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Report No. 186

Sustainable Development:

Development of the countries and eradication of poverty must be balanced against conservation of environment. Principle 3 of the Earth Summit Declaration (1992) at Rio states that the 'right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations'. Principle 4 states that in order 'to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation of it'.

Principle 5 states that all 'States and all people shall cooperate in the essential tasks of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better the needs of the majority of the people of the world'. Principle 6 requires that the special situation and needs of developing countries shall be given priority. Principle 7 requires that developed countries acknowledge the responsibility they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development.

Principle 8 requires that in order to achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies. Principle 9 requires improvement in capacity building for sustainable development. Principle 27 requires States and people to cooperate for the purpose of sustainable development.

In Gabakovo vs. Nagymares: the ICJ ruling on the dam on Danube (1997), the majority observed that the 'concept of sustainable development' arose out of the need to reconcile economic development with the protection of environment. Weeramantry J, went further and observed that the concept has become a principle of modern international law.

Article 37 of the December 2000 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union refers specifically to the principle of 'sustainable development. The preamble to the WTO Agreement too refers to it. So does the WTO Ministerial Declaration of 2001. Article 2 of the EC Treaty refers to it.

This concept was mentioned in the Bruntland Report, 1987. The principle of 'sustainable development' is at the basis of the fundamental principles of the law of environment. The principle was referred to in Vellore Citizens' Welfare Forum case : 1996(5) SCC 647. It was stated that there is today no conflict between 'development' and 'safeguarding ecology'; it is a viable concept which has been developed after two decades from Stockholm to Rio; it is a principle which seeks to eradicate poverty and improve the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of the supporting ecosystem. The Bruntland Report stated as follows:

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs."

It is a principle which balances development and ecology. The 'polluter Pays' principle is part of this concept as it requires the polluter to restore the status quo ante as it stood before the pollution.

In Narmada Bachao Andolan vs. Union of India 2000(10) SCC 664, it was pointed out that when the effect of a project is known, then the principle of sustainable development would come into play which will ensure that mitigative steps are and can be taken to preserve the ecological balance. "Sustainable development means what type or extent of development can take place which can be sustained by nature/ecology with or without mitigation."

In fact, in several modern constitutions, the fundamental right to protect the environment from degradation is coupled with the right to sustainable development. The latest Constitution of South Africa is an example where Article 24 deals with this aspect. It reads as follows:



Proposal to Constitute Environment Courts Back




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