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After studying this chapter, the learners will understand the concept of environment analyse the causes and effects of ‘environmental degradation’ and ‘resource depletion’ understand the nature of environmental challenges facing India relate environmental issues to the larger context of sustainable development. E NVIRONMENT AND S USTAINABLE D EVELOPMENT 9
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163 ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 9.1 I NTRODUCTION In the earlier chapters we have discussed the main economic issues faced by the Indian economy. The economic development that we have achieved so far has come at a very heavy price—at the cost of environmental quality. As we step into an era of globalisation that promises higher economic growth, we have to bear in mind the adverse consequences of the past development path on our environment and consciously choose a path of sustainable development. To understand the unsustainable path of development that we have taken and the challenges of sustainable development, we have to first understand the significance and contribution of environment to economic development. With this in mind, this chapter is divided into three sections. The first part deals with the functions and role of environment. The second section discusses the state of India’s environment and the third section deals with steps and strategies to achieve sustainable development. 9.2 E NVIRONMENT — D EFINITION AND F UNCTIONS Environment is defined as the total planetary inheritance and the totality of all resources. It includes all the biotic and abiotic factors that influence each other. While all living elements—the birds, animals and plants, forests, fisheries etc.—are biotic elements, abiotic elements include air, water, land etc. Rocks and sunlight are all examples of abiotic elements of the environment. A study of the environment then calls for a study of the inter- relationship between these biotic and abiotic components of the environment. Functions of the Environment: The environment performs four vital functions (i) it supplies resources: resources here include both renewable and non-renewable resources. Renewable resources are those which can be used without the possibility of the resource becoming depleted or exhausted. That is, a continuous supply of the resource remains available. Examples of renewable resources are the trees in the forests and the fishes in the ocean. Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, are those which get exhausted with extraction and use, for example, fossil fuel (ii) it assimilates waste (iii) it sustains life by providing genetic and bio diversity and (iv) it also provides aesthetic services like scenery etc. The environment is able to perform these functions without any interruption as long as the demand on these The environment, left to itself, can continue to support life for millions of years. The single most unstable and potentially disruptive element in the scheme is the human species. Human beings, with modern technology, have
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This note was uploaded on 01/19/2012 for the course ECONOMICS 3EN taught by Professor Dwaynesmith during the Fall '09 term at Central European University.

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