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This article is written by Paridhi Goel, a student from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. This is an exhaustive article which gives a description of sustainable development- its goals, challenges and strategies for environmental conservation and illustrates how affordable housing is one of the important goals of this development. 

Introduction

Nature has offered us with renewable and nonrenewable resources that have made our lives quite convenient and continue to help us with our advancement in technology. More and more resources are being used up to meet the increasing demands of the growing population which will soon result in depletion of these resources. Not only will the present population suffer due to this lack of availability of resources but also, it will compromise the needs of the future generations as they would be deprived of the natural resources which even they have a right to use. To secure the present and future generations, the concept of sustainable development was introduced which satisfied the needs of the present without compromising the capacity of the people in future, guaranteeing a balance between economic growth, protection of the environment and social well-being. This development focused on improving the global quality of life which meant bringing about such changes in the environment that could enhance the economic, social, cultural and political conditions of the people so that both the rights of the people as well as the environment is safeguarded. 

The developing countries like India have to emphasise more on this concept as all their resources are being used to cater to the needs of the growing population and yet due to an imbalance in the economic growth, the majority part of this population does not have a proper house to live in. The country needed a plan that could provide affordable homes for the low-income population and also ensure that the principles of sustainable development are upheld while constructing and building such homes. This article discusses how by bringing both sustainable development and affordable housing, the problems of many homeless people could be solved without causing any harm to the environment.

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Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is not entirely about the environment. It also focuses on meeting the diverse needs of the people belonging to different communities to create equal opportunities for all and ensure a strong and healthy society. Its goal is to improve the quality of living among people in such a manner that they can meet the needs of the present without affecting or compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. One aspect of this development is using green materials that are environment-friendly, in new construction and design projects that can either harvest their energy to reduce the load on a power grid or that can incorporate green space to counterbalance the space that was removed to build the on-site facilities. Apart from utilising spaces, sustainable development covers the personal health and well-being of individuals by providing easy access to healthcare and leisure facilities, looks after social cohesion and inclusion and also promotes all kinds of equality among people. The term sustainable development first appeared in 1987 when the Brundtland Report was published that laid down a warning of the negative environmental consequences of economic growth and globalization. The report tried to find possible solutions to the problems caused by industrialization and growth in population by shifting the focus to this term.

Goals

Sustainable development has three primary goals to achieve in general that are –

  • To minimise the depletion of natural resources.
  • To create and maintain new developments in a sustainable manner so that they do not cause any harm to the environment.
  • To come up with new methods for making the existing facilities and projects environment-friendly.

The General Assembly had adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015 that laid down seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) based on the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ and achieving sustainable development through a holistic approach. These goals are as follows-

  1. Eradication of poverty across the world.
  2. To ensure ‘Zero Hunger’ by coming up with new strategies for availability and distribution of food especially in the developing countries.
  3. Promotion of good health and well-being
  4. To provide quality education to all.
  5. To promote gender equality and lay down provisions for the protection of the rights of people when they face discrimination on the basis of their gender.
  6. Provision of clean water and sanitation.
  7. Provision of affordable and clean energy.
  8. To ensure decent work and economic growth in all countries.
  9. To build industries, promote innovation and infrastructure through sustainable means.
  10. To reduce inequalities.
  11. To make the cities and communities sustainable.
  12. To ensure responsible consumption and production.
  13. To control climate change.
  14. To safeguard lives below water.
  15. To safeguard lives on land.
  16. To set up strong institutions of peace and justice.
  17. To establish partnerships for achieving these goals.

Challenges

There are many hurdles on the path leading to complete sustainable development of the world. These hurdles are very much visible to all the people however, many of them choose to ignore them. The major challenge for sustainable development is to fulfil its goals keeping in mind that not all the people are supportive of its ways and measures. The main challenges faced are as follows-

  • The major challenge for sustainable development is population growth. Increase in the population indicates an increase in the demands of the people. Every individual requires a house, the basic facilities of food and water, electricity, heavy appliances, a car, etc. which are common nowadays to be found in almost every household. They are habitual of the technologies that they use and are not ready to compromise for the sake of the environment. Thus, sustainable development has to be achieved in such a way that their present needs are fulfilled without straining the needs of future generations.
  • The developing countries, for example, India, are dependent on the resources to cope up with the growing demands of its population and also to develop its nation from a global point of view as developing countries are already behind in many things. There is a lack of financial resources to carry out plans for sustainable development efficiently. India is struck with poverty for a long time now. The government does not have many job opportunities for everyone or enough resources to spend on individuals as well as maintain its international relations. Without any kind of financial aid, it is difficult to achieve sustainable development in the country.
  • Inequality is another challenge faced by people who want to promote sustainable development. While there is a section of the society that enjoys all the luxuries of food, drinking water and housing, there are people who are suffering from undernourishment. Even so, food production is exhausting the resources available to us through nature.
  • Consumption of Energy is another hurdle. There are many industries and other facilities that are using all forms of energy for their convenience. A reliable and sustainable source of energy is required so that no harm is done to the environment.

