Development and Ecological Sustainability in India: Possibilities for the post-2015 framework

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Sixty-five years after independence, India continues to struggle to achieve food, water, livelihood and socio-cultural security for its peoples. Both official and independent assessments point to persistent poverty, shortages of food, water and energy, unemployment and underemployment, social discrimination, and other problems which hinder the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There is growing evidence that the current path of development is ecologically unsustainable, and that inequality is increasing. This paper looks critically at India
  i   Oxfam India working papers series March 2013OIWPS - XVI Ashish Kothari Development and Ecological Sustainability in India: Possibilities for the Post-2015 Framework  This paper is aimed at policy level discussions, as well as an aid to civil society to push for necessary changes to take Indian economy, society, and polity towards the goal of human well-being with ecological sustainability as one fulcrum. It provides a context of the poverty–development–equity–environment linkages in India, comments on India’s implementation of MDG7, and describes the key conceptual and implementation related gaps in achieving this goal. It then discusses a possible post-2015 framework that combines sustainability and human well-being that could be applied globally, including its key principles. The paper then delineates goals and targets relating to sustainability, including key linkages with other goals and targets, outlines key indicators for these goals/targets, and lists some tools to help measure these indicators. Finally, it outlines some of the major challenges facing the achievement of such a framework, and some following steps that may be taken. The Author: Ashish Kothari Contact: ashishkothari@vsnl.comFounder-member of Indian environmental group Kalpavriksh, Ashish has taught at the Indian Institute of Public Administration. He coordinated India’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan process, has served on Greenpeace International and Greenpeace India Boards, and chaired an International Union for Conservation of Nature network dealing with protected areas and communities. Active in civil society movements relating to destructive development, conservation, and natural resource rights, Ashish is the author or editor (singly or jointly with others) of over 30 books, the latest of which, co-authored with Aseem Shrivastava, is a detailed analysis of globalization and its alternatives. Acknowledgments Comments on a draft of this paper were received from Uchita De Zoysa, Vanita Suneja, Aseem Shrivastava, Sagar Dhara, Lucy Dubochet, K.J. Joy, and Shiba Desor. The author is grateful to them, and acknowledges that not all their comments could be taken on board in this version. Weaknesses and mistakes remain the author’s responsibility. This paper should be seen as a work in progress, and will evolve with further feedback and experiences. Comments are, therefore, most welcome. Abstract Disclaimer: Oxfam India Working Paper Series disseminates the finding of the work in progress to encourage the exchange of ideas about development issues. An objective of the series is to get the findings out quickly, even if the presentations are less than fully polished. The papers carry the names of the authors and should be cited accordingly. The findings, interpretations, and conclusion expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of Oxfam India. Published by: Oxfam India  Contents Summary 21. Background and limitations 42. Structure of the paper 53. Context: poverty, development, equity, and environment 64. India’s record on MDG7 8 4.1 Implementation of globally specified targets and indicators 8 4.2 Gaps in globally specified indicators 11 4.3 Linkages between MDG7 and other MDGs 115. Evolution of MDGs into a new framework 136. Principles for the post-2015 framework 157. Goals and targets for the post-2015 framework 178. Indicators, indices and tools for assessing sustainability 209. Challenges and next steps 22References 24Annexure I: Indicators for sustainable development/human well-being goals and targets for India 26Annexure II: A partial list of frameworks, reports and proposals for sustainability 33  2 Summary As the Millennium Development Goals come up for review and possible reframing in 2015, discussions have been initiated within countries to assess possible ‘development’ frameworks that could more effectively lead to human well-being while ensuring ecological sustainability. This paper proposes a sustainability-centered framework of well-being for India, based on a set of principles and goals that would be relevant globally. 65 years after independence, India continues to struggle to achieve food, water, livelihood, and socio-cultural security for its peoples. Both official and independent assessments point to persistent poverty, shortages of food, water and energy, unemployment and underemployment, social discrimination, and other problems that hinder achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as also other goals set by India for itself. Additionally, there is increasing evidence of the ecological unsustainability of the current path of development, and of the growing chasm between rich and poor. Even the limited targets set under MDG7 on ensuring environmental sustainability have not been met; the interconnections between this and other goals continue to be weak or ignored. A fundamentally different framework of development, or well-being, is called for. If, as indicated by the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) of 2012, ecological sustainability has to be a major basis for such a framework, then a new set of global goals could include, among other things, equitable access to nature and natural resources to all peoples and communities, including the conservation and resilience of ecosystems, ecological cycles and functions, and biodiversity; access to adequate and safe food, water, energy, and settlements/habitat; access to conditions of good health, learning/education; and, in all these, meeting the special needs of women and children. Such a framework needs to be based on a set of universal principles, namely, respecting ecological integrity and limits, equity and justice, meaningful participation, responsibility, diversity, collective commons and solidarity, the rights of nature, resilience and adaptability, subsidiarity and ecoregionalism, and interconnectedness. A set of goals can be laid out for India following this framework and set of principles: 1. The integrity of natural ecosystems, wildlife populations, and biodiversity must be safeguarded by reducing and eventually eliminating resource and biodiversity loss, and regenerating degraded ecosystems and populations.2. All people must have access to safe and adequate resources to fulfill basic needs, in ways that are ecologically sustainable and culturally appropriate.
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