Environmentally Sustainable Development in the Third World
Cancel Third World debt. The World Bank estimates the short-term external debt of developing countries at over US$360 billion – if Russia and former Eastern Bloc countries in Central Europe are excluded, it stands at approximately US$270 billion.
Build independence in poor countries. Encourage the development of local industries which supply markets within their own borders.
Tailor solutions for individual situations, using local resources as far as possible and with minimal environmental impact – for example, each village to have its own solar system.
Emphasize local and small-scale; it may not be economically feasible to build a national electricity grid, a good national road system or a water supply system that depends upon a large dam. Large-scale developments can have adverse affects on the environment and on local communities.
Use small-scale, locally maintainable equipment; maintenance of equipment is a major problem in the Third World, as parts and trained repair people have to be imported.
Use renewable energies for transport systems.
Use simple technologies i.e.. wind-up radios.
At the same time, ensure that there is surplus production and markets available in the West, as these countries require access to hard currency to buy green technologies.
Introduce global environmental protection legislation recognising direct and indirect causes of environmental degradation.
Give the UN Environment Protection Agency the power to make corporations and governments accountable for environmental degradation. Ensure that corporations disclose sources of materials and manufacturing practices.
A country utilising sustainable principles is one that maintains its cultural integrity, and balances its development needs with ecological integrity. The blueprint does not have to be derived from Western models but can be created with the country’s own standards of development. These standards would entail the use of the country’s own resources, technology and labour. Western models are based upon monetary values, and ignore ecological sustainability and cultural impacts. They also fail to value local knowledge and the importance of biodiversity.
The focus would be on the small-scale and local, rather than on large-scale and national. Farming and industries could be developed to encourage sustaining populations in their own localities, so as to counter the drift to large urban centres. Many of these centres do not have the infrastructure to cope with very large populations, and the consequences are harmful to both human health and the environment.
(1) Not developing at all
No development means that poverty and all its attendant problems of insufficient food, poor housing and health, and lack of education continues.
Continuing poverty leads to continued environmental degradation through deforestation, pollution and killing endangered wildlife for food.
On the other hand, there could be no development but countries avoid both hunger and environmental damage by controlling their population growth and adopting a simple lifestyle. An example of this is Bhutan, where 90 per cent of the population gain their living from subsistence farming and cottage industries.
(2) Western development
Becoming globalised or Westernised by integration with international markets may offer a way out of hunger and extreme poverty, but there are risks – environmental damage, loss of cultural identity and social disruption.
(3) Sustainable Development
The United Nations has recognised problems associated with environmental and social impacts of large-scale western development in Third World communities. Some examples of its initiatives are described below:
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) launched its Biotrade Initiative in 1996, to assist Third World countries develop products and services that are based upon a range of forest and marine resources. Products include fruits, nuts, cosmetic oils and bio-chemicals, and services include eco-tourism. The aim is to use biodiversity as a platform for sustainable development.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has a Global Environment Facility to assist governments of poorer countries to look at climate change issues, and to directly assist communities with local sustainable development projects. In Mali, for example, hundreds of multifunctional platforms’ or generators have been established to provide an inexpensive source of electricity in rural areas. These are used to provide power for a cereal mill, a husker and a battery charger as well as for lighting, refrigeration and water pumps. Diesel engines are currently used but it is hoped that nut oil or some other liquid bio-feed will eventually replace the diesel. The project has increased annual incomes of local participants (who are mostly rural women), and has freed up the time that they would normally spend on gathering wood fuel and husking and milling by hand.
The UNDP also supports the use and promotion of low-emission technologies such as solar, wind, micro-hydro, biomass and other renewable energy options, for example the use of palm oil in biomass-based power generation in Malaysia.
Following the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August 2002, the UN Economic and Social Council’s Commission on Sustainable Development began a register of partnerships. These are voluntary partnerships between governments in less developed countries and agencies and research institutes in the West. Over 200 have been registered, but not all of them are operational. The UN points out that these partnerships are not a substitute for government commitment and action. Some examples are:
Non-government agencies are also actively promoting sustainable development i.e. Oxfam has established over 40 permaculture demonstration farms in the mountains of Albania, where farming in the Shkoder district is at little more than subsistence level. Farmers can now produce more crops each year and with a higher yield. They can now sell a surplus, and then use the income to improve their living standards. Permaculture is a sustainable development paradigm; it is an integrated method of food production, which enables the various elements to work together without damaging the environment. No pesticides are used as the system relies upon organic methods of food production. In many cases, the environment can actually be improved. Furthermore, the principles of permaculture can be applied to housing and urban planning as well as to agriculture.