Economic, social and environmental sustainability; concept of Green GDP; Strategy and policy for sustainable development in India

Economic, social and environmental sustainability

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a universal and transformative development strategy. The 2030 Agenda commits the global community to “achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions—economic, social and environmental—in a balanced and integrated manner”.

  • Bruntland Report (1983) was the first publication and recognition of the term ‘Sustainable Development’
    • “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future generation”
  • Three pillars of sustainable development (Bruntland)
    • Care and respect for People, Planet and Prosperity (Commercial Activities) <hence poverty alleviation, conservation and business development>
    • These three pillars are of equal importance
  • SD is about a value system. It is not a scientific formula.
  • Thinking beyond pure self-gratification to awareness that harm to one will eventually be harm to all.
  • Interconnectedness and interdependence of all things
  • All three pillars have equal importance. Focus on only one of them will unbalance the whole
  • SD is a necessity, not a luxury that we can afford to miss.

Questioning Development <too detailed; at times peripheral. Be choosy>

  • Current practices must change
  • Should shatter the ‘development’ myth. Simply economic growth will not create more jobs and more wealth for all.
  • Steady-state economics. Economic growth is measured in terms of how much we produce and consume, and what we destroy in the process need not be included in the calculations.
  • 20% of the world consumes 80% of its resources
  • According to UNDP, consumption of goods and services in 1997 was twice that in 1975 and six times more than in 1950.
  • An estimated 1 billion people still do not have the means to meet their basic needs.
  • Inequalities are increasing. The assets of world’s three richest men are greater than the combined national product of 48 poorest countries.
  • Higher crime rates are associated with wider income gaps
  • Jobless growth.
  • Under-nutrition is still a huge problem among children

Economic Growth and Sustainability

  • Over-consumption has led to depletion of resources
  • Main environmental threats
    • Depletion of resources
    • Global warming
    • Expansion of waste arising from production and consumption
    • Population pressure
    • Pollution
    • Loss of biodiversity and extinction of species.
  • Green National Income Account
    • Conventional national income accounting does not capture the environmental degradation due to production and consumption
    • This omission leads to misrepresentation of improvements in social welfare
    • Since there is no market for many environmental resources, it is difficult to place monetary values on them
    • Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare: adjusts the national income to make an allowance for defensive spending (i.e. that incurred in cleaning up for pollution and other forms of environmental damage)
  • Economic Sustainability
    • Calls for reforms in the manner that we conduct our economic activity
    • Removing unfair trade barriers and subsidies that harm the environment
    • Upholding the polluter pays principle
    • Tax not on labour but on consumption <already there in the form of indirect taxes>
    • Pricing products in terms of value they have deducted from the common natural base
    • Increase resource productivity
  • Sustainable agriculture
    • Use of practices and methods to maintain/enhance the economic viability of agricultural production, natural resource base, and other ecosystems which are influenced by agricultural activities
    • Minimizing the adverse impact on the natural resources base
    • Flexible farming systems to manage the risks associated with climate and markets

Ecological Sustainability

  • Sustainable forest management
    • ‘Forest Principle’ adopted at the 1992 Rio Summit
    • In 2007, GA adopted the Non Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests. The instrument is the first of its kind and is committed to promote SFM by bringing all stakeholders together
    • Ministerial Conference on Protection of Forests in Europe defined SFM as the attainment of balance between society’s increasing demands for forest products and benefits, and the preservation of forest health and diversity.
    • Forest managers must assess and integrate a wide array of sometimes conflicting factors to produce sound forest plans
    • Ecosystems approach has been adopted by the CBD. The CBD definition of Ecosystems Approach is known as the Malawi Principles.
    • Ecosystems Approach is a strategy of management of land, water and living resources in a way that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. Focused on use of scientific methodologies for each level of biological organisation and their interaction.
    • SFM was recognised by the parties to CBD in 2004 to be a concrete means of applying the Ecosystems Approach to forest ecosystems
  • Objectives of SFM
    • Maintain environmental stability through preservation of ecological balance that has been adversely affected due to the depletion of forest cover
    • Preserve the natural heritage of the country
    • Improve productivity of forests
    • Protecting through cooperation with local communities on the principle of Joint Forest Management
  • India
    • One of the 12 mega biodiversity countries of the world
    • National Forest Policy 1988 emphasizes environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance
    • Existing infrastructure for forest protection is inadequate
    • Surveys not carried out in many areas. Question of tribal rights
    • Protect from forest fires
  • Integrated Forest Protection Scheme
    • 10th FYP. In all States and UTs
    • Formed by merger of two 9th FYP schemes: ‘Forest Fire Control and Management’ and ‘Bridging of Infrastructure Gaps in the Forestry Sector in the North Eastern Region and Sikkim’
    • Components
      • Infrastructure development: survey and demarcation, strengthening the infrastructure for Forest Protection Division
      • Forest fire control and management
    • Implementing agencies
      • Central Component: Forest Protection Division, MoEF; Forest Survey of India, Dehradun; Central institutions like Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (Dehradun), IIFM (Bhopal) etc shall be involved
      • State Component: Forest dept of the concerned state/UT

