(Sample Material) Gist of IIPA Journal: Sustainable Development: Imperatives of Public Administration R. Rajamani

(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA Journal

Topic: Sustainable Development: Imperatives of Public Administration R. Rajamani


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 author:

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 Last
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.


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.

Legislative Framework

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 natural resources.

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