Societies and sustainability

  • 14/07/1995

The two volumes are the result of the combined effort of CUSO***, a Canadian NGO, and environmentalists from Asia. The contributors share their experiences on a wide range of issues ranging from Asian values, morals, perceptions about developmental strategies, success stories and failures of managing natural resources.

Having described the concept of sustainability, the authors go on to give a country profile of Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, Philippines and Cambodia. Articles by Charlie Pahlman and Martin Khor clarify the origin and the meaning of the concept, and highlight that sustainability is a critical issue for all countries, not just for those in the South.

Equity as a central principle sustainability, requires inter and intra generational equity as well as equity within and between nations. In the present system of development, resource depletion and contamination are serious issues. There is a need to evolve concepts of 'efficiency', 'waste minimisation', 'productivity' and 'standard of living'. In the Asian region, the poor are the victims, not the culprits of environmental degradation. In country profiles, authors have analysed the developmental strategies for supporting sustainable development, major environmental and social problems in rural areas and the role of NGOs and CUSO in strengthening the role of rural women.

Due attention is paid to sectorial perspectives such as agriculture, forestry, economics and health. The existing agricultural and forest practices in Asian countries and perceptions of people and experts for sustainable agriculture have been incorporated. The success stories of peoples' groups and NGOs will interest scientists and administrators. There are innovative, cooperative and technical experiments on issues like seed exchange programme, maintaining soil fertility, hybrid seeds, etc. The articles are not very technical but are thought-provoking with farmer and volunteer profiles in various countries. Two case studies in the economics section on cost benefit analysis of HYV farming gave some basic facts of modern agriculture in developing countries.

The issues of providing a proper role to women in the farm and non-farm sector, farm planning, educating rural poor on environmental issues, proper management of natural resources like water, air and land, environmental education have been touched by CUSO volunteers with their long observations in these areas.

These two volumes have identified some very important issues which need immediate attention by the planners and decision makers. It also provides material for further research and investigations in a number of contemporary areas.

Vinod K Sharma, coordinator, Centre for Public Policy, Planning and Environmental Studies, IIPA, New Delhi

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