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Sustainable Development Goals 2030: An All-Inclusive and Transformative Agenda for India
By Biba Jasmine
| Category: Science and Technology

In today’s world, where environmental crises are at their peak, it is crucial that we find ways to combat environmental degradation through innovative technology and cultural wisdom. 


‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, establishing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 related targets, enveloping social, economic and environmental dimensions of development, adopted by 193 countries including India, came into effect on January 1, 2016. The SDGs which embrace poverty, employment, education and literacy, health, gender equality and women empowerment, child development, water and sanitation, energy, sustainable cities, climate change, amongst others, are covered under various programmes of the Central and State Governments. 


India and its citizens hold nature as an integral part of their value system. They treat nature and natural resources as holy. In today’s world, where environmental crises are at their peak, it is crucial that we find ways to combat environmental degradation through innovative technology and cultural wisdom. India has a lot to offer to the world in terms of creating practices that are sustainable and environment-friendly. The country projects a long, advancing history of low carbon footprint and sustainable lifestyle. Since the consciousness about nature can help us deal with questions about sustainability, climate change, clean energy, biodiversity loss, it's time to leapfrog to achieve sustainable development, human well-being, prosperity and progress for all. In the era of technology, innovation, and research progression—India has time and again set examples of taking development alongside human well-being and prosperity thoughtfully. Initiatives such as promoting renewable energy alternatives through community-led approaches to provide alternatives to eco-construction techniques, from leapfrogging with LED lights to living the culture of repair/recycle and reuse viability - reflect the country’s broad-ranging and inclusive actions going forward.


We have defined threads that intertwine our systems, both environmental and social, cautiously and profoundly. And each time we as a country rose together, it only went on to reaffirm our commitment to sustainable and human development. The Vedas go back to over 3,000 years, with an emphasis on sustainability and human well-being as being part of the larger cycle of life. India representing a multitude of cultures and languages, varied biogeographical and megadiverse regions, along with a multiplicity of traditions, form a strong core value system in consonance with the need for mainstreaming and strengthening the existing knowledge repositories.


Before we begin any discussion on sustainability and India’s endeavour and action towards becoming a more sustainable and responsible economy and further how SDGs could be met—we should reflect deeply on a Sanskrit phrase from our scriptures, ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which means ‘the world is one family’. Incorporating the essence from the phrase into our core value system will help instill ownership and leadership ideals in our society thus creating tangible environmental benefits.


India has a strong legacy of environmental stewardship, protection, and promotion of cultural heritage. Our role in using renewable energy sources, which are locally available, low cost and integrated with cultural practices such as practicing crop diversification and supplementing crop cultivation with aquaculture to provide food security, possessing one of the greatest repositories of ethnobiological knowledge, maintaining one of the oldest holistic systems of the world, Ayurveda, is a privilege and a responsibility. With this knowledge-base, India is all set to fast-track its actions towards attaining SDGs. India is also ready to share its expertise in water, agriculture, climate change, renewable energy, poverty elimination, and so on, with the world. We as a country are well aware of the fact that a growing economy means higher incomes and more employability, allowing people better-living standards.


The global goals mirror India’s national development goals. The NITI Aayog, (National Institution for Transforming India), Government of India (GoI) carried out an extensive mapping of the 17 SDGs and their related targets capturing centrally sponsored schemes and initiatives. Along with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), the GoI is developing the National Indicator Framework in discussion with the concerned Central ministries/departments to monitor the progress of the SDGs. The MoSPI is also assisting states and union territories in the establishment of a monitoring framework at the state level, and work towards capacity building of relevant stakeholders.


Under the global goals, India is making efforts through its policy and regulatory work to address myriad of social and environmental issues. As we gaze to the fast-approaching milestone of 2030, we are facing a challenge of bringing about a positive behaviour change along with conscious enlightenment amongst the masses. A true plan for achieving global goals would be to hold and construct nations, regions, and communities that have a sustainable, durable, and more inclusive plan and programmes. Since India has a long-recognized need to manage the environment and development sustainably—the goals call for action to strengthen our potential to respond to challenges and build capacity. The aspirational nature of the SDGs is a plain expression of this generation’s determination to get a socio-environmental balance while achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth that benefits all and safeguards access to prosperity for generations to follow. The eradication of poverty has a stabilizing effect and frees individuals to pursue opportunities that provide for their livelihoods, health, and well-being.


Pondering on pressing issues like poverty, the Government of India, in working towards strengthening partnership amongst various stakeholders around anti-poverty interventions, has launched various poverty alleviation programmes in the rural Indian landscape such as the ‘Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana’ – Gramin, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, ‘Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana’ – National Rural Livelihood Mission, and National Social Assistance Programme amongst others whereas in urban areas schemes such as ‘Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana’ – Urban and ‘Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana’ – National Urban Livelihoods Mission is commenced to dissect India’s nuances and departures in the extensive struggles against poverty. With these national endeavours in place what becomes crucial is their ability and capacity to execute inclusive social protection systems, guarantee access to basic services and economic resources as well for all, and construct resilient communities.


In order to  ensure Availability and Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation for All - Missions such as Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) programme accord highest priority to providing 100 per cent tap water supply to households. The next highest priority is for providing 100 per cent sewerage and septage management facilities by urban local bodies/states, which is an example that India is committed to tackling water and sanitation issues of the country by mainstreaming issues of open defecation, prevention of manual scavenging, hygiene practices, and proper use and maintenance of toilet facilities with the general public. A National Advisory and Review Committee has been set up to oversee the implementation of projects on such issues. The National Rural Drinking Water Programme of the GoI provides financial and technical assistance to complement their efforts to ensure adequate safe drinking water to the rural population. The government database shows that in the year 2017, there are 69,054 drinking water projects in different states of the country. However, some of the reasons for the delay in commissioning of water supply schemes could be due to delay in disbursal of funds from the State Finance Department to the State implementing agencies.


Responding to climate changeability due to occurrences of disaster is exacerbating to which affordable, scalable and financially reasonable solutions are needed to guarantee human survival and well being. The government of India has started a number of steps to taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. One such example is the launch of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in June 2008 to deal with climate change related issues. NAPCC encompasses eight Missions in areas of solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, water, sustaining Himalayan Ecosystems, Green India, Sustainable agriculture and strategic knowledge for climate change.


National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) is a central sector scheme launched by the Government of India in 2015 for providing full support to state governments regarding the implementation of climate change adaptation projects. The main objective of NAFCC is to assist states/UTs more prone to the adversity of climate change. The National Mission for Green India, also called the Green India Mission (GIM), was adopted in 2014 for ten years. With the objectives towards developing knowledge-based platform and infrastructure, data and information sharing to set the agenda of climate change, collaborative synergies and activities for building excellence, filling gaps and building new capacities and making a viable investment in the existing knowledge capacities, the National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change was launched in 2010.


Need for understanding the interconnections and synergies amongst the SDGs: One thing that remains radical in this broad canvas of research, dialogue and knowledge sharing, is attitude and behavioural change. Unless there is a strong conscientious and wholehearted effort from academia, businesses, civil society, in addition to local and state government partners in positioning their skills, ventures, and ingenuity to implement the SDGs—aspirational and ambitious vision for 2030 agenda will fail to be of long-term use and transformative. Therefore, let us all work together as one unit for the betterment of humanity and drive growth and prosperity at home and globally.


Biba Jasmine is a Nehru-Fulbright Scholar with a major in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology from the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. She is currently working as a Programme Officer on a GoI-GEF-UNDP Project.