Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs and aspirations of the current generation without compromising the ability to meet those of future generations.

It is in fact a process which leads to a better quality of life while minimising the impact on the environment.

This new concept of development emerged at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Conventional development based on indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources and clearance of developmental projects without impact assessment have led to depletion of resources, environmental pollution and

outbreak of diseases.

The consumption of fossil fuels and minerals at a rapid rate is leading to their exhaustion in the near future. The indiscriminate extraction of water resources has led to lowering of the groundwater table. The indiscriminate deforestation has led to problems of biodiversity depletion, global warming and soil erosion. The mindless and incessant use of chemicals and synthetic fertilisers to increase agricultural productivity has caused environmental pollution and land degradation. Development activities like urbanisation, industrialisation, construction of dams and canals, railway projects, highways and power plants have also caused environmental deterioration and outbreak of diseases.

The solution to all the aforesaid problems lies in building sustainable communities. A sustainable community formulates goals that are rooted in respect for the natural environment and nature. Renewable sources of energy like wind energy, solar energy, tidal energy, geothermal energy and hydro thermal energy must be a priority for the attainment of the goal of sustainable development.

Waste products must be recycled and damaged ecosystems like grasslands, forests must be restored.

Development is necessary for social and economic progress.

However, this development should not be carried out at the cost of environmental health.

Human ecology must also get high priority in environmental policies and developmental programmes as the quality of environment and the nature of development are major determinants of human health.

Therefore, Environmental Impact Assessment with reference to long- term consequences on health, i.e., Health Impact Assessment must be regarded as a management tool to specify the extent to which developmental projects may be permitted so as to maintain the ecological balance of an area as well as human health. There must be a policy framework for healthrisk assessment and health-risk management in the context of development programmes and projects.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 1 2021, of The Himalayan Times.