Date: 1 October, 2020
by Shwas Bajaj, UILS, Panjab University
“Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract – sustainable development and turn it into a reality for the world’s people.”
- Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?
Sustainable development means an integration of developmental and environmental imperatives. To be sustainable, development must possess both economical and ecological sustainability. It is based upon the idea that for the benefit of future generations, present generations must be modest in their usage of the natural resources.
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS AND TREATIES
Stockholm Declaration (1972): The principles enshrined in this Declaration included that the individual rights and environmental rights are inter-generational rights and must be protected so that the future generations are allowed to use the resources in the same manner as the present generation. 114 nations participated and agreed to these principles.
Brundtland Commission Report (1987): The Commission was set up by the United Nations in the year 1983 and according to its report the goals of economic and social development must be defined in all countries- developed or developing. Sustainable development involves the integration of economics and ecology in decision making at all levels.
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992): The Declaration consists of 27 principles which guide the behaviour of nations towards more environmentally sustainable patterns of development.
ROLE OF INDIAN JUDICIARY IN PROMOTING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The role of the judicial system is quite essential in maintaining a balance between development and sustainable existence. This can be evidently seen in the rulings of the Supreme Court and the various High Courts.
In the case of R.L. & E. Kendra, Dehradun v. State of U.P. (AIR 1987 SC 159) (popularly known as the Doon Valley case), the Supreme Court while ordering the closure of a number of limestone quarries held that though it would cause hardships to the people employed in these quarries, but it is a price that has to be paid for protecting and safeguarding the right of the people to live in such environmental conditions which are upto the mark with the health standards and involve the least disturbance of ecological balance and without avoidable hazard to them.
The Supreme Court has always tried to keep a balance between the development and environment protection. In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (1999) 7 SCC 522), the Supreme Court of India ordered the closure of a plant operating in the vicinity of the international airport in Delhi, however, also ordered to set up the plant maintaining a distance of three kilometres from the populated area.
In Citizen, Consumer and Civic Action Group v. Union of India (AIR 2002 Mad. 298), the Court observed that while the courts have social accountability in the matter of protection and environment, there should be a proper balance between the same and development activities, which are essential for progress.
There can be no dispute that society has to prosper, but it shall not be at the expense of the environment.
Dr. Paramjit S. Jaswal, Environmental Law.