Meaning, Principles And Goals Of Sustainable Development In India


“Without environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and social cohesion cannot be achieved”. – Phil Harding, a British archeologist

In a world population of 7.8 billion people today a concerning question arises whether the current generation will be able to leave behind ample amounts of resources for the succeeding generation?

With new developments and advancements in technology, the world has also witnessed constant exploitation of nature which has led to alarming problems like global warming, ozone depletion, climate change, pollution, deforestation and many other environmental threats. It is important for us to take immediate action for preserving our planet and sustainable development is the answer to a better environment and secure future.

Defining Sustainable Development

Sustainable development defined by the United Nations goes by the concept of “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainable development is a formulated attitude that moves forward towards economic extension while ensuring quality in the environment for the coming generations. Sustainable development incorporates conservation, preservation and nurturing of Earth and the environment while stepping towards economic growth. Sustainable development guarantees to create a balance between development and ecology.

Origin and background of Sustainable Development

The seeds for the idea of sustainable development were planted as long as in the year 1972 in the Stockholm Declaration. However the concept came into being in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio De Janeiro in the year 1992, it wasn’t until this renounced summit that the first world countries and major world leaders came to acknowledge the extreme need of sustainable development in order to overcome crucial challenges that were to be faced.

A report, famously called the ‘Brundtland report’ was drafted subjugated as per the commission of Norway’s ex-prime minister Ms.G.H Brundtland in 1987 under the UN conference on environment and development. Prime Minister Brundtland defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”[1] These ideas were later used to form the laying foundation for the doctrine of sustainable development.

Scope of Sustainable Development

The entirety of sustainable development is an international and collaborative approach that focuses on environmental, developmental and sustainable aspects of the society that impacts its socio-economic development. It emphasizes its concerns to the complex relationship between the environment and development and searches for attaining all developmental achievements along with maintaining a healthy environment for humans and their activities.

The term sustainability is widely used to indicate programs, initiatives and actions aimed at the preservation of resources [2] albeit human, social, economic and development are known as the four pillars of sustainable development.

Although the theme of sustainable development contains the scope as related to:[3]

  1. The technology, economical, ethical and philosophical aspect of sustainable development.
  2. Mutual connection and interaction of society, environment and growth- both economical and developmental.
  3. Global sustainability as a common goal, where the obstacles and aims are taken over as a group.
  4. Developing, verifying, implementing and monitoring policies for sustainable development.
  5. Sustainable use of water, land, energy and biological resources in development.
  6. Taking initiatives in local and regional activities to increase the awareness of the relevance of sustainable development.
  7. Impacting the population and human activities on food and other essential resources of development.
  8. Finding alternatives to the shortcomings of sustainable development.
  9. Planning and economic growth plan that ensures least environmental impact.
  10. Attending the urgent economic needs without compromising the global conditions for future generations.

Importance of Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is important because it combats with the environmental crisis while facing the challenge of economic growth. Sustainable development keeps in check the need to leave enough resources for the coming up generations, it also signifies good cooperating citizens, this activity demonstrates that organizations in healthcare systems, big and small industries, all kinds of businesses and other occupations can coordinate their power and resources that will be profitable to the economical, social and physical environment[4] in which we live.

Goals and Principles of Sustainable Development

The Brundtland Commission Report had received support from all over the world, some of its principles highlight the concept of sustainable development, as discussed in Rio De Janeiro in 1992 and Agenda 21, these goals include: [5]

