Sustainable Development: The Right Action

Written by Suman Yadav & Rachna Choudhary*


Sustainable development which means meeting the need of the present generation without hampering the resources for the future generation – In other words, a better quality of life for everyone, for present and future generations to come. Sustainable development will not be brought about by policies only: it must be taken up by society at large as a principle guiding the many choices each citizen makes every day, as well as the big political and economic decisions that have. India being the developing country and having the limited natural resources sustainable development is the only way through which the needs of the future generation can be protected.  Currently, India is experiencing rapid and widespread environmental degradation at alarming rates. Tremendous pressure is placed upon the country’s land and natural resources to support the massive overpopulation.

With the help of the present articles, researcher will analyze the roles of the various planning systems in case of the social, economic and environmental sustainable development.

Keywords: Sustainable Development, India, Environmental, Pollution, Growth.


Sustainable Development stands for meeting the needs of present generation without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs – in other words, a better quality of life for everyone, for present and future generations to come. It offers a vision of progress that integrates immediate and longer-term objectives, local and global action, and regards social, economic and environmental issues as inseparable and interdependent components of human progress.

Sustainable development will not be brought about by policies only: it must be taken up by society at large as a principle guiding the many choices each citizen makes every day, as well as the big political and economic decisions that have. This requires profound changes in thinking, in economic and social structures and in consumption and production patterns.[1]

India makes up 2.4 percent of the world’s land, while supporting 16 percent of the world’s population. The compounding result is a severely unsustainable use of natural resources for several generations. Currently, India is experiencing rapid and widespread environmental degradation at alarming rates. Tremendous pressure is placed upon the country’s land and natural resources to support the massive overpopulation.[2]

There are three dimensions to sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. These dimensions give rise to the need for the planning system to perform a number of roles:

  • an economic role – contributing to building a strong, responsive and competitive economy, by ensuring that sufficient land of the right type is available in the right places and at the right time to support growth and innovation; and by identifying and coordinating development requirements, including the provision of infrastructure;
  • a social role – supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing the supply of housing required to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by creating a high quality built environment, with accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being; and
  • an environmental role – contributing to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment; and, as part of this, helping to improve biodiversity, use natural resources prudently, minimize waste and pollution, and mitigate and adapt to climate change including moving to a low carbon economy.[3]

An environmental perspective must guide the evaluation of all development projects, recognizing the role of natural resources in local livelihoods. This recognition must be informed by a comprehensive understanding of the perceptions and opinions of local people about their stakes in the resource base. To ensure the sustainability of the natural resource base, the recognition of all stakeholders in it and their roles in its protection and management is essential. There is need to establish well-defined and enforceable rights (including customary rights) and security of tenure, and to ensure equal access to land, water and other natural and biological resources. It should be ensured that this applies, in particular, to indigenous communities, women and other disadvantaged groups living in poverty.[4]

Major environmental issues are forest and agricultural degradation of land, resource depletion (water, mineral, forest, sand, rocks etc.), environmental degradation, public health, loss of biodiversity, loss of resilience in ecosystems, livelihood security for the poor.[5]

The major sources of pollution in India include the rampant burning of fuel wood and biomass such as dried waste from livestock as the primary source of energy, lack of organized garbage and waste removal services, lack of sewage treatment operations, lack of flood control and monsoon water drainage system, diversion of consumer waste into rivers, cremation practices near major rivers, government mandated protection of highly polluting old public transport, and continued operation by Indian government of government owned, high emission plants built between 1950 to 1980[6]([7])([8])([9])([10]).

Since about the late 1980s, the Supreme Court of India has been pro-actively engaged in India’s environmental issues. In most countries, it is the executive and the legislative branches of the government that plan, implement and address environmental issues; the Indian experience is different. The Supreme Court of India has been engaged in interpreting and introducing new changes in the environmental jurisprudence directly. The Court has laid down new principles to protect the environment, re-interpreted environmental laws, created new institutions and structures, and conferred additional powers on the existing ones through a series of directions and judgments.[11] The Court’s directions on environmental issues goes beyond the general questions of law, as is usually expected from the highest Court of a democratic country. The Supreme Court of India, in its order, includes executive actions and technical details of environmental actions to be implemented. Indeed, some critics of India’s Supreme Court describe the Court as the Lords of Green Bench or Garbage Supervisor. Supporters of India’s Supreme Court term these orders and the Indian bench as pioneering, both in terms of laying down new principles of law, and in delivering environmental justice.[12]

The reasons for the increasing interjection of India’s Supreme Court in governance arenas are, experts claim, complex. A key factor has been the failure of government agencies and the state owned enterprises in discharging their Constitutional and Statutory duties. This has prompted civil society groups to file public interest complaints with the Courts, particularly the Supreme Court, for suitable remedies.

Public interest litigation and judicial activism on environmental issues extends beyond India’s Supreme Court. It includes the High Courts of individual states.

