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Is Economic Development Sustainable?

Updated: Apr 29

More often than not, economic development and sustainability are viewed as mutual dependent on the other. Statistics have shown that an investment in sustainable resources gives positive, sustainable development outcomes. Another misinterpretation is that sustainability relates only to the physical or natural environment. Sustainability is a comprehensive term that means different things depending on the context. To put it simply, sustainable development means development that continues and should continue. It is essentially a situation where economic development does not decrease over time, but it is everlasting. Sustainable development is a process in which the natural resources base is not allowed to deteriorate.

Further, it may be defined as the developmental steps taken to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future generations. The process consists of developmental plans that can be sustained for generations to come. Hence, it advocates for the future generation and gives more capacity or possibility to prosper than the present generation. We must remember that sustainable economic development is necessary if we wish to see the species' continuation. Without a doubt, it brings higher material welfare because it increases the national output of goods and services. On the other hand, it also pollutes the environment due to misuse and overuse of natural resources.

In the course of economic development, we must also note the cost of the environmental damage taking place. It may come in the shape of deforestation, land degradation, soil erosion, air and water pollution, etc., which exceeds economic sustainability benefits. The consequences of environmental damage by natural resources have already been spotted form of climate change, global warming, greenhouse effects, irregular monsoon and weather, acid rain etc. The critical question is how economic development and the environment can co-exist so that development can be used for a sustainable community. That is why 'sustainable development has come into the discussion. 

Sustainable economic development should be a collective and national initiative built on the local economy and its unique assets that address their challenges to provide quantifiable real-world benefits. It is an implementable and practical process that tailors the strategies for local people, institutes and businesses. Elements of an anti-poverty program may also be expected in developing countries. Still, solutions must be grounded in the location's economic, social, and political reality to see if they can create real change. The Sustainable Economic Development framework identifies the green growth or green economy to assess a city's specific needs and untapped opportunities, using these to lift people out of poverty and increase environmental and economic resilience. These solutions are designed to raise incomes for growth and lower household costs. It does this by sustainable consumption, environmental degradation and development assistance. For environmental protection, we must increase resource efficiencies, improve access to jobs and services, and create new employment opportunities.

The objective of Sustainable Development:

Following are the main objectives:

(i) Sustainable improvements:

The environmental policy aims at creating sustainable improvements in the quality of life of all people.

(ii) Increase in economic growth

The ecosystem services and economic activity aim to increase economic growth by meeting basic needs, i.e. raising the standard of living.

(iii) Public participation:

To increase sustainable development, public participation is a must to clean the environment.

(iv) Maintenance of environment resources:

The plan aims to maintain natural and environmental resources (fossil fuels and natural capital) and economic development.