Plenary Session - Sustainability

The Diamond Jubilee Faculty Alumni Network (FAN) Symposium (US)

Date: Saturday, 13th October 2018


During the first four decades of urban development in free India (1947 to the early nineties) the emphasis was laid on fetching potable water from 50 to 100 km distances from pristine rural settings (water reservoirs of dams and lakes). Such water supply schemes cannot be planned and implemented anymore because they are not considered to be politically defensible. The Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation was passed in 1986 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) of the Government of India (GoI) and any large development project needs to be categorically approved by the team of experts at the MoEF & CC as well as scrutinized and cleared in a public hearing by the concerned stakeholders. During the past two decades, it has become more complicated because government policies not only favour inclusive growth of rural and tribal communities, but also factor in environmental and ecological costs in the impact analyses and cost benefit analyses performed before approving any development projects.

Presently, the GoI does not support exploitation of tribal and remote rural locations and forests for the benefit of urban and peri-urban communities. Besides, as stated earlier, the tribal and rural communities have begun to exert their political pressure onto growth-related policies and programmes formulated and implemented by the Central and State Governments in the Union of India. Clearly, a time has come when alternate suitable technological solutions that are concurrent with the capabilities of local agricultural and natural ecosystems must be favoured.

India's commitment to global warming related actions and the Kyoto Protocol obviously has challenged the conventional approach of water supply and wastewater management in rural and urban communities. It is now expected that all municipal authorities will have to prepare their respective “resource consumption and environment management plan” and after deliberating on the short-term and long-term “sustainability” of their proposals funding would be released by the respective ministries.

For example, the recent guidelines of the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Urban Development, MoEF & CC as well as the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) and the Ganga Rejuvenationfor development of infrastructure for wastewater management in rural and urban communities lay emphasis on decentralized and low-energy consuming solutions. Clearly, greener eco-centric solutions will typically be favoured in the coming years. One more factor that is likely to influence the solutions implemented in the near future is the shortage of funds. These socio-economic and political realities are influencing the technological choices of municipalities. In this context, natural treatment systems (NTSs) are indeed emerging as the preferred solution - especially in rural and small communities in India.

The GoI has been the signatory of almost all the major international treaties and conventions including the Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement, Montreal Protocol as well as the different conventions on climate change, biodiversity and marine pollution. India’s contribution in implementation of the “millennium development goals” during 2001 and 2015 and the subsequent involvement in the activities associated with the implementation of the “sustainable development goals” have been noted and praised on the international platforms.  In summary, India has exhibited a remarkable commitment to the principles of “sustainability” and “inclusive growth.”