(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA
Topic: Sustainable Development: Imperatives of Public
Administration R. Rajamani
UNDERSTANDING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
In this backdrop, we must arrive centre-stage to the understanding of
‘sustainable development’. With some comfort and subjectivity, we can fall back
upon some interpretations already given, such as:
……development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs
It is a process of social and economic betterment that satisfies the needs
and values of all interest groups without foreclosing future options.
The right do development must be fulfilled so as to equitably
meet developmental and environmental needs of the present and future generation;
and in order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall
constitute an integral part of the development and cannot be considered in
isolation from it.
In the narrow context in which, as hinted earlier, ‘development” is
understood, these are very handy statements to define what we give to our-selves
in the present stage of human history as material but sustainable progress.
Life Styles and Societal Changes
The movement towards sustainable development is beset with a
number of imponderables as it has to look at the past, and the future, at the
natural resources-both renewable and non- renewable-and the carrying capacity of
our environment generally. It may even need the evolution of an alternative mode
of development. The Indian National Report to UN Conference on Environment and
Development states as follows:
When the West developed, it did so perhaps in Ignorance of
the environmental impacts of its activities. Today we know that such a path is
neither practicable nor desirable for countries which are raising their
standards of living. We, along with other developing countries, have to find
alternative path to an alternative goal. A goal which ultimately is the true
goal of developments-an environmentally sound and sustainable quality of life,
which is socially just and equitable. A goal that must be common to all citizens
of the planet. A goal that is perhaps as distant from the developing world as it
is from the over consuming, wasteful societies of what it currently referred to
as the ‘developed’ world.
Thus, lifestyle and societal changes may have to be a part of
the evolution towards sustainable development. On the practical plane, this may
need changes in attitudes, institutions, policies, etc, that give heed to the
following list, drawn subjectively based to the limited experience of the
1. Individual or group aggression and expropriation to give way to a balance
between needs of the individuals’ and groups both within and among nations.
People must be willing to give as much at least as they take, if not more, even
if this is economic heresy and contrary to the theory of satisfaction of wants.
2. Equity must be the cornerstone of all policies-in particular rights of women
and children have to be recognised along with what is to be rendered unto the
3. Decision taking and making must be as decentralized as possible but this is
not to discourage the thinking and advisory process being centralised sometimes.
4. Every backyard must take its share of the problem. “Not in my backyard” will
add up to collective chaos.
5. Natural resources have to be given economic value.
6. Awareness of scientific findings on environmental damage (or even;
correction) must be disseminated far and wide.
Giving Push to Change
Many of these changes are occurring nationally and globally
but have to be given a push if correctives to the damage that has already
occurred are to be applied. It is not within the scope of this article to
chronicle all the environmental damage that has occurred globally and locally as
it has been dealt within reports such as the Brundtland Report or National
Reports to UNCED in June 1992. But it is necessary to highlight that corrective
action will not lie alone in the public domain or in governments. It will have
to cover other organised structures, like industry, farming communities,
scientific institutions, non-governmental organisations and, above all, cohesive
urban and village communities. It will require great degree of social reform
which has to complement oil such institutional actions if the circle of progress
has to be sustainably closed.
While discussing briefly the role of public administration, a
caution that must be uttered here is that this is drawn up on the basis of un
understanding of the issues as they have emerged in India so far but do fit in
to the framework in which governments of all countries are expected to act.
INDIAN FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
In India, the Constitution lays down the foundation of
sustainable development through Articles 48A and 51A(9) which state that the
“State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the
forests and wildlife in the country” and the duty of the citizen was “to protect
and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes and rivers and
wildlife, and to have compassion for the living creatures”. We have also the
clearly articulated National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on
Environment and Development which is a blue print for State action to complement
legal and other measures already taken. Many countries do not have such
constitutional obligations formally cast on the State apparatus but are now
coming together in forums like: the UN General Assembly and by constituting the
Commission on Sustainable Development, to commit to certain State action. At
this stage, we can do no better than bringing out those principles of the Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development which deal with State action.
National Imperatives in Rio Declaration
Principle 9 refers to cooperation by States to strengthen
endogenous capacity building for sustainable development by improving scientific
understanding. Principle 10 refers to public authorities giving appropriate
access to information concerning the environment. States should facilitate and
encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely
available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings,
including redress and remedy, shall be provided. Principle 11 says States shall
enact effective environmental legislation. Principle 12 asks States to cooperate
to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead
to economic growth and sustainable development in all countries. Under Principle
13, States should develop national law regarding liability and compensation for
the victims of pollution and other environmental damages. Principle 14 deals
with State action to discourage or prevent and transfer to other States of
activities that cause environmental degradation or harm human health. A State is
not to postpone cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation
even if there is lack of full scientific certainty in terms of Principle.
Principle 16 exhorts States to note ‘Polluter Pays” principle and promote use of
economic instruments to internalize environmental costs. Principle 17 stales
that environmental impact assessment shall be undertaken as national instrument
for activities subject to the decision of a national authority that are likely
to have a significant adverse impact on the environment. Finally, in ‘Principle
18, States are admonished to notify other States of natural or other disasters
which may cause environmental harm to other States.
Changes in India Since 1972
When we look at this framework and what we have formally
developed ‘in India, especially since 1972, in terms of legislative action and
policies to build on our own strong conservation ethos and sustainable
lifestyles especially of our village communities, we have a perspective on our
own approach to sustainable development. It is seen that in public
administration, the executive has a role to play in promulgating laws and
procedures and in implementing these, in administering public policies and
pushing them into practical action, in framing the fiscal policies to give the
required incentives or disincentives, it using public resources to raise the
level of awareness, forging partnerships between Central and state governments.
We also have governments, industry, NGOs, people’s institutions and the like
with roles to play in protecting and conserving natural resources, especially
the common property resources. In such a situation, the imperatives are quite
loud and clear. The environmental imperatives are as strongly declared now as
the developmental imperatives and, therefore, the public administration has only
to fit them into its structures, policy making organs, implementation machinery
and public relations. This is more clear when we look at what has been done so
far in these directions.
We have the Acts for moderating air and water pollution which
have been promoted in concert with State Legislatures and which have created the
apparatus for implementation through Central and State Pollution Control Boards.
We have the Water Cess Act to raise revenues for pollution control while helping
create an incentive framework for careful use and treatment of water which is
among the prime natural resources. We have the overarching Environment
Protection Act which has enabled promoting laws relating to management and
control of ‘hazardous substances, conservation of ecologically fragile areas,
like the Dehra Dun Valley, Aravalli mountains, coastal zones, etc., and to guide
State Pollution Control Boards in fixing standards for industrial pollution, air
and water pollution and now also noise pollution. The Public liability Insurance
Act for protection of public against hazardous industries has been enacted. This
is in addition to the legislative measures, like Factories Act, Mines and
Boilers Act, Motor Vehicles Act, Mines and Minerals Regulation, etc., under
which measures to control environmental safety in factories, check vehicular
pollution, etc., are taken. States also have matching legislation in many cases.
In the field of Conservation, action is also taken to give
legislative cover under Forest Act, Forest Conservation Act, Wildlife Protection
Act and the rules and guidelines there under both by the Central and state
governments. Protection of ecologically sensitive areas and biodiverse areas,
like forests, wetlands, mangroves, coral reefs, etc, arc facilitated by this
framework. India has been -blessed with one of the oldest forest departments in
the world which has been adapting itself steadily to the needs of sustainable
development. The Indian Forest Service, which is an All India Service, is a
recognition of the need for a strong public service backup for conservation of