Sustainable development

We have become a consumer state



We have brought onto ourselves the burdens of generations and may never be in a position to repay the same. Human endeavour since recorded history has been a continuum of challenges and triumphs aimed at achieving individual and social good. Right from the earliest days of human civilization and more so after the transition of humanity from the food gathering stage to that of food producing, human life has become more worthy of living. The pace at which better standards for human sustenance have been delivered got accelerated after the industrial revolution that changed the life of an average human being for good. Distances narrowed, and amenities of life have become available across the length and breadth of human sustenance.
This departure in human life from scarcity to abundance, from misery to happiness and from disease to well being has been an effort of centuries. The results are evident. However, a central question still remains unanswered, both at the academic as well as at the administrative cum implementation level world over: “The question of equity and sustainability of the human effort to deliver comforts of life”. Notwithstanding what has been referred to as development in the literature of economics, evaluation of development on the scale of equity and sustainability attracts certain things for proper understanding, and the foremost among them being the fact that, “Development is governed by many factors that influence the results of developmental efforts”. This does not, will not, and has not happened in isolation. Development needs resources such as capital and technology and the availability of supporting infrastructures.
Development emerges from a society's capacity to organize human energies and productive resources in order to meet the challenges of life. There are limits to this capacity in any society to meet these challenges. These challenges can be real or perceived. They can be natural or man made. They can have permanence or can be short lived. However the limits posed by human activities themselves are the worst of all, and have triggered such natural calamities as global warming, acid rains, soil erosion etc. On the social side of it weakening of social ties, erosion of trust and a race for private still mars the chances of achieving real and sustainable development. Defined as "development which  meets  the  needs  of  the  present  without  compromising  the  ability  of  future  generations  to meet  their  own  needs.”( The  Brundtland  Commission) and as “Improving  the  quality  of  human  life  while  living  within  the  carrying  capacity  of supporting  ecosystems” (The World  Conservation  Union,  United  Nations  Environment Programme  & Worldwide  Fund  for Nature; 1991), the concept of sustainable development is to be seen holistically in light of the changing private and public scenarios. A mad rush to make available comforts of life without leverage against the carrying capacity of the system underneath can be a mistake which may not be rectifiable in the near future. Here in Kashmir we have witnessed the death of Wular and Dal, Nigeen and Anchar Lake (Conventional idea of sustainability). Production and productivity of agricultural crop has put us at the mercy of Punjab. Homemade dairy products, poultry and poultry products are rare commodities. Corores of rupees are spent annually for import of vegetables, poultry dairy and dairy products by a state which is such a geographical entity that it can be a net exporter of all that it is importing, given proper policy initiatives and a determined will. We have become a consumer state totally unaware of where this approach has led us to. The “chalta hae” approach and a myopic vision of life wherein a “day passed is a life passed” is going to play havoc to our sustainability in the near future. And the grain of economic dependence, which I am not sure exists, will no longer be there. All this has got to be understood and linked to the debate on sustainability of development; else we may have lost so much that we may regret of having reached to a zero-sum game. The debate on sustainability needs as such should not revolve around the environment and physical resources only. It needs to be extended to the socio-cultural aspects of human life as well. Because the underlying threats to sustainable development arise from there.

(Javaid I. Khan is Assistant Professor, Department of Economics,
University of Kashmir. Feedback at

Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 1 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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