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RECIPROCITY BETWEEN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Updated: May 27

Author: Riya Gulati, LL.M (Intellectual Property & Information Technology) from University College Dublin+ BA.LLB from Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Pune.

Designation- Paralegal at Law Offices of Caro Kinsella & Youth Ambassador for the ONE Campaign, Ireland.


The environment and the economy are really both two sides of the same coin. If we cannot sustain the environment, we cannot sustain ourselves”- Wangari Maathai


Due to the upswing in population, urbanization, industrialization, aviation, shipping and vehicular emission, the concern for environmental quality has become the crucial issue in the present scenario. Environmental conservation has deduced even more significance in neoteric times with increased industrialization engendering not only in over withdrawal of natural resources but also triggering pollution and thereby impacting the flora & fauna.[1] In the developing nations, environmental issues are not constricted to the side effects of industrialization withal reflect the paucity of resources to provide infrastructural provisions to avert industrial pollution.Indeed, the breakthrough in science and technology have bestowedumpteen benefits on society in the form of finer and improved quality of goods at relatively reasonable costs and in proportionately substantial quantities. Nevertheless, the advent of technology has also fetched in its trajectory the impediment of pollution. Certainly, there is an interface between environment and development.[2] Whilst development is crucial for every economy, it is also indispensable that no irreparable damage is caused to the ecosystem.[3]Therefore, the modus operandi would patently be that of ‘sustainable development to equipoise the exigencies of industrial growth against the trade-offs in environment concerns. It is our collective responsibility to utilize the earth’s resources prudently and sustainably so that we don’t knock-back the benefits of our future generations. There is a necessity to amalgamate development and conservation- development to facilitate the people all around to enjoy healthful, long& fulfilling lives and conservation to keep our actions within the capacity of earth.

The notion of ‘sustainable development’ was first accentuated at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in June, 1972.[4] Since then, several nations such as US, France, Germany, Japan, etc. besides India, have implemented legislations pertaining to the conservation of the environment and thereby incorporated strict penalties for the damages incurred due to hazardous substances, etc. The tenets of sustainable development as set out in the stratagem for sustainable living, pivot on veneration and care for the community of life, ameliorating the standard of human life, preserving the diversity and vitality of the earth, curtailing the exhaustion of non-renewable resources- keeping within the earths carrying potentialities, remoulding personal practices and attitudes, facilitating the coteries to care and manage their own environment, proffering a natural structure for consolidating development and conservation.

Worldwide sustainability relies upon a robust alliance amongst all the nations. However, the magnitude of development in the globe are asymmetrical and therefore, the lower income nations must be succoured to reinforce sustainability and to safeguard their environment. The ethic of care applies at the individual, national as well as international levels. No country is self-sufficient by itself. Hence, they all tend to profit from global sustainability, and all are imperilled if we fail to accomplish it.[5]

Heretofore, we used to have a glorious tradition of environment preservation which enlightened us to deference to nature and to take consciousness of the verity that all the life-forms: plants, animals and humans are closely interconnected and that disruption in one causes an imbalance in others. This dogma is also enshrined in the Indian Constitution under the Directive Principles. In the judicial pronouncement, the prerogative to a healthy environment has been decoded as a part of the right to life under the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution. Moreover, it is our fundamental duty to safeguard and tweak the natural environment encompassing the forests, rivers, lakes & wildlife and to have solicitude for living creatures (Article 51-A). We have majorly failed to inculcate the principles and fulfil our obligations constructively. Latterly, India had secured 168th rank out of 180 countries in the 12th edition of Environment Performance Index (EPI) 2020.[6]Although over the past years, the economic growth of India has upheaved the prospect of alleviating large-scale penury within a generation nevertheless, this progress has been clouded by a deteriorated physical environment and burgeoning dearth of natural resources that are indispensable for enduring further development and eradicating poverty.[7]

We need to always keep in mind that we have not only inherited the Earth from our antecedents, but we have also borrowed it from our children, hence, it is our individual and collective duty to safeguard it. Therefore, development should take place without harming the environment.


[1] Ramakrishna & Jayasheela, ‘Environmental Problems and Sustainable Development: With Special Reference to India Issues and Challenges’ (2010) 6(2) Journal of Global Economy <https://ideas.repec.org/a/jge/journl/622.html#:~:text=In%20India%2C%20rapid%20growth%20of,and%20hence%20cannot%20be%20ignored.> accessed 25September 2020

[2]TWB, ‘India: Green Growth- Overcoming Environment Challenges to Promote Development’ (The World Bank, 6 March 2014) https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/03/06/green-growth-overcoming-india-environment-challenges-promote-development accessed 25 September 2020

[3]Hemant Sethi, ‘How is India dealing with environmental risks and climate change?’ The Economic Times (Delhi, 11 October 2019) https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/energy-speak/how-is-india-dealing-with-environmental-risks-and-climate-change/3824 accessed 25 September 2020

[4] Nikolas, Loukas, Ilias&Vaios, Environment and Development (Elsevier 2016)

[5] ICSI, Law Relating To Pollution Control and Environmental Protection (ICSI 2012)

[6]Siddhi Jain, ‘India ranks 168th on Environmental Performance Index’ Outlook (New Delhi, 9 June 2020)<https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/india-ranks-168th-on-environmental-performance-index/1860519> accessed 25 September 2020

[7] TWB, ‘Environmental Management in India’ (The World Bank) https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2011/09/22/environmental-management-india accessed 25 September 2020