India’s judicial activism on environmental issues has, some suggest, delivered positive effects to the Indian experience. Proponents claim that the Supreme Court has, through intense judicial activism, become a symbol of hope for the people of India. As a result of judicial activism, India’s Supreme Court has delivered a new normative regime of rights and insisted that the Indian state cannot act arbitrarily but must act reasonably and in public interest on pain of its action being invalidated by judicial intervention[13]. India’s judicial activism on environmental issues has, others suggest, had adverse consequences. Public interest cases are repeatedly filed to block infrastructure projects aimed at solving environmental issues in India, such as but not limiting to water works, expressways, land acquisition for projects, and electricity power generation projects. The litigation routinely delays such projects, often for years, whilst rampant pollution continues in India, and tens of thousands die from the unintended effects of pollution. Even after a stay related to an infrastructure project is vacated, or a court order gives a green light to certain project, new issues become grounds for court notices and new public interest litigation.([14])([15])([16]).

Judicial activism in India has, in several key cases, found state-directed economic development ineffective and a failure, then interpreted laws and issued directives that encourage greater competition and free market to reduce environmental pollution. In other cases, the interpretations and directives have preserved industry protection, labor practices and highly polluting state-owned companies detrimental to environmental quality of India[17]. Proactive measures should be taken to conserve the depleting environment[18].

Sustainable development is an objective which we are constantly striving for. This calls for an urgent need to bring about necessary changes in the industrial and agricultural production patterns, utility services, consumer behavior and life styles of the people keeping in view our social and developmental priorities for conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Facing the environmental challenges of the 21st century will be a matter of food policy, effective leadership, creative agencies, concerned and involved citizens, good information and rational decision making.

Safe water, clean air and sustainable use of other natural resources are key elements to development. A major cause of environmental degradation in the country is the lack of integrated environmental planning. Often authorities and industries use natural resources according to the priorities of their individual sectors without much regard to the overall needs of the country or sustainable use of resources. Excessive decentralization of responsibility for ensuring a balanced development of natural resources among sectoral agencies is proving to be an impediment in environmental protection.

To achieve sustainable growth we have to make pragmatic choices that balance the benefits of development with the need to maintain and improve the environment. In certain cases development choice may conflict with environment concerns and in such cases we have to tackle it pragmatically. We have to ensure that development takes place in a planned and environmentally sustainable way.[19]

* Assistant Professor, Institute of Law, Nirma University

[1] Sustainable Development, European Commission, t/eussd/ (last updated Dec. 19,2014 at 12:16 p.m.).

[2] Achieving Sustainable Development, Planning Practice Guidance, http://ww country/india/envissues (last visited Dec. 19,  2014).

[3] Achieving Sustainable Development, Planning Practice Guidance, (last visited Dec. 19, 2014).

[4] Sustainable Development,: Learnings and Perspectives from India 3, (last updated Jul. 28, 2015 at
11:21 p.m.).

[5] Chandrappa Ramesha & Ravi.D.R  Environmental Issues, Law and Technology – An Indian Perspective (2009).

[6] Milind Kandlikar & Gurumurthy Ramachandran, 2000: India: The Causes And Consequences of Particulate Air Pollution in Urban India: a Synthesis of the Science, 25 Ann. Rev. Energy & Env’t 629-684 (2000).

[7] Drowning in a Sea of Garbage,  N. Y. Times. Apr. 22, 2010.

[8] Anshuman Tripathi, Rajesh Kumar Mishra, Nik Bouskill, Susan Broadaway, Barry Pyle & Timothy Ford, The Role Of Water Use Patterns And Sewage Pollution In Incidence Of Water-Borne/Enteric Diseases Along The Ganges River In Varanasi, India, 16(2) Int’l. J. Envtl. Health Res. 113-132 (2000).

[9] Klement Tockner and Jack A. Stanford, Riverine flood plains: present state and future trends, 29(3) Envt’l. Conservation 308-330 (2002).

[10] Snigdha Sushil & Vidya S. Batra, Analysis of fly ash heavy metal content and disposal in three thermal power plants in India, 85 (17-18) Fuel 2676-2679 (Dec. 2006).

[11] Geetanjoy Sahu, Implications Of Indian Supreme Court’s Innovations For Environmental Jurisprudence 4(1) L., Env’t & Dev. J.  1–19 (2008).

[12] Id.

[13] P. N Bhagwati, Judicial Activism in India.

[14] Power Problems Threaten Growth in India, Wall Street Journal (Jan. 2, 2012).

[15] Rathinam and Raja, Economic Efficiency of Public Interest Litigations (PIL): Lessons from India (2008).

[16] Chauhan and Chauhan, Ecological Destruction vis-à-vis Environmental Jurisprudence in India: A Survey, 27(3)  J Hum. Ecol. 207–216 (2009).

[17] Alexander Fischer, Which Road to Social Revolution? Liberalisation and Constitutional Reform in India,  South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg (Dec. 2007).

[18] Rao-kashyap, Aju John, More proactive conservation, Mylawnet (2013),

[19] Available at, (Last visited Dec. 19, 2014 at 2:15 p.m).