to enable progress on achieving the country’s SDGs. The NITI Aayog SDG India Index is the world’s first government-led sub-national measure of SDG progress. It has been developed to capture the progress of all states and union territories (UTs) in their journey towards achieving the SDGs. This index recognizes that action is required at all levels, and it is therefore based on the approach of cooperative and competitive federalism.

International Efforts

  • LIFE (Lifestyle for the Environment) At the COP 26 in Glasgow in November 2021, the Hon'ble Prime Minister suggested a One-Word Movement in the context of climate: LIFE - Lifestyle for Environment. This movement encourages people to come together with collective participation to advance lifestyle for the environment as a campaign and as a mass movement for environmentally conscious living in a way that revolutionises many sectors and diverse areas such as fishing, agriculture, wellness, dietary choices, packaging, housing, hospitality, tourism, clothing, fashion, water management, and energy.

  • International Solar Alliance: At the World Leaders' Summit in Glasgow in November 2021, the Hon'ble Prime Minister introduced the joint Green Grids Initiative- One Sun One World One Grid (GGI – OSOWOG). It proposes to develop a globally interconnected green grid on top of current regional grid infrastructure, allowing solar energy production in high-potential locations and transit to demand centres. A combined GGI-OSOWOG Secretariat will be created within the ISA Secretariat to generate political support for the project and provide technical assistance.

  • India submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement on a “best effort basis” keeping its developmental imperatives in mind. India committed to (i) reduce the emission intensity of GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 as compared to 2005 level; (ii) create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030; and (iii) achieve about 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel energy resources by 2030.

Strategies for Sustainable Development

  • Use of Non-conventional Energy Sources: India is heavily reliant on thermal and hydropower facilities to supply its electricity demands. Both of them have negative environmental consequences. Thermal power facilities release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. It also creates fly ash, which, if not handled appropriately, may pollute water bodies, land, and other environmental components. Hydroelectric projects inundate forests and disrupt natural water flow can catchment regions and river basins. Wind energy and sun rays are two examples of traditional yet cleaner and greener energy sources that have yet to be exploited on a major scale owing to a lack of technical gadgets.

  • LPG, Gobar Gas in Rural Areas: Households in rural areas generally use wood, dung cake or other biomass as fuel . This approach has a number of negative consequences, including deforestation, reduced green cover, waste of livestock dung, and air pollution. Subsidized LPG is being offered to fix the problem. Furthermore, gobar gas plants are being given with low-interest loans and subsidies. In terms of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), it is a clean fuel that significantly minimises home pollution. In addition, energy waste is reduced. Cattle dung is fed into the gobar gas plant to create gas, which is utilised as fuel, while the slurry left behind provides an excellent organic fertiliser and biofertilizer.

  • CNG in Urban Areas and use of Electric Vehicles: The usage of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fuel in Delhi's public transportation system has greatly reduced air pollution and made improvements in recent years. FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. Main thrust of FAME is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies.

  • Wind Power: In locations where the wind speed is often strong, wind mills may supply power while having no negative environmental effect. Wind turbines create power as they move with the wind. Without a question, the initial investment is significant. However, the advantages are so compelling that the high expense is readily justified.

  • Photovoltaic Cells for Solar Power: India is naturally endowed with a considerable solar energy in the form of sunshine. Now, with the help of photovoltaic cells, solar energy can be converted into electricity. These cells absorb solar energy and convert it into electricity using special materials. This technology is extremely useful for remote areas and for places where supply of power through grid or power lines is either not possible or proves very costly. This approach is also completely pollution-free.

  • Mini-hydel Plants: In mountainous regions, streams can be found almost everywhere. A considerable proportion of these streams are perennial. The energy from such streams is used to power small turbines in mini-hydel plants. The turbines provide power that is utilised locally. Such power plants are more or less ecologically sound since they do not alter the land use pattern in the regions where they are situated and provide enough electricity to fulfil local needs. This implies they may eliminate the need for large-scale transmission towers and cables, as well as transmission loss.

  • Traditional Knowledge and Practices: Indians have traditionally been attached to their surroundings. They have been more of a components of the environment than a controller of it. Traditionally our agricultural system, healthcare system, housing, transportation, and so on, have been environmentally friendly. Today we have strayed from conventional practises, causing widespread harm to the ecosystem as well as our local heritage. It is now time to return. One such example is healthcare. India is very fortunate to have over 15,000 plant species with therapeutic potential. Approximately 8,000 of these are in daily use in different therapeutic systems, including folk tradition. With the sudden onslaught of the western system of treatment, we were ignoring our traditional systems such as Ayurveda, Unani, Tibetan and folk systems. These healthcare systems are once again in high demand for addressing chronic health issues. Nowadays, every cosmetic product — hair oil, toothpaste, body lotion, face cream, and so on — is made from herbs. These goods are not only environmentally beneficial, but they are also generally devoid of negative effects and do not need large-scale industrial and chemical processing.

  • Biocomposting: In our quest to increase agricultural productivity over the past five decades or thereabouts, we have virtually entirely ignored the use of compost and have instead relied entirely on artificial chemical fertilisers. As a consequence, enormous expanses of productive land have been degraded beyond recovery, water bodies, especially ground water systems have depleted. The need for irrigation has risen year after year Further jeopardising the situation.Farmers, in large numbers all over the country, have switched to compost made from organic wastes of different types. Earthworms can transform organic waste into compost (vermicompostng) at a rate that is quicker than the standard composting process. This method is currently frequently utilised. Indirectly, the civic authorities are benefited too as they have to dispose reduced quantity of waste.

  • Bio-pesticide: Chemical pesticides are extremely harmful for health and environment.To overcome this difficulty, attempts are being made to provide more effective pest control measures. One such approach is the use of plant-based insecticides. Neem plants are proven to be quite beneficial. Several pest-controlling compounds have been identified from neem and are now in use. Farmers have also benefited from mixed cropping and planting various crops on the same ground in subsequent years.


Sustainability enhances the quality of our lives by protecting our ecosystem and conserving natural resources for future generations. In the business world, sustainability is connected with a company's holistic approach, which considers everything from manufacturing to logistics to customer service. Going green and sustainable is not just good for the firm; it also enhances the long-term benefits of an environmental focus. We all have a moral commitment to each other, future generations, and other species to sustain the world, regardless of who we are, where we live, or what we do. Our current decisions and behaviours have far-reaching long-term consequences for future generations. Sustainability guarantees that we make ethical decisions that provide a secure and livable future for everybody. If we exhaust the Earth's resources, future generations will suffer.There is a relevant old saying that we must keep in mind. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.


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