Experts deliberated on the idea and execution of sustainable development, especially in a country like India, at a panel discussion held at Indian School of Business, Mohali, on Friday.
At Shaping Davos – A Glocal approach to Sustainable Development, the focus was in a world that is grappling with fundamental issues of hunger and poverty, where clean water and sanitation is the desperate need of the hour, where gender equality, health and education are missing in action, will the United Nations member states and their governments and civil societies ever meet the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?
For the uninitiated, the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), as undertaken by the UN member countries, is aimed at ending poverty, fighting inequality, protecting the planet, tackling climate change and ensuring prosperity for all through 169 targets to be achieved in the next 15 years.
Organised by Learning Paths School and ISB Big Leap, and hosted by Global Shapers Chandigarh, panelists, including Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW); Ishteyaque Amjad, VP, public affairs and communication for Coca Cola, India and South Asia Region; Sarika Panda Bhatt, manager, Cities and Transport with WRI India and Devinder Sharma, food and trade policy analyst; journalist Jyoti Kamal and moderator Venkat Matoory of Junior Achievement Worldwide delved over the issues of sustainability facing India.
Concerned about the widening gap between haves and have-nots, Sharma raised valid points on surplus food, crazy growth and alarming hunger in the world. “We are obsessed with growth, yet we are facing disparity. In a world of 7.2 billion people, 800 million go to bed hungry every night. We produce double of what is needed. In 2014, the food produced could feed 14 billion. Where is it all going? The problem that needs to be addressed is that of wastage and of ineffective distribution systems,” he said, stressing equitable distribution.
When it comes to energy conservation, Ghosh felt it is about how you manage your common resources. “It is also about involving citizens, the civil society in sustainable development projects because a common man may not understand the economics of it, but he understands his household expenditure and we need to respect that,” Ghosh said.
This is where Bhatt’s brainchild, the car-free Raahgiri concept, has been a hit in Gurgaon. “Any change offers resistance. We faced ours too, but for any sustainable project to stick people’s participation is a must,” said Bhatt, stressing on education, enforcement and engagement.
The core issue, felt the panelists, was to comprehend the stakeholders’ mindset and problems. “One of the biggest problems is of the mindset and their snobbish attitude,” said Amjad.
For instance riding a bicycle is considered low standard. “It’s when riding a bike is become cool, can we reduce pollution and traffic. We can’t be building highways and roads, we need to reduce the vehicular traffic,” said Bhatt.
From striking a balance between capitalism and socialism, respecting economics as a driving force for any change, pricing resources smartly so that there is a sense of equality, empowering the cities to focuses on the trade-off viz what will the developed nations do or give up for the developing, observing the demand, the problem on the horizon and working in advance, transforming into ‘presumers’ (producer and consumer), the panelists took the discussion through various motions.
“Like UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said ‘we need a radical overhaul of the economic system, the market ideology has to undergo a huge change, only then will we witness change’. We are too worried of being marginalised, too concerned with local politics, but it is time to question, to stand up and speak up for change,” said Sharma.