Pandemic Challenges of Environment and Health Sectors in India Vis – a- vis the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

(Dr. K M George, President, Sustainable Development Forum & Director General—GLOBARC; Think Tank; Email:;Phone 91—994 7670 887; )
(Keynote Address delivered at the webinar held at the Hyderabad University on 24th March, 2022)

1.0 Introduction:
Mr. Chairman sir, respected seminar coordinator– Prof Dr. Raj Mohan Rao, Co- coordinator,- Prof Ajailiu Niumai, paper presenting scholars, rapporteurs, distinguished participants ; ladies and gentlemen:

greetings—greetings and greetings to you all.

I must at the very outset congratulate the ICSSR and the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy of the University of Hyderabad, for organizing such a thematic webinar of international importance.

1.1 The Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs) of the United Nations is the successor of the MDGs. SDGs articulated by world leaders aim at the holistic wellbeing of the peoples of the world embracing socio- economic and environmental spheres of all communities. There are, as we all know by now 17 Goals and 169 targets with 306 indicators in the Indian context. It has a few challenges, among others, in its monitoring and evaluation may be due to data gaps. Its implementation will decide its success or failure.

1.2 Sustainable Development means development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

1.3 It is a welcome approach that you have resorted to bring together academicians, researchers, policy makers, practitioners and all such stakeholders on one platform to deliberate the key issues, challenges and strategies to achieve the health and environment goals under the SDGs with a view to assessing the synergies and convergences between SDGs and the ongoing programmes and projects with reference to environment and health indicators. It is good to note that scholars are examining exhaustively 10 sub-themes for this thematic webinar covering three days.

I wish the webinar the very best to come out with ground breaking recommendations for its follow up including trouble shooting intervention strategies.

“ A bell is not a bell, unless you ring it; A song is not a song ,unless you sing it; And a webinar is not a webinar, unless you make it a thematic and holistic policy recommendation forum”.

2.0 Focus Areas:

2.1 The spectrum of health, environment and development has undergone much change in the recent past. For example life expectancy has gone up to 65 from 49 during the 1990s compared to 1950s. It was made possible on account of the major advances made in science and technology, health medicines, literacy and other critical infrastructure facilities . All these together made a discernible impact in ensuring better quality life.

2.2 There are new threats to health and environment emanating form the chemical contamination, air pollutions, toxic contents in drinking water, pesticide residues in food, etc .

2.3 In addition to hazards related to pollution, vector-borne environmental diseases may be prevalent, as well as health and environmental problems associated with the lack of proper shelter, drinking water, sanitation, poor food intake and hygiene.

2.4 Let us now enumerate a few more environmental issues that confront India. They include degrading air quality index, rampant environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, urbanization of the hilly areas like the Himalayas, loss of resilience in ecosystems, lack of waste management policy in operation, depletion of land , labor and water resources and the ever growing scarcity of water.

2.5 Let us face the fact, that a healthy population is a pre-requisite to ensure economic development. Polluted environment slows down economic development due to its ill effects on the health of the people, who are to bring out and augment development.

2.6 There was time when civic education was given importance in the school curricula. Now hardly that subject is taught as we are all caught up with Artificial Intelligence and robotic education, etc. It is a sad sight when you drive through the village roads to realize the lack of road manners. When a speeding vehicle comes, if two friends are walking, they move suddenly to either sides instead of taking one side of the road to make the narrow road driving safer for all the stake holders. It is mainly due to the lack of proper public education in imparting civic sense. Civic education must begin at homes and must continue in the schools and colleges to make us better citizens.

2.7 At all levels of education, provisions may be made for the knowledge of environment and its conservation. Under the UNEP, there are several regulatory and economic instruments for improving the quality of environment. One area demanding attention is the need for better coordination among the Government agencies, NGOs and the public for the proper management of environmental issues and to achieve sustainable development.

2.8 Let us draw our attention to the much talked about COP 26 negations recently held at Glasgow. Hopes were high at one stage that the COP 26 would deliver the much desired time bund action plan to fulfill the Paris Agreement. The direction is net -zero and the global decarbonization. It seems 2030 for some, and 2050 for all is the cut off period to realize net -zero.

3.0 Policy Recommendations:

3.1 Like the World Happiness Report, there is a need to bring out a progress report on the Goals and Targets and National Indicators every quarter for better monitoring and course corrections in its implementation. This is of paramount importance from the point of view of the SDGs achieving the goals. It must spell out the physical and financial targets as well as achievements with course correction action plans.

3.2 There is an unequivocal need for a holistic approach to develop a link among SDGS vis a vis-health and environment and education indicators. Surely, this must be taken up seriously and urgently.

3.3 There is also a need to embrace on a vibrant green initiative , so that the time schedule is within the ambit of achieving it. Hope the webinar would accord due importance to the green challenges and responses.

3.4 It is imperative to recast the dynamics related sustainable development perceptions holistically. There is already some awareness among the peoples and communities about the MDGs and the present SDGs. Schools and colleges must be encouraged to conduct awareness programmes and camps . Besides, elocution and essay competitions may be conducted to highlight the perceptions of SDGs.

3.5 Efforts must be in place to encourage both vertical and horizontal participatory planning of inclusiveness in the project design, implementation, monitoring as well as evaluation. Local self-government bodies must ensure peoples participation at the appropriate levels, so that the SDGs are owned collectively by all stake holders.

3.6 I am sure, you are aware of the VNP-27. The recently published, “ Valuing Nature Programme”—Environmental Science and Health Review—final Report March 2021— is VNP- 27. It seeks at length the co-relation between the two and confirms that the mental well being is considerably affected by the environmental factors. It suggests remedial measures. Like that there is an urgent need to commission geographic area, gender and age wise study on the impact of the pandemic on environment and health sectors vis a vis SDGs.

Let me draw this to a conclusion, ladies and gentlemen:

I came, I saw and I am conquered!!

Thank you—Thank –Thank you

I am deeply indebted to many while thinking of this keynote address who tickled my thought process. There are a few outstanding scholars , whom I should mention like Miss Lakshmi Pallippattu, PDO & Skills Research, India Centre for migration, Overseas Indian Affairs -1, Ministry of external affairs, New Delhi ;Mr. KP Kannan former Director of ADB, Dr. Kuruvilla Mathew from Brunei, and Dr. KPP Nambiar Former Director, Inter-Governmental Organisation at INFOFISH, FAO.

Leave a Reply