Development should not be for a select few who are able to pay for it, say experts at summit on sustainable development
Shivangi Narayan | February 2, 2013
That the water table is going down is not news; that it impacts the poorest woman first is.
While there is a deep connection between poverty and the environment, most urban middle class and above, who do not depend directly on natural resources for a livelihood, never realise its full potent. Or the way renowned American journalist-writer Thomas Friedman puts it, “The world is full of people who just did not get the word.”
At the ongoing Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, organised by TERI, several experts put their heads together on Friday to discuss issues of sustainable resources and how to deal with growth in future. The critics and the non-believers aside, climate change is a problem — it may be not on the scale that governments and conspiracy theorists want us to believe, but it nevertheless is a problem.
More than “climate change”, which general people might perceive to be about the weather, environmental problems at present are about resources and they should be available to the last person on the planet.
It is not an irony that most of the poorest people in India, and across the world, come from the most resource-rich areas. Be it Jharkhand in India, Africa or South America, the story repeats everywhere. This is because growth in terms of GDP does not understand growth in terms of holistic development of the society, according to the experts.
Another aspect to be understood about mindlessly using natural resources for development is that these resources would not be present forever. It is, thus, very important for these resources to be used effectively and carefully so that they are available to a larger number of people over a longer period of time.
Such a development is the only way the world can move forward — or as Bittu Sehgal, editor of ‘Sanctuary’ magazine and renowned environmentalist, said, “We need to connect resource-efficiency with growth.”
The conference debated about several such issues, besides discussing new paradigms of development that include rather than exclude a large section of the population. As Ali Tauquer Sheikh of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network said, “We need to reach out to those who have been marginalised. Millions of people have been excluded from development and the trickle-down effect has not worked.”
Of course, not everyone who needs clean drinking should be expected to buy it; or be expected to be able to buy it. Clean drinking water and air are the first casualties of growth that is not resource-efficient. If the current scenario in Beijing tells the world something, it is that industrial development has to take into account people who will eventually use these clean resources. Otherwise there is isn’t any need for growth at all.
The summit also had a brilliant session with Thomas Friedman, the author of “The Earth is Hot, Flat and Crowded”, about the need for energy efficiency in future. Read our report of the session (More Indians behaving like middle class: Friedman)
(Governance Now is a media partner for the event)
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