Social Sustainability

  • Fairness in the access to and benefits from the Earth’s resources
  • Impact of poverty on environment/Environment and poverty are related issues
  • Diverting resources to non-productive areas
  • Health and SD
    • Environment and public health are inter-related
  • Agenda 21 was adopted at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) [Earth Summit] in 1992
    • It also places particular emphasis on the need to take health considerations into account in planning for SD
  • Urbanisation
  • Need for holistic approach

Water and SD

  • Agriculture consumes nearly 70 pc of water consumption worldwide, industry -22 pc and household activities – 8 pc [WDR, 2010]
  • Geographical distribution of water: just nine countries account for 60 pc of all available freshwater supplies
  • Industrial use takes about 60 pc of water in rich countries and 10 pc in the rest.
  • Suggestions
    • Use of sea water
    • Judicial use of freshwater
    • Development of salt-resistant crops

SD in a globalising world

  • Globalisation is increasing the gap between the rich and the poor
  • It has to be steered so that it serves not only the commercial interests but social needs of development
  • Mechanisms to safeguard trade and livelihoods, especially in developing countries, must be evolved and negotiated to make globalisation an effective vehicle of SD
  • Industrialised countries must continue to assist the developing countries as well as promote trade
  • Environment and social causes must not be used selectively to erect trade barriers against developing countries

Concept of Green GDP

The green gross domestic product (green GDP or GGDP) is an index of economic growth with the environmental consequences of that growth factored into a country’s conventional GDP. Green GDP monetizes the loss of biodiversity, and accounts for costs caused by climate change.

The Green GDP (GGDP) = Traditional GDP- Environmental /Ecological Cost

Environmental/Ecological costs are consisting of the following components:

A. Defensive expenditure in the environmental damage;

B. Clean up costs: The expenditure on restoration of the resources environment to reduce the damage already done by economic activity;

C. Depreciation of natural capital and Loss in environmental resources;

D. Maintenance Cost: Expenses for maintaining environmental resources;

Major benefits of green growth are:-

Economic benefits

1. Increased GDP – production of green goods and services

2. Increased revenue from pricing ecosystem services (or their reduction prevented)

3. Economic diversification, i.e. improved management of economic risks and reduced vulnerability

4. Innovation, access and uptake of green technologies, i.e. improved market confidence

Environmental benefits

5. Increased productivity and efficiency of natural resource use

6. Natural capital used within ecological limits

7. Reduced adverse environmental impact and improved natural hazard/risk management

Social benefits

8. Increased livelihood opportunities, income and/or quality of life, notably of the poor

9. Decent jobs that benefit poor people created and sustained

10. Enhanced social, human and knowledge capital

11. Reduced inequality

Strategy and policy for sustainable development in India

In Mahatma Gandhi’s opinion, in any scheme of development, man should be at the centre. A long term view of development has to be taken, for we owe our debt to prosperity as well. Man has to make a judicious use of natural resources. The ecological balance should not be disturbed.Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of “enoughness” in his saying “the earth provides enough to satisfy every persons need but not for every person’s greed” is perhaps more relevant at present time than when it was said. The objective should not be to build the islands of prosperity in the ocean of poverty; but to raise the level of standard of life and to combat poverty.
Gandhi believed in Sarvodaya and therefore the welfare of all was the basis of his thinking; hence his community centred approach towards sustainability emphasized on ‘betterment of human life’ and ‘ensuring fulfilment of basic needs of all human needs’. Welfare of the human beings being the ultimate goal by avoiding all sorts of exploitations, Gandhi felt that human dignity needs to be established.

Government of India has have formulated legislation, regulations and policy instruments to address matters concerning cooperation for Sustainable Development at sub-regional, regional and International  level.  There are legislation regulations and policy instruments framed to fulfill obligation under the agreements signed under the International Conferences, MEAs, etc.  They are:-


  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,  i974, as   amended up to 1988
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess  Act 1977, as amended by Amendment Act, 1991
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,  as amended by Amendment Act, 1987
  • National Forest Policy, 1988
  • Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
  • The National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995
  • The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
  • Re-cycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999
  • Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro-Organisms
  • Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells rules, 1989
  • Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989
  • Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998
  • Municipal Solid Wastes (Management & Handling)  Rules, 2000
  • Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000
  • Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation) Rules, 2000
  • New Biodiversity Bill – 2000
  • The Prevention and Control of Pollution (Uniform Consent Procedure) Rules, 1999

Selected Policy initiatives taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests towards sustainable development

  • National Environmental Action Plan for Control of Pollution
  • Urban Pollution
  • Vehicular Pollution
  • Environmental Epidemiological Studies
  • Environmental Management System (EMS)
  • Uniform Consent Procedure
  • City Afforestation Programme for Mitigating Pollution
  • National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP)
  • Biosafety Protocol
  • Rules on the management of Lead acid Batteries
  • Regional Development Strategy based on Carrying Capacity concept
  • Development of Management Tools for preventing environmental degradation
  • Establishment of Indian Centre for Promotion of Cleaner Technologies (ICPC)
  • Water Quality Standards for Sewage
  • Technology for Sewage Treatment
  • Water Conservation through recycling
  • Joint Forest Management
  • National Forest Action Programme
  • National Forestry Research Plan
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