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Friday, March 5, 2010

Governments and sustainable development

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Since the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg during August-September 2002, nations of the world have been developing their strategies and implementing a number of projects towards sustainable development, on their own levels. However, during a comprehensive review, different groups of researchers belonging to different countries observe that-1. Many countries lack political and administrative will in implementing programmes pertaining to sustainable development, and most of the national strategies for sustainable development still lack proper budgetary allocations;2. Many sectoral and cross sectoral strategies have been caught in the administrative trap as they have not been coordinated properly;3. National strategies seldom link to local SD strategies and, therefore, often fail to leverage progress and the self organizing capacity at the local levels;4. Approaches towards Public participation have progressed considerably since the 1992 Rio- Earth Summit, but significant challenges still remain in different aspects. These challenges are mentioned below-
(a).There lacks a sense of trust among stakeholders.
(b).Sufficient time is not provided for the participatory processes.
(c).The capacities of civil societies in developing countries have not been strengthened properly.
(d).The implementation of National Sustainable Development -strategies and specific Policy Initiatives often suffer from a lack of central co-ordination in terms of monitoring progress.
(e).The use of economic policy initiatives appears to still be in its infancy in many countries and there is clearly a need for more innovation to complete the Strategic Management Cycle for National Sustainable Development Strategies and specific initiatives.
Sustainable Development in a country can be brought about by incorporating needs of common man and environment in the economic and political agenda of that country. It is the government of a country which remains directly responsible for a number of things like-
-Making policies , plans etc. and conducting various programmes for development;
-Enactment of laws for the welfare of societies, protection of environment and enforcement of these laws;
-Making assessment regarding the status of the health of environment, ascertaining the decline in the natural resources, assessing the levels of pollution in its different segments and setting of standards;
-Evaluating natural resources and their contribution in the development of economy and society;
-Regulating and monitoring activities of industries, companies etc. towards the good of society and environment.

The above mentioned responsibilities of the government demand strong political and administrative will that are essentially the primary means for developing nations to achieve sustainable development. The politics and administration must consider the balance and repair of the environment and share of common man in environmental resources instead of considering only the development of industries and mega projects of modern development.

The sustainable development calls for empowerment, participation, cooperation, equity, security and long term sustainability for all the people in a society. All of these can only be acquired if the constituent components in politics and administration – the mechanisms, institutions and processes, through which citizens articulate their interests and exercise their rights-, are transparent and accountable. In Indian case, the country has the democratic form of government. It holds parliamentary elections. But at local government level and at the political level too, there are no democratic processes or representative systems. For example, the rural poor have no platform within the public sector to exercise their rights, or to raise objections to the detrimental practices of more powerful individuals such as industrialists, landlords, contractors, influential people, mafias etc.

Political and Administrative will have a key role in meeting the aims and objectives of sustainable development in a country. The economic and political agenda must incorporate the needs of the common man and environment. The political and administration must consider the balance and repair of environment and share of the common man in environmental resources instead of caring for the development of industries and mega projects of development. For development to sustain, it is essential that environment is protected, societies are developed, violence and crime are controlled and basic requirements of common people are fulfilled adequately.

According to a report on the Millennium Development Goals-
“As the new millennium opened, 1.1 billion people had no access to safe water, and 2.4 billion lacked access to improved sanitation – making up one sixth and two fifths of the world’s population respectively. The international community has pledged to halve both these proportions by 2015. If these targets are to be met in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean – taking population increase into account – the number of people served by water supply must increase by 1.6 billion (32 per cent) and those served by sanitation by 2.2 billion (59 per cent). The Global Water Partnership estimates that an additional $30 billion needs to be spent each year – $17 billion of it on sanitation. Policy-makers need to overcome a series of hurdles if they are to bridge the resource gap and make sure that the international targets become reality”.

India, in which political system is unstable, any programme of sustainable development cannot be implemented in full spirit. However, in this country, the rest of social development needs to escalate and economic growth needs to be backed by sustainable development. The Government of India has taken a number of steps for the development of rural poor. It has increased allocation for the social sector in the Union Budget 2008. The ambitious Bharat Nirman Programme aims at strong attempt to enhance rural infrastructure by 30 percent. The Government has earmarked US$ 2.68 billion for rural road scheme to link all villages. One-third seats have been reserved in local bodies like gram or village panchayats, municipalities, city cooperatives and district bodies of the 28, 00,000 elected representatives. In India, 970,000 are women. This figure is greater than the sum of elected women representatives across the world.

