Sustainable development is a multidimensional concept. Its interpretation and understanding is often content and context specific. This concept has emerged as a broad framework to debate and decide on desirable direction of change in social and economic systems, policies, programmes and actions at the national, community or individual levels. Sustainable development is the process of socio-economic development while keeping within the limits of the earth’s carrying capacity. The concept developed in the 1960s when people became aware of the detrimental effects of industrialization on the environment.
Gradually, it became the most important socio-economic concept of the 1990′ s and today it is the most politicized catchword of international developmental conferences and programmes. It has been realized that the rate of consumption of natural resources is faster than their regeneration. Sustainable development has emerged out of the fears of depleting natural resources and a subsequent slowing or even closing down of much of the economic activities and production systems. It is the result of rapacious misuse of earth’s precious and limited resource base by those few who had a control over production systems.
Sustainability offers long term planning for productive techniques, industrial processes and equitable distribution policies for the exploitation of resources, such as, to name a few, coal, oil and water. This planning ensures their longer life span and a broader user base so that the greatest number of people may benefit out of it for the longest possible time frame. The emergence of the idea of Sustainability also strikes at the indispensability of technological transformation towards energy saving devices, alternate and non-conventional systems for providing comfort to citizens without bringing down their quality of life. This has led to a total revolution in the way people and governments have started thinking and designing their developmental programmes and projects.
A new respect has emerged for the grassroots governance which fuels growth by providing land, water and forests that constitute the three basic inputs to any form of industrialization. Thus sustainable development is also indicative of ‘planning from below’ in contrast to the ivory tower ‘planning from top’ in which grassroots ecosystems were driven by technological systems. As a result, the grassroots ecosystems started to wither away as they were not able to manage and cleanse the high amount of effluent discharges, pollution and resource overuse.