The word ‘sustainable’ means maintainable or bearable. Hence sustainable development refers to that development which may be prolonged for a considerable period of time or which may be bear­able by the system and the society.

It refers to a type of development that meets the needs of the present generation, maintains same level of development for a longer period of time, conserves the existing re­sources for the future generation so that same level of development could continue and causes very little or no damage to the environment.

As the bio-physical system has a limit to assimilate input, output cannot be indefinitely raised. After a certain limit production not only becomes uneconomical but it causes damage to the environ­ment. Accordingly the sustainable development has been defined as a production System in which tech­nological and management inputs do not adversely affect the bio-physical system (Chattopadhyay and Carpenter, 1991). Sustainable development of natu­ral resources usually means exploitation of resources up to that limit which could be recouped by the natural system and help in raising the quality of life of the people. Hence, environment and human be­ings are the two sides of the same coin of sustainable development.

The World Commission on Environment and Development established by the United Nations has defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compro­mising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.” The essential needs of the world’s poor has been emphasised as the priority. Therefore, the two crucial objectives of sustainable develop­ment are: (i) satisfaction of basic human needs, and (ii) ensure survival of human beings and all living creatures.


The UNEP, ICUN and WWF have em­phasised on these two objectives while defining sustainable development as ‘improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capac­ity of supporting ecosystem.’ Thus, the ultimate goal of sustainable development is twofold: (i) to pre­pare a strategy for such a development which could improve the quality of life of the people, (ii) to ensure conservation of the ‘vitality and diversity of the earth.’ Hence, this development is both ‘people oriented’ as well as ‘nature/ environment oriented.’

The concept of sustainable development has emerged as a prescription for human survival and maintenance of ecosystem health. One of the prior­ity requirements for achieving such development is to create sustainable human societies. The Caring for the Earth (1991) has mentioned following 10 characteristics for sustainable society: 1. coexist­ence and harmonious community life by respecting each other, 2. improvement of human quality of life, 3. conservation of (i) life supporting systems, and (ii) biodiversity, 4. Ensure that uses of renewable resources are sustainable, 5. minimise the depletion of non-renewable resources, 6. Maintain earth’s car­ing capacity, 7. Change personal attitude and prac­tices towards resources and environment. 8. Self car for the environment, 9. Link development with conservation, and 10. Create global alliances.

Environmentally sustainable global economy was the central theme of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development held at Rio de Ja­neiro in 1992. Under Agenda 21 a U.N. Commission was constituted on ‘Sustainable Development’ to ‘review national implementation of Agenda 21 and to provide high-level coordination among various U.N. environment and development programmes, (State of the World, 1997).

The World summit oh Sustainable Development (Third Earth Summit) was held at Johannesburg in 2002 in which issues like poverty eradication, world trade, biodiversity, water and sanitation, fisheries, renewable/ non-conven­tional energy, good governance and sustainable pro­duction and consumption were discussed. The 11 the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD- 11) has met in New York (2003) to review and monitor the progress of actions taken after the Sum­mit (Singh, 2004, pp. 553-556)


Tenth Plan Strategy for Sustainable Develop­ment

In India the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-07) has devised following strategies for achieving the objectives of sustainable development:

Encouraging multi-stake holder participatory process involving effective and efficient ex­change of information.

Supplementing command and control regime with market based economic instruments and evolving environmental markets at least on ex­perimental basis within the country.


Evolving methodology and apparatus for indi­cators/indices for sustainability, monitoring progress, assigning responsibility, evolving sys­tems of incentives and accountability.

Promoting sustainable consumption levels and pattern through effective dissemination and awareness programmes such as short documen­taries and clippies on prime time. Vangelis, environmental consciousness, eco-labeling and packaging, etc.

Encouraging sustainable production, transpor­tation packaging and distribution of goods and services, clean technology, waste minimiza­tion, renewable, energy efficiency (reduce, reuse and recycling).

Institutionalizing cross-sect oral and inter-dis­ciplinary research and transparency in decision making to bring about a convergence of pres­ently fragmented responsibility.


Infusing cutting edge scientific and technologi­cal inputs into the sector (remote sensing, GIS in monitoring).

Streamlining environmental and forestry clear­ance systems to reduce time and cost overrun in projects and strengthen LCA, EIA, Carrying Capacity studies with strategic Environmental Impact Assessments to cover policy, programmes and projects.

Seeking to achieve equity by revamping, re­structuring and rationalizing of laws and insti­tutions with a view to make them pro-active, pro-people, pro-poor, pro-gender, pro-tribal’s, pro-handicapped, pro-rural and pro-marginalized.

Professionalisng Pollution Control Boards with built in accountability.


Evolving long-term vision and perspectives on sustainable development.

Evolving an early warning and rapid response system through strengthened, meaningful, com­prehensive and integrated surveillance system on sustainable development by linking health, safety and environmental forestry monitoring networks.

All these aspects underscore the increasing thrust for linking the environmental concerns with the development strategy to attain three key objec­tives :(a) enhance people’s livelihood, (b) reduce people’s vulnerability, and (c) improve people’s health and living environ. The Plan has indicated ‘Monitor able Targets’ as indicator of human devel­opment.

Two such targets pertaining to environment are: (a) increasing forest and tree cover to 25 percent by 2007 and 33 per cent by 2012, and (b) cleaning of all major polluted rivers by 2007 and other notified stretches by 2012.