Most of the development challenges have local dimension in the developing countries; therefore grassroots initiatives are indispensable for promoting sustainable development. It has been felt that local institutions can be instrumental in stimulating economic growth, promoting socio-political development and protecting environment for achieving sustainable development at the bottom level of the society. Rural government institutions have been assigned new roles and responsibilities and flagship programmes of rural development have been also given environmental flavor for promoting sustainable development in India. Thus, capacity of local institutions should be enhanced to play a meaningful role in the promotion of sustainable development.
Threats of climate change loom large and have potential to alter the current course of development. It has been forecasted that developing countries, including India are more vulnerable to the climate induced vulnerabilities. In developing countries, poor and marginalised sections of the society are the hardest hit by the climate change because they have least coping capabilities with climate induced vulnerabilities. In addition, rapidly increasing world population that is expected to be around over nine billion by the middle of the century will accelerate persistent poverty, marginalisation of weaker sections of society, over exploitation of natural resources, ballooning high demand of energy and depleting resources, ever rising temperature of earth, increasing food insecurity, malnutrition, etc. These development challenges have local dimension. It has been observed that the most obvious causes of rural poverty, hunger and environmental damage in the developing world include racial and ethnic marginalisation, landlessness, gender bias, unimproved production technologies, and poor access to markets, roads, electricity, education or public health services. Such conditions tend to be highly localised. In villages in South Asia, for example, the female children of landless labourers will go hungry even while the local markets may have abundant supplies for purchase, and while most male children in the village are well fed. In many countries in Central America, commercial farmers in fertile valleys with irrigated land can prosper even while neighbours struggling to farm on the dry hillsides above the valley remain poor and hungry. The causes of outright famine also tend to be local rather than global (Paarlbergm, Robert L. 2005, 165) many causes of environmental degradation and underdevelopment also tend to be local rather than global, both in origin and impact.
The concept of sustainable development was introduced to provide a holistic approach to address these development challenges. Since most of the problems has local dimension, therefore, there is need to promote the sustainable development from grassroots level of the society. The rationale behind the approach that local people know how the optimum use of natural resources is possible. Secondly, the local community is generally associated with local environment. They generally do not harm the natural harmony without any crisis situation. Thirdly, decentralised mechanism is the best possible way to ensure the participation of people and make people aware of the natural problems. Local dimension of sustainable development is viable option for policy makers for conservation of natural resources. In this conceptual framework, paper attempts to analyse how sustainable development can be promoted from the grassroots level. Secondly, it would also explore the role of rural local government (henceforth panchayats) in promoting sustainable development from the grassroots level of the society.
The Concept of Sustainable Development: Defining a New Paradigm
Sustainable Development has emerged as one of the most important subjects in academia in the recent history. The growing popularity of the term indicates an increasing awareness of that seeds of self-destruction can be contained within shore-term achievements in development as it used be conceived; that is, economic-development-as-GNP-growth. …