The development process in the subcontinent are caught in a vicious triangle the three apices of which are high rate of population growth, back-breaking malnutrition and galloping ecological degradation.
While it is no doubt true that economic development at a rapid rate is a necessity in this region to satisfy the basic human needs of its teeming millions, it should not be at the same time forgotten that development has to be intertwined with protection of the environment, on which the survival of the human species depends.
If follows, therefore, that development needs to be necessarily and on principle imbued with environmental consideration. Such a policy leads to sustainable development.
Some of the important measures ensuring sustainability in development and providing a basis for the proper management of indigenous natural system of our environment are as follows:
i) To develop and strictly adhere to a national conservation strategy;
ii) To nurture capabilities for comprehensive data collection and analysis;
iii) To make scientific assessment of their environmental impact before embarking upon developmental projects.
iv) To enact suitable legislation for enforcing appropriate standards relating to emissions into the atmosphere as well as discharge into water bodies or into the bowels of the earth;
v) To enact legislation which ensure safe collection, transportation storage and disposal of toxic and hazardous waste;
vi) To promote strict adherence to laws establishing basic environmental norms for proposed settlements and for upgrading environment-friendly amenities in existing settlements;
vii) To provide safe methods of long-term storage of nuclear waste before taking up construction of nuclear power plats.
viii) To minimize, restrict and strictly control the use of chemical pesticides in agricultural practices.
ix) To insist upon land use planning and watershed management in particular, with a view to minimize and ultimately eliminate environmental degradation;
x) To carefully operationalise the sustainable development of coastal zones; and
xi) To promote environmental awareness and adherence to environmental-friendly values among the people.
The South-Asia Co-operative Environment Programme
While national programmes are quite important, it is regional co-operation among countries of South-Asia in the sphere of environmental management, which is of crucial significance.
The South-Asia Co-operative Environmental Programme (SACEP) is an important step in this direction. It is a joint undertaking of all the countries of South-Asia-Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. A ministerial meeting held in 1981 adopted a 6-point Colombo Declaration on the environment of the region as a whole. It is concentrating attention on a concerted programme of activities in the following areas:
i) Analysis environmental impact and cost-benefit rations;
ii) Setting up of environmental quality standards.
iii) Developing technologies for the development of renewable resources and scientific utilization of non-renewal resources;
iv) Enacting suitable environmental legislation;
v) Taking steps to conserve mountain ecosystems and watersheds;
vi) Promoting social forestry;
vii) Encouraging the conservation of wildlife and genetic resources with particular reference to coral formations, mangrove concentration, deltas and fragile coastal areas;
viii) Maintaining and safeguarding the character of island ecosystem;
ix) Regulating tourism along environment-friendly lines;
x) Evolving suitable policies relating to energy and the environment;
xi) Promoting programmes of environmental education and training with particular reference to wildlife management.
With some of the initiatives exemplified by legislative steps taken and institutional framework developed in the region as described above, the possibilities of ecologically sound development process leading to a better quality of environment in the region appear to be quite bright.
South-Asia is a region of pronounced heterogeneity with respect to anthropological-environmental interactions. Population density is high but so is the fertility of the soil. The three major geo-systems, i.e. mountain, plain and plateau-possess typical characteristics of highland-lowland interactions through different types of inter-dependencies.
The sustainability of development process in the subcontinent essentially depends upon a co-ordinated utilization of the Himalayan, Indo-Gangetic Brahmaputra plains and the plateau formations. The Monsoons provide a high degree of climatic interdependence in the region. The common functional elements of the environment, transcending state boundaries, need to be emphasized at the regional, national and sub continental levels. There is a need to focus attention on regionally agreed measures and programmes through intensive and effective bilateral and multilateral joint policies and actions.