CRITICAL ROLE OF SUSTAINABILITY DEVELOPMENT GOALS – SDGs
Dr. Ajit Sabnis
Built Environment casts substantial impact on natural environment and interacts with it in several ways. Throughout its life cycle from pre-construction phase to deconstruction phase, built environment consumes resources in the form of energy, water, materials; emit wastes which are detrimental to natural environment and living species. As estimated by past studies, human species will require another earth by 2050, if, the present rate of consumption of natural resources continues. A Study conducted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2002, reported that the Living Planet Index fell from 100 to 65, earth’s forest cover shrunk by 12%, freshwater bio-diversity by 33% and freshwater ecosystems by about 50% in a span of one generation. Report published by International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), 2010, observes that nearly 50% of the available land surface is transformed due to human intervention and global energy consumption increased by 84%. Demographic projections estimate population growth to touch 9 billion by 2050 and will aggravate existing problems such as resource depletion and global warming, as per UNEP, 2009 report.
India, with about 1295 million estimated population in 2014, stands as the second most populous country in the world and has to take care of its infrastructure demands including housing almost on a continuous basis. Indian Government has promised to provide housing for all by 2022. This amounts to building about 20 million houses in the next five years. Mega policy decisions like these are bound to exert enormous pressure on natural material resources and environment. As per Indo-German consortium report, it is estimated that India consumes about 7% of the total global material extraction amounting to 4.6 billion metric tons and expected to reach 27 billion metric tons by 2050. At present, average material consumption per capita per annum by India is about 4.2 tons and likely to touch 9.6 tons by 2030.
It is estimated that approximately 32% of the total Indian population lives in urban areas and this number will reach 50% by 2030. As per United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) report, 2011, 66 million households were in urban areas in 2010 and projected to be doubled by 2050. Expected growth in commercial building spaces will also swell from 200 million sqm in 2009 to 890 million sqm by 2030. Indian construction sector is in growth mode currently and contributes about 22% greenhouse gas emissions in India. Studies have shown that energy demand during construction phase is mainly due to embodied energy of construction materials and quantification of energy consumption during construction phase is a complex phenomenon. To resolve this complexity there is a need to control and prudently use natural resources to shrink the carbon foot print. Hence, realistic assessment of energy impact of buildings attains greater importance all over the world in general and more so in developing countries like India.
In developing countries like India, migration pressure from rural areas to urban areas is also substantial. Demographic projections as per Indian census, 2011, the urbanization pattern is restricted to few cities leading to construction of high-rise buildings. High-rise buildings can yield large floor areas on small pieces of land. Optimum utilization of land, energy and natural resources then become governing factors for high rise buildings. With the advanced design and construction