Human activities have never been favorable to the environment. The Indian constitution lays emphasis on the harmonious development of nature. Several acts and rules have been framed by the government to protect the environment from the pollution of air, water, land and wildlife. Pollution control boards have been set up at the central and state levels to enforce the implementation of these laws with the cooperation of the local administration. But the lack of political and administrative will has been the basic hurdle in the way of implementing laws. However with the intervention of honorable Supreme Court of India and initiatives from the public, environmental laws are being enforced and violators are being punished in the different parts of the country now.

Policies of Governments for sustainable development
Policy making and planning constitute the foundation of any sustainable development programme. May it be forest, land, water, application of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture; construction of Mega River Valley Dams or implementation of Mega Power Projects- policies concerning environment and public are needed to be prepared at the first step.

The maintenance and utilization of resources of environment always requires a policy and today we have many policies like – Environmental Policy, Forest Policy, Energy Policy, Agriculture Policy, Industrial Policy, Rehabilitation Policy, Policy on Use and Distribution of Water, and Policy on Utilization of Land etc.The policies should have space for the needs and aspirations of stakeholders and the good of local environment.

The displacement and rehabilitation of people has been a major problem during the launch of various river valley projects and problems of rehabilitation still persist in many cases. Sometimes these problems emerge out due to elements contained in policies and their execution. These elements often make policies stiff, rude and unfavourable for some people especially the poor, deprived and marginalized. Hence it is suggested by experienced people that policies should be dynamic and flexible. What do we really mean by dynamic and flexible policies? Well, policies those lead a country towards sustainable development, that have adequate provisions for the needs and aspirations of stakeholders and general good of the environment, are called as Dynamic and Flexible Policies.

The government should develop a domestic policy framework that will encourage a shift to more sustainable mode of production required to reinforce both values that encourage the sustainable production and consumption patterns, and policies that encourage the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries. At the same time policies must recognize the importance of diversity and the need of its preservation that are considered to be important pre-conditions for sustainable development.

The largest gathering of world leaders in the history that was held in the year 2000 included 189 Member States in the Millennium Development Summit to adopt the UN Millennium (Development) Declaration. The leaders of the world agreed that poverty and inequality affected more than a billion people including women up to 70 percent, at the turn of the century. These leaders   pledged that their countries would act to reduce extreme poverty up to significant levels and contribute to the creation of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.

All the 189 countries, including India, adopted 8 Millennium Development Goals that are mentioned below-
(i)                 to Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger,
(ii)               to Achieve universal primary education,
(iii)             to Promote gender equality and empower to women,
(iv)             to Reduce Child Mortality,
      (v)         to Improve Maternal Health,
(v)               to Combat HIV(Human Immune Virus)/AIDS(Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), malaria and other diseases,
      (vii)      to Ensure environmental Sustainability, and
(viii)         to Develop a global Partnership for development.

The Environmental Sustainability Scenario in India is mentioned below –
§ Land area covered under different forests is 20.64% as per the 2003 assessment. The National Development Goals (NDGs) aim to increase in forest and tree cover to 25 percent by 2007 and 33 percent by 2012.
§ The NDGs aim that all villages have sustained access to potable drinking Water within the period of the Tenth Five-Year Plan.
§ 86% of the population is reported to have sustainable access to an improved water source in 2004, as against 70% who has access in 1990.
§ Only 33% of the population has the desired access to improved sanitation. This figure was as low as 14% in 1990.
§ 55.5% of the urban population of India lived in slums at the turn of the century

 It is being observed since long that ladies are increasingly involved in earning livelihood. They are the principal bread winners in many poor houses. Hence, at the policy level a major thrust is necessary to ensure quality and justice for them. Policies should be oriented in such ways that literacy and basic education enable the poor to access the benefits of development initiatives and market opportunities.

Key Words :World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) ,Johannesburg,Pollution control boards, cross sectoral strategiesStrategic Management Cycle,political and administrative will,Bharat Nirman Programme ,Millennium Development Summit,Mega Power Projects, displacement and rehabilitation, 

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