Sustainability can be defined as the practice of maintaining processes of productivity, either natural or human- made, by replacing resources used with resources of equal or greater value without degrading or endangering natural biotic systems. Sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social, political, and economic challenges faced by humanity. “Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action; try to use ordinary situations”—Jean Paul Richter has rightly said. Countries across the world have agreed on an ambitious agenda to transform our world by 2030, adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to ensure no one is left behind, and everyone benefits from development efforts. A set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be implemented and achieved in every country from the year 2016 to 2030.
India is one of the mega bio-diverse countries of the world. India was one of the first few countries to enact a comprehensive Biological Diversity Act in 2002 to give effect to the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992. Yet India and the world have miles to go before we can claim notable success in fulfilling the objectives of the Convention like conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use and sharing the benefits. “We talk about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which for me is excellent! As individuals working in international development, have we taken the time to think and talk about our Personal Development Goals (PDGs)? Do we demonstrate on a daily basis how our day-to-day activities contribute to the achievement of the SDGs? Be the change you want to see in the global space? Let us build our personal capacities for global action!”, world-famous grants management specialist, Benjamin Kofi Quansah has observed.
Natural ecosystems are under stress and decline across most of the country. We cannot just consume our way to a more sustainable world”. 10% of the country’s wildlife is threatened with extinction. Agricultural biodiversity has declined by over 90% in many regions. Over half the available water bodies are polluted beyond drinking level and often beyond even agricultural purpose, two-thirds of the land is degraded to various levels of sub-optimal productivity, air pollution in several cities is amongst the world’s worst. ‘Modern’ wastes including electronic and chemical are being produced at rates far exceeding our capacity to recycle or manage. A 2008 report by the Global Footprint Network and Confederation of Indian Industries suggests that India has the world’s third biggest ecological footprint, that its resource use is already twice of its bio-capacity, and that this bio-capacity itself has declined by half in the last few decades. Being green is more than just buying ‘eco’. It is unshakable commitment to a sustainable lifestyle.
The aim of ecologically sustainable development is to maximise human well-being or quality of life without jeopardising the life support system. The measures for sustainable development may be different in developed and developing countries, according to their level of technological and economic development. “Where the quality of life goes down for the environment, the quality of life goes down for humans.”—is a famous quote by George Holland.
India has played an important role in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The responsibility for overseeing SDGs implementation has been assigned to the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), which is the premier policy think tank of the Union Government and is chaired by the Prime Minister. NITI Aayog has mapped the goals and targets to various nodal Ministries as well as flagship programmes. State Governments are also engaged in developing road maps for achieving the SDGs with several of them having already published their plans. Draft indicators for tracking the SDGs have been developed and placed in the public domain by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation for wider consultation.
The primary goal is to end poverty in all forms everywhere. Rapid growth (SDG 8) is the key weapon in any country’s arsenal for combating poverty. On the one hand, it creates well-paid jobs that empower households by giving them necessary purchasing power to access food, clothing, housing, education and health. On the other, it places ever-rising revenues in the hands of the government to finance social spending. India has continued its programme of economic reforms to achieve sustained rapid growth. Hence the government had taken initial steps to weed out poverty by introducing following schemes to enhance the national livelihood : The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Swachh Bharat, Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana and the National Social Assistance Programme.
Similarly, the National Health Mission and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) initiatives strive to provide access to primary health care and nutrition for the population. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, launched in 2016, aims to provide Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to poor families with initial financial support for accessing a connection. Under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme, more than 77% of the rural habitations have been fully covered with 40 litres of drinking water per capita on a daily basis. The objective of the Clean India Movement is to ensure an Open Defecation Free India by 2019. Over the last two years, more than 39 million household toilets have been constructed. Moreover, 1,93,000 villages and 531 cities have been successful in ending the practice of open defecation.
The secondary aim is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages. The National Health Policy, 2017 specifies targets for universalising primary health care, reducing infant and under-5 mortality, preventing premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases as well as increasing the government expenditure on health. To tackle the death of children due to vaccine-preventable diseases and the risk due to incomplete immunisation, the Government is aiming to provide vaccination against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio, measles and hepatitis to all unimmunised or partially immunised children by 2020. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is also an important initiative under which the State governments are implementing a range of measures suited to their local contexts to elevate the status of the girl child.
Then, the tertiary aim is to build a resilient infrastructure and sustainable industrialisation. All forms of transportation such as roads, railways, civil aviation and waterways are being rapidly expanded. Road connectivity and electricity are being brought to all villages. The objective of the Digital India initiative is to build a digitally empowered society by focusing on broadband highways, mobile connectivity and Internet as well as e-Governance.
Another priority area is manufacturing. The new Manufacturing Policy raises the output target from 16% of GDP to 25% by 2025. India is developing into a high-tech and global manufacturing hub because of the emphasis on ‘Make in India’ and a substantial increase in FDI inflows. But, ‘Say No To Plastic’, manufacture things which are not harmful to ecosystem. For promoting entrepreneurship and enhancing economic growth, the Government has launched the Start-up India programme. Innovation and entrepreneurship are also being encouraged through initiatives like the Atal Innovation Mission. The 14th Finance Commission award is being implemented to substantially enhance fiscal devolution to States (from 32% to 42% of the Central pool of tax proceeds) and local governments. This is enabling a significant flow in development interventions designed and implemented independently by sub-national governments. We have a path for sustainable development, but unless all our methods are directed towards it, we cannot achieve sustainable development.