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"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."The concept of sustainable development can be explained in number of ways, but at its core is an approach to development that looks to balance different, but competing, needs against an awareness of the social, environmental and economic limitations we face as a society.The longer we pursue unsustainable development, the more severe its consequences are likely to become, which is why we need to take action now.

History of Sustainable Development

The concept of sustainable development found the basis of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In the Brundtland commission report “Our Common Future” Sustainable development was the solution to the problems of environmental degradation. In the report, concerns of previous decades were raised and the impacts of human activity were studied because growth and development would be unsustainable if they continued unchecked.

Sustainable development as a concept received its first major international recognition in 1972 at the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, where they recognized that development and environment could be managed in a mutually beneficial way. The term was popularized 15 years later in Our Common Future, of The Earth Summit. It was not until the Rio Summit, that major world leaders recognized sustainable development as the major challenge it remains today.

More recently, the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in Johannesburg in 2002 which delivered three key outcomes: a political declaration, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and a range of partnership initiatives. Main commitments included those on sustainable consumption and production, energy, water and sanitation.

Objectives of Sustainable development

The main objectives of Sustainable development are-

  1. Economic growth- For sustainable development, an equal growth is required so that it can produce money for all without any harm to the environment. For a complete development, the strengthening part can be investment and equal distribution of economic resources.
  2. Social development- The development of people, culture and community can be promoted by sustainability at social level as it helps to achieve as it helps to achieve reasonable and fairly- distributed quality of life, education and healthcare across the globe.
  3. Environmental sustainability- Protection of natural resources from being used as an inexhaustible source of resources and use it in a rational way. To achieve this supporting sustainable mobility, investigating in renewable energies, saving water and innovation sustainable construction are some of the ways. Natural capital is an economic metaphor for environmental assets that supply resources to economy.

Legal Scenario of Sustainable Development

There is no International legal obligations that development must be sustainable and that the decisions on what constitutes sustainability rests primarily with individual government. Sustainability requires the enforcement wider responsibilities. A proposition that an environment adequate for health and well-being is essential for present as well as future generations, is required. Law alone will be unable to fulfill the common interest. Change in required in the procedure and attitudes of both private and public sectors. The integration of economic and ecological factors into the law within the country has to match with the international law. Sustainable development requires unification of economics and ecology in International relations in future.

Judicial response to deforestation-

As such till now we have no case before us in which corporations were held liable for the activities causing deforestation. But in some cases the court gave directions to them in the interest of environment protection. In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors the concern was Environment degradation caused by mining activity in Aravalli Hills. Supreme Court declared that mining leases not to be renewed without prior no objection certificate from HPCB and also from Central Pollution Control.

In the case of M/s Aziz timber corp. v. State of Jammu & Kashmir the petitioners, M/S Aziz Timber Corporation and others, are involved in illegal logging in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court banned the illegal logging and also prohibited the removal from the State of any trees that had been cut, and directed the Chief Secretary of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure strict and faithful compliance with this order.

In the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of Utter Pradesh, the Supreme Court directed accepted a letter received from the petitioner alleging illegal mining which adversely affected the ecology of the region and caused environmental damage, to register it as a writ petition and issued notice on the Respondents. The mining was stopped with immediate effect.


Sustainable development is all about meeting basic needs of all in such a way that it gives an opportunity to aspire for a life. It also says that it should be ensured that poor also have a fair chance to use and share the resources for their growth. The political system and democracy should ensure equity for the effective participation of citizens in decision making for national as well as international issues. Unfortunately merely signing the important international documents would not be sufficient, much more needs to be done if the commitments made at these summits are to be converted to reality.

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