  1. Eradication of extreme poverty for all people from everywhere by the year 2030.
  2. Ending hunger and achieving food security along with improvised nutrition by 2030
  3. Catering healthy lives and promoting well being and good healthy lives for all ages at every place on earth by the year 2030.
  4. To provide for quality education and ensure all girls and boys and children get free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education despite their gender by 2030.
  5. To achieve gender equality and empowering all women and girls of all ages, caste, religion, and nationality.
  6. Have the availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.
  7. Cater to affordable and clean energy which is reliable, sustainable and renewable for every purpose and for every individual by 2030.
  8. Promote inclusive, sustained and decent work and economic growth for all.
  9. Building a resilient infrastructure which promotes industrial and innovative infrastructure and remains inclusive and fosters industrialization by 2030.
  10. To aim to reduce inequality within and among other countries by 2030.
  11. Ensuring cities and human settlements to be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable for all communities.
  12. Responsible consumption and production which guarantees sustainable consumption and products patterns.
  13. Initiating urgent actions to battle with climate change and it’s harmful impact on our Earth.
  14. Strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development.
  15. Conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for the life that is below the water.
  16. To protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and fight desertification and halt biodiversity loss for the life living on the land.
  17. Providing peace, justice and strong institutions by vocaling the requirements for a more peaceful and sustainable society that provides justice to all.

Some primary principles of sustainable development are incorporated as:[6]

  1. Intergenerational equity
  2. Usage and conservation of natural resources
  3. Environmental protection
  4. Poverty eradication
  5. Precautionary Pay Principal
  6. Principle of Public Trust doctrine
  7. Polluter Pay Principle
  8. The Principle of liability to help and cooperate.

Sustainable Development in India

The ecosystem in India is in grave distress, where the agriculture has seemingly declined, 10% of flora and fauna are on the verge of extinction and over half of the water bodies are polluted, two-third of the land is degraded and modern wastes that include industrial as well as chemical waste is being disposed of in water bodies since it cannot be renewed.[7]

Despite the degrading environmental condition of the country India has played an important character in improving it’s condition. It works on the parameters of ideation, diplomacy and institution. It has become one of the first countries to participate in Voluntary National Reviews that surveys various measures and graphs to check on the progress of goals leading up to sustainable development. India has also constantly funded the United Nations trusts for the SDGs, it works with the G77 and collaborates with them to reach to a consensus where countries agree to reap benefits for their developmental growth as well as maintain the decorum of nature.

Initiatives are taken by the Government

Several acts and laws have been passed by to ensure protection and preservation of flora and fauna  these include:

  1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974
  2. The Forest (Conservation) Act 1980
  3. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1980
  4. The Environment (Protection) Act 1986

I. The legislature also introduced a National Green Tribunal under National Green Tribunal Act, 2010; the tribunal has the goal to dispose of cases quickly and effectively to the issues related to multi-corporal matters which are related to the environment. The Tribunal does not follow Code of Civil Procedure 1908. The Tribunal has aided in lessening the burden of the higher courts and helped in fast hearings.

ii. India then initiated the National Clean Air Programmed 2019 to effectively imply the importance and urge of clean air and the need to reduce air pollution and improve the Air Quality Index.

iii. An integrated mission in 2014 was introduced the Namami Ganges Mission with the objective to preserve and rejuvenate the river Ganges. It focuses on the development and maintenance of sewage treatment infrastructure and factory effluents handling.

iv. State Action Plans on Climate Change aim to capacities and implement sector activities that focus on climate change. Till date 28 states and 5 Union Territories have endorsed themselves with the SAPCC and adapted to benefit in sectors like water, land, air, migration tourism, forestry, agricultural and etc.

India has also been a part of the Paris Agreement and has put its effort by forming many more acts and agreements like the Clean Development Mechanism project in India, Coal Cess and the National Clean Energy Fund, National Adaptation Fund of Climate Change and many more.


In this fast pacing world where on one side we are reaching towards new heights of advancement, it is essential for us as a global community to take conscious steps and actions that will ample resources for the coming generation but nurse the issues that might cause a difficult tomorrow. Sustainable Development is the modern and most suitable solution for these problems, thus more efforts should be put in to reach the goals of sustainable development.

India as a growing country and a potentially powerful influence in the contemporary world has hustled towards making several attempts to balance development and the environment on the same plate without harming or hindering each other. However, it is a long way to go and achieve the goal of a self-sustainable and self-developed country.








This Article is Authored by Amna Ali, BA. LL.B(H) Student at Amity Law School/Amity University, Noida

Also Read – Development of Environmental law

Law Corner