Strategies for Sustainable Development in India

India seems to be facing all the challenges that are stopping it from achieving the goal of a sustainable environment. There are certain strategies that are devised to manage and utilize the resources in a proper way to ensure sustainable development in the country. These strategies are as follows-

  • Input Efficient Technology should be used in industries and other facilities to reduce the exploitation of resources.
  • Eco-friendly fuels like Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) should be used in place of petrol and diesel to reduce the effect of greenhouse gases from the earth’s atmosphere. The government should also advocate the use of renewable sources of energy like wind and solar energy. Though the process is expensive and difficult yet, it is necessary to make use of this energy now to safeguard the non-renewable resources from depleting.
  • Special sustainable designs should be used for construction purposes. More recycling of waste products should be promoted so that the resources are not blindly exploited.
  • The State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC)– They aim to create institutional capacities and implement sectoral activities to address climate change. These plans are focused on adaptation with mitigation as a co-benefit in sectors such as water, agriculture, tourism, forestry, transport, habitat and energy. 
  • Coal Cess and the National Clean Energy Fund– India is one of the few countries around the world to have a carbon tax in the form of a cess on coal. Not only has India imposed such a cess but it has also been progressively increasing it.  

Affordable Housing

India has a huge population, yet there is a lack of available housing options in the country. Due to limited income and minimal access to home finance for those borrowers who have a low income, millions of people currently live in cramped, poorly constructed houses and some even live in slum areas where they do not even have a proper roof to live under. They lack access to a clean and healthy environment with no basic amenities such as clean water, sewage, waste management or electricity is provided to them. It is known that sustainable development aims for quality life among individuals and it looks after the health and well- being of people. Thus, the concept of ‘Affordable Housing’ is a part of sustainable development to provide better housing facilities to that section of the population that cannot afford proper homes to live in. It refers to housing units that are affordable for the low-income people and the economically weaker sections of the society staying in urban areas.

Critical Issues

Provision of affordable housing to the low-income population does fulfil one of the goals of sustainable development to ensure the health and well-being of individuals. However, this sector faces a few critical issues. They are as follows-

  • There is a scarcity of land for construction of affordable housing. The high population density, rapid urbanization and improper regulations have led to the shortage of land parcels available for development. Poorly planned settlements like slums are spread over large areas leaving no space for housing projects.
  • The costs of both land and construction have increased with the expenses of construction material and labour. A project like affordable housing needs financial aids to complete its target.
  • Clearance of project sanctions takes many years as it passes through almost forty departments. No clear laws or regulations are framed for the project like by-laws, rules for floor space index and zoning.
  • There are title issues that are raised whenever land is finalized. Problems of registration, court decrees, filing agreements and transactions are faced as it is a long process.

Government Measures

  • The government set 2022 as the target year to achieve housing for all in its initiative of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) which comprises affordable housing for both the urban poor and the rural poor. The scheme gives financial assistance to the States and Union Territories to support housing requirements of the urban poor and the rural poor, focusing on the lower-income groups.
  • The government has also increased the time for the completion of the projects from three to five years and reduced the tenure for long-term capital gains for affordable housing from three to two years.
  • The developers are provided with incentives including subsidies, tax benefits and institutional funding.
  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has reduced tax rates for affordable housing from eight per cent to just one per cent.
  • The Reserve Bank of India is also ready to give loans to affordable housing under priority sector lending.

Ensuring Sustainable Development in Housing

Construction of houses under Affordable Housing fulfils one of the Sustainable Development Goals of maintaining the quality of life among people and taking care of their physical as well as mental health which cannot be done by living in slums. However, construction and control of buildings also contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases thus, sustainable practices have to be adopted while designing and constructing the houses so that another goal of safeguarding the environment is not overlooked. Sustainable development along with architecture can lower the annual operating costs for housing developers, which will enable them to build more units. It can help in using the land efficiently by locating the housing within an established city or town to incorporate existing structures. The sites that have been chosen should be near public transportation, shopping centres, schools and items of daily needs should be available so that there is less use of automobiles. Developments like using water efficiently and minimizing stormwater run-off should be created. Units should be designed in such a way that they reduce energy use, minimize the construction waste, use durable and inexpensive repair equipment and hardware for the project. The materials chosen should not produce unhealthy interior environments. In this way, we can achieve the goal of providing the people a healthy and safe place to live in and at the same time, not much harm is done to the environment.

Conclusion

Sustainable Development is a vision to secure the resources and protect the environment for our future generations. It cannot just take place by formulating policies. Instead, it has to be taken up by the society at large as a principle guiding the many choices that an individual makes which affects the environment. Projects like combining sustainable development with affordable housing should be thought of more if we want to improve the environmental conditions of our country and raise the standards of living among people. This vision will become a reality only if everybody contributes a little in establishing economic freedom, social justice and environmental protection to make our future generations better off than now.  

References


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