Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sustainable Development

By Gowri Sritharan

Sustainable development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Critical issues such as energy, agriculture, the built environment, modernization and the natural environment are often related to sustainable development. With talks of alternative energies, climate change and loss of biodiversity gaining intensity throughout the world, there is a pressing need to find local solution for those global problems.

It was estimated by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that energy needs would grow 55% between 2005 and 2030. As such, the importance of energy conservation and the need for alternative energy is crucial. Alternative energies under study and consideration worldwide are wave power and solar energy. In Malaysia, solar energy is not being commonly utilized due to the high costs of RM26,000 per kilo watt system.

Energy issues are also linked to agriculture, where the demand in bio-fuels has threatened food supplies worldwide. Annually 40 million people die of starvation, the most effected being in Africa. Although it is one of the nations contributing least to climate change, it receives the largest impact of food insecurity due to droughts and floods.

The increased consumption of meat has also put pressures on food security, as now there is a need to grow wheat to feed animals and not just people. About 1000 liters of water is needed to produce 1 kilogram of wheat, however 13,000 liters of water is required to produce 1 kilogram of meat. As such, the rising demand in meat for consumption in developed nations would take a toll on the poor and third world countries.

There has also been an increased interest in genetically engineered crops, as more successful harvests are reaped from such crops. Gene banks and embryo centers are gaining popularity. The Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) in India has been carrying out research on the production of various types of rice through genetic modification. This institute was established by the Government of India in 1946 with the aim of conducting studies to increase productivity and sustainability of rice, a staple food of the nation.

Another challenge towards sustainable development is sustaining the natural environment. Human activities over the years have caused complete changes to ecosystems which have resulted in the loss of diversity. Worldwide, approximately 20% of coral reefs and about 35% of mangroves have been lost. Human beings have become geological agents, causing destruction to nature.

Immediate measures are necessary to sustain the natural environment in Malaysia, which is one of the 14 mega-diverse countries in the world. Whether it is technological measures, policy measures or human factors, all positive efforts towards a better environment should be implemented immediately.

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