Sustainable development refers to the maintenance of growth over time. According to Mensah and Castro, sustainability refers to the process of improving the quality of life within the global surrounding (2004). Sustainable development is a key aspect of structuring the environment and its improvement. It is recognized as a primary policy goal of numerous institutions of development. The last few decades however, have witnessed a reversed developmental trend and increased environment degradation. The need for sustainable development cannot be overstated. This paper aims to explain the concept of sustainable development with reference to many complex issues associated with it and the management of water resources.
Scope of Sustainable Development
Cantor and Johnson have defined sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (2011). This definition provides a rather reliable theoretical basis of solving different issues but is somewhat ambiguous in terms of its economic literature and its measurement of sustainable development (Williams, and Millington 2004, p. 100). Key indicators and measurement tools such as GDP are used in determining the progress of sustainable development. These are used to define and enable people understand various development trends all around the world. The definition of sustainable development may never be clear, but its significant highlights include issues that affect it and the welfare of the society.
Sustainable development is important especially with the increasing global issues such as social unrest, hunger, environmental degradation among others. No country can escape the dawning reality that is coupled with the need to solve these global issues. This has necessitated the union of countries through global organizations that seek to address the existing issues. One such compelling issue is growing population rate and the rising demand for food production. According to Bell and Cheung, the world’s population is bound to increase over time and although the level of annual food production is higher, the methods of production are of major concern since they lead to environmental degradation (2009, p. 6). Agriculture encroaches into grasslands and forests, and this reduces the number of trees, which are needed to release oxygen into the atmosphere. These factors result in a higher carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, which ultimately causes global warming. Urbanization is also a contributing factor since many rural areas are being developed.
The world trade organization (WTO) advocates for a “multilateral trading system” which it believes is vital to realize sustainable development (2011, p. 3). Essentially, this is aimed at promoting a predictable and constant trading system that will promote investment, technological advancement and innovation in every global sector. The main aim of the WTO is to ensure that they take into account the needs of developing countries as they promote a trading system that is international. To endorse this project, many governments are urged to make use of support programs to encourage the global transition from a faulty to a green and dependable economy.
Sustainable development has brought countries together to address the innumerable global issues. The global sustainable development report by the United Nations recognizes the role of sustainable development as that of enhancing peace and environmental preservation (2013, p. 1). Emerging issues in sustainable development include political instability, child labor, resource conflicts, climate, water and energy underdevelopment, inadequate environmental justice, unemployment of youth, poverty even in developed countries and the reduced productivity of resources especially those that are biological. The past decades show areas that the global community has failed in, and this gives an incentive for future planning in order to curb these insecurities.
The journey towards sustainable development has been challenging. The progress sometimes occurs at the expense of other issues. The global sustainable development report elucidates, “The world has managed to feed, nurture, house, educate and employ on the order of 800 million people every decade…In the past 12 years alone, we have built cities for 770 million people.” (2013, p. 5). These represent colossal achievements compared to the past years. The world’s GDP is considerably greater, yet issues such as poverty and hunger still exist. The number of people who go hungry daily has barely changed albeit concerted efforts to promote sustainable development and is ever on the increase. Poor populations have suffered the most from the amplified global, social and economic pressures that seem to put the Earth’s fundamental life sustenance systems in jeopardy. Such an increasing trend will most likely result in future generations facing greater challenges. Global cooperation is needed to realize any significant progress that would reduce the effect of pertinent issues on future generations.
Sustainable Development in International Policy
Cordonier and Khalfan state, “sustainable development in international law requires accommodation, reconciliation and integration between economic growth, social justice (including human rights) and environmental protection objectives, towards participatory improvement in collective quality of life…for future generations.” (2005). The concept of sustainable development in international law facilitates the integration of beliefs concerning economic and social growth. Sustainable development employed at the global level makes use of international policies that ensure the well-being of current and future generations.
Sustainable Development and the Management of Water Resources
Part of the sustainable development plan is the proper management of water resources. Jägerskog et al. suggest, “We all depend on the same finite and vulnerable water resources to sustain life and well-being of our planet.” (2013, p. 6). The dependence on water sources increases everyday as the world’s population grows. Water resources are limited, and measures need to be put in place to ensure that it is used in a more efficient manner. Cooperation to come up with smarter ways of utilizing water resources is vital since it yields greater benefits. The need for global cooperation is therefore, of great imperative. Jägerskog et al. argue, “Cooperation between actors in different sectors is essential for proper water development and management, and water managers need to reach out and work closely with actors in most of sectors of society (2013, p. 11).
Water resources are an essential part of social and economic development since many households and industries depend on it for sustenance. Every individual has a right to safe drinking water and for other uses. The global population is expected to reach the tune of over 9 billion by 2050 and the water reserves are likely to be the same or much less. The Global Water Partnership aims to “foster integrated water resource management…and to ensure the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources by maximizing economic and social welfare without compromising the sustainability of vital environmental systems.” (2009). Water is a basic need for human life and its preservation will improve the overall quality of life and secure the welfare of future generations. All stakeholders both technical and non-technical are needed to make sure that water resource management is a success. The stakeholders shoulder the burden of policymaking and decision making at the global level. These are all important to achieve the set development goals.
A singular approach has often been used to achieve sustainable development. Factors that affect these resources include the use of land, residential outflows and inflows and socio-economic processes as suggested by Smith and Zhang (2006, p. 2741). The society wishes to tackle various issues including water resource management, and this should be done in a non-singular method to ensure that one issue is not solved at the expense of another. Strategies to ensure proper management of water resources are numerous. According to Flint, water resource managers and stakeholders should come up with a “conceptual view of water resources.” (2004, p. 53). Flint argues that water resource management is a multi-dimensional concept that needs to be addressed by looking at its relationships with other social, environment and economic systems. It will involve plans, policies and other activities that are aimed at improving the quality of life.
Secondly, they should identify the various forms capital that is needed to ensure the sustainable development of water resources is achieved. This has been suggested by Rahaman and Varis (2005, p. 19). Natural capital, for example, includes excellent quality and quantity of ground water, wildlife habitat or ecological infrastructure. Social capital includes the supply of drinking water, community capacity, and quality of life among others. Examples of economic capital are flood control, transportation, waste treatment and energy supply. Thirdly, the stakeholders should device attainable goals for the sustainable water resource management. Goals act as a benchmark for measuring progress, and this is crucial for sustainable development. Finally, stakeholders should proffer indicators upon which the progress of water sustainability is measured. Research is also essential to increase an understanding of the ecosystem and its processes.
A large section of the world’s population still cannot access clean, and safe water to drink. A proper evaluation of water management frameworks will increase awareness regarding the challenges facing it and stimulate cooperation for a better future. Sustainability development is not just a problem of engineering, economics or science but is also founded on ethics, values and culture. Proper mechanisms should be put in place to ensure a sustainable future is established.
.Global Water Partnership, 2009, A Handbook for Integrated Water Resources Management in Basins. Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the Network of Basin Organizations (INBO), Elanders, Sweden.
Bell, D, & Cheung, A 2009, Introduction to Sustainable Development, Oxford, EOLSS Publishers, England.
Cantor, M, & Johnson, K 2011, ‘Development for the past, present and future: defining and measuring sustainable development.’ Senior Honors Projects, paper 305, 1-19.
Cordonier, M, & Khalfan, A, 2004, ‘What is Sustainable Development Law?’ Sustainable Development Law: Principles & Propects, 1-4.
Flint, W, 2004, ‘The Sustainable Development of Water Resources.’ Water Resources Update, Issue 127, pp. 48-59.
Jägerskog, A, Clausen, T, Lexén, K, & Holmgren, T, 2013, Cooperation for a Water Wise World: Partnership for Sustainable Development. Report Nr. 32. SIWI, Stockholm.
Mensah, A, & Castro, C 2004, ‘Sustainable resource use and sustainable development: a contradiction?’ Center for Development and Research, 1-22.
Rahaman, M, Varis, O, 2005, ‘Integrated Water Resources Management: Evolution Prospects and Future Challenges.’ Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, vol. 1, issue, 1, pp. 15-21.
Smith, E, & Zhang, H, 2006, ‘Our Journey towards Sustainable Water Resources Management: Preliminary Report by Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable.’ Water Environment Foundation, pp. 2734-2761.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2013, Global Sustainable Development Report: Building the Future We Want. UN DESA, New York: USA.
Williams, C, & Millington, A 2004, ‘The diverse and contested meanings of sustainable development.’ The Geographical Journal, vol.170, No. 2, pp. 99-104.
World Trade Organization, 2011, Harnessing Trade for Sustainable Development and a Green Economy, William Rappard, Geneva: Switzerland.
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