16thAug

Sustainable development

Role of law in sustainable development

What do you see when you look at these pictures?They say a picture is worth a thousand words.This is quite true.When i look at these pictures,i see the present generation,the future generation and an unborn generation.All these generations depend on earth’s natural resources for survival.How can the present generation not deplete these resources for the future and unborn generation?

The answer is simple.SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.If needs are to be met on the sustainable basis the earth’s natural resource base must be conserved and enhanced.Environmental law has a major role to pay in ensuring that consumption is kept at sustainable levels and guarantee that present development needs are met while ensuring that future generations will be able to meet their own needs.

Pressure on resources increases when people lack alternatives.Environmental laws have the potential to widen people’s options for earning a sustainable livelihood,particularly for poor households.It has potential to curb over-exploitation of resources.This is with a combination of effective and innovative litigation.

Short-term unplanned improvements in productivity can create different forms of ecological stress such as the loss of genetic diversity in standing crops.Ecologically more benign alternatives can be adopted through environmental laws,as such laws would ensure future increases in productivity.Environmental law also plays a major role in ensuring sustainable energy consumption.It has also played a major role in prevention and reduction of air and water pollution.An article on sustainable development would not be complete without specific emphasis on the role of environmental impact assessment (EIA). This is the tool through which environmental law integrates environmental concerns into socio-economic and development planning.It studies the effects of a proposed action on the environment.It ensures that environmental resources are recognized early and protected through planning and decision-making.

It is imperative to note that the task of realizing sustainable development will obviously run beyond mere litigation.It involves the concerted efforts by the society to remedy past and present wrongs that have continued to degrade our environment.This combined with environmental litigation will be an effective tool in achieving sustainable development.

*Ruth Nzioka is a Legal Researcher at the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG). The views expressed here are purely her own and do not necessarily reflect ILEG’s position.

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