Environment and Sustainable Development class 11

Environment and Sustainable Development Introduction

In the earlier chapters, we have discussed the main economic issues faced by the Indian economy. The economic development that we have achieved so far has come at a very heavy price —at the cost of environmental quality. As we step into an era of globalization that promises higher economic growth, we have to bear in mind the adverse consequences of the past developmental path on our

environment and consciously choose a path of sustainable development. To understand the unsustainable path of development that we have taken and the challenges of sustainable development, we have to first understand the significance and contribution of the environment to economic development. With this in mind, this chapter is divided into three sections.

The first part deals with the functions and role of the environment. The second section discusses the state of India’s environment and the third section deals with steps and strategies to achieve sustainable development.

Environment definition and function

Environment is defined as the total planetary inheritance and the totality of all resources. It includes all the biotic functions within its carrying capacity. This implies that the resource extraction is not above the rate of regeneration of the resource and the wastes generated are within the assimilating capacity of the environment.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Environment and Sustainable Development

When this is not so, the environment fails to perform its third and vital function of life sustenance and

Functions of the Environment:

The environment performs four vital functions:
(i) it supplies resources: resources here include both renewable and non-renewable resources. Renewable resources are those which can be used without the possibility of the resource becoming depleted or exhausted. That is, a continuous supply of the resource remains available.

Examples of renewable resources are the trees in the forests and the fish in the ocean. Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, are those that get exhausted with extraction and use, for example, fossil fuel.

(ii) it assimilates waste
(iii) it sustains life by providing genetic and biodiversity
(iv) it also provides aesthetic services like scenery etc.
The environment is able to perform these functions without any interruption as long as the demand on these

Environment and Sustainable Development Notes

  1. Environmental Challenges: These include climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, pollution (air, water, soil), and depletion of natural resources.
  2. Role of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The United Nations has outlined 17 SDGs to address various global challenges, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice.
  3. Renewable Energy: Transitioning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power is crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.
  4. Circular Economy: Moving towards a circular economy model involves minimizing waste and making the most of resources through recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing.
  5. Conservation and Preservation: Conservation focuses on the sustainable use of natural resources while preservation aims to protect ecosystems and species from harm, often by restricting human activity in certain areas.
  6. Sustainable Agriculture: Practices such as organic farming, agroforestry, and permaculture promote biodiversity, soil health, and water conservation while reducing reliance on synthetic inputs.
  7. Urban Planning: Sustainable urban planning involves designing cities to be more compact, walkable, and efficient, with access to green spaces, public transportation, and renewable energy infrastructure.
  8. Corporate Responsibility: Businesses play a key role in sustainability efforts by adopting environmentally friendly practices, reducing carbon footprints, and promoting ethical supply chains.
  9. Education and Awareness: Promoting environmental literacy and raising awareness about sustainable lifestyles are crucial for fostering a culture of sustainability and empowering individuals to make informed choices.

State of India’s Environment

India has abundant natural resources in terms of rich quality of soil, hundreds of rivers and tributaries, lush green forests, plenty of mineral deposits beneath the land surface, vast stretch of the Indian Ocean, ranges of mountains, etc. The black soil of the Deccan Plateau is particularly suitable for the cultivation of cotton, leading to a concentration of textile industries in this region.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Environment and Sustainable Development

The Indo-Gangetic plains — spread from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal — are one of the most fertile, intensively cultivated and densely populated regions in the world. India’s forests, though unevenly distributed, provide green cover for a majority of its population and natural cover for its

wildlife. Large deposits of iron ore, coal, and natural gas are found in the country. India accounts for nearly 8 per cent of the world’s total iron ore reserves. Bauxite, copper, chromate, diamonds, gold, lead, lignite, manganese, zinc, uranium, etc. are also available in different parts of the country. However, the developmental activities in India have resulted in

Pressure on its finite natural resources, besides creating impacts on human health and well-being. The threat to India’s environment poses a dichotomy—the threat of poverty-induced environmental degradation and,

at the same time, the threat of pollution from affluence and a rapidly growing industrial sector. Air pollution, water contamination, soil erosion, deforestation, and wildlife extinction are some of the most pressing environmental concerns of India. The priority issues identified are:

(i) land degradation
(ii) biodiversity loss
(iii) air pollution with special reference to vehicular pollution in urban cities
(iv) management of freshwater
(v) solid waste management. Land in India suffers from varying degrees and types of degradation stemming mainly from unstable use and inappropriate management practices.

Sustainable development

Environment and economy are interdependent and need each other. Hence, development that ignores its repercussions on the environment will destroy the environment that sustains life forms. What is needed is sustainable development: development that will degradation, cultural disruption

, and social instability. Sustainable development is, in this sense, a development that meets the basic needs of all, particularly the poor majority, for employment, food, energy, water, and housing, and ensures the growth of agriculture, manufacturing, power, and services to meet these needs.

The Brundtland Commission emphasizes protecting the future generation. This is in line with the argument of the environmentalists who emphasize that we have a moral obligation to hand over the planet Earth in good order to future generations;

that is, the present generation should bequeath a better environment to the future generation. At least we should leave to the next generation a stock of ‘quality of life’ assets no less than what we have inherited. The present generation can promote development that enhances the natural and

built environment in ways that are compatible with (i) conservation of natural assets (ii) preservation of the regenerative capacity of the world’s natural ecological system (iii) avoiding the imposition of added costs or risks on future generations

Strategies for Sustainable development

Use of Non-conventional Sources of Energy: India, as you know, is hugely dependent on thermal and hydropower plants to meet its power needs.

Both of these have adverse environmental impacts. Thermal power plants emit large quantities of carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas. It also produces fly ash which, if not used properly, can cause pollution of water bodies, land, and other components of the environment.

Hydroelectric projects inundate forests and interfere with the natural flow of water in catchment areas and the river basins. Wind power and solar rays are good examples of conventional. In recent years, some efforts have been taken to tap these energy resources. Collect the details of one such unit set up in your area if any, and discuss in the class

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