Promotion of human welfare and well – being, i.e., initiatives must be built into sustainable development policy to ensure “macro coherency” to prevent environmental degradation in order that rights, needs and interest of local people in general and of the more marginal groups in particular are protected. The attitude of some economists treating environment as an externality” to normal economic accounting is no longer justified and in future, environment impact of development projects has to be taken as seriously as production targets.
As human development depends on the carrying capacity of the ecological systems, it can take place only on the foundation of the continued maintenance of the stability, integrity, adaptability and resilience of the dynamic ecological system. The concept of environmental stability thus signifies the perennial concern and responsibility of human being for the continued protection and improvement of the natural environment in their material pursuits. For, only the human- the most, intelligent of all living creatures of Nature, have the moral, social, political, cultural and legal responsibility to effectively play the role of the savior, guardian and protector of the environmental, economic, cultural and political sustainability at all levels. For it is the human who unlike the other form of living organisms, such as plants and animals, driven more by greed than by need exceed the limits set by nature and have the propensity and capacity to destroy it. It is human more than other living forms who have to shoulder the obligation and the responsibility for safeguarding, protecting, conserving and developing the life supporting system of ecosystem not only for meeting the needs of the present but also those of the future generation.
Sustainable development is the process of improving the quality of life of human being within and between nations in ways that sustain and protect the natural environment biodiversity. In other words, sustainable development should mean both the sustainable of the biophysical environment, the latter sustaining the former and social-cultural, and politico- economic sustainability.
The concept of Sustainable Development formalized by Brundtland Report, Our Common Future [WCED, 1987] and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (Agenda 21) remains mired in terminological and conceptual ambiguities as well as in disagreements about fact and practical implications. The dynamic process of sustainable development will be applied by different countries in tune with their own cultural, political and economic perspectives. It has been defined as hereunder.
Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs
Improving the quality of human life while being within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystem.
Economic growth that provides fairness and opportunity for all the world’s people, not just the privileged few, without further destroying the world’s finite natural resources and their carrying capacity.
In the field of wildlife protection India’s success in rapidly expanding its network of wildlife protected areas since Independence has been quite “extraordinary”. From a modest 65 national parks and sanctuaries in 1960, these have increased to 445 in 1989 and the number is growing. The achievement in this field has been “remarkable” largely due to the efforts of Government functionaries and NGOs. Whatever ails might or might not have been achieved, at least the need and urgency to bring more and more natural areas under protection accepted as a priority for the nation. One of the most significant steps towards wildlife conservation in India was the farming of wildlife Action plan in response to the call given by Mrs. Indra Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India. Its objects include establishment of a representative network of protected areas, management of protected areas and habitat of restoration; wildlife protection in multiple use areas, rehabilitation of threatened and endangered species, captive breeding programmes, wildlife education in interpretation, research and monitoring, domestic and international convention strategy and collaboration with voluntary bodies /NGOs. Women are the traditional saviours of the forests. People’s participation in ecological protection has been remarkable as is evident from the Chipko and Appiko movement and Narmada Bachao Andolan which are successful grassroots level environment movements in the country.
The performance of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the Central Government for planning and coordination of environmental and forestry programmes has been quite impressive during the year 1994-95. The Ministry has been quite active in the conservation and survey of flora, fauna, forests, wildlife, prevention and control pollution, afforestation, regeneration of degraded areas and protection of environment through implementation of environment impact assessment, ecogeneration, assistance to environment concerned institution, forest research, extention, education, training, public awareness programmes etc.
There is growing evidence to substantiate India’s genuine commitment to ensure environmental stewardship and sustainable development. The founding father of the Constitution, political leaders, parliamentarians, planners, and policy- makers, administrator, legal luminaries, learned judges, environmental activists, social workers, members of non- governmental organizations and enlightened citizen groups have been seized of the problem of bringing about environment friendly development in the country. The environment consciousness is sweeping the land. As a member of the United Nations, India is a signatory to all important world conventions on environment and development including the Rio Declaration. Conservation of nature has been an integral part of Indian cultural ethos from time immemorial. India can be legitimately proud of the numerous – perhaps the largest number of environment legislation that have been enacted. The concern for sustainable development manifests itself not only in the number of laws on the subject but also in the institutions and structures that have established to enforce laws in an effective manner. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests; Pollution Control Board at central and state levels, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, Ganga Development Authority are cases in point. The recent judgment of the supreme court and high courts on environment related cases have paved the way for sharpening of the environmental consciousness of people and heightening of administrators’ accountability for ensuring environment protection.
Despite these positive achievement, India’s track record on environment performance is not very encouraging or satisfactory. India has not been successful in controlling the galloping population, eradicating poverty, unemployment, inequality, illiteracy, ill- health, injustice and increasing crimes against women and weaker sections or ineffective enforcement of law despite a burgeoning bureaucracy. Administrative apathy, incompetence, inefficiency and lack of integrity coupled with growing corruption in the higher echelons of public life have rendered our development efforts infructuous and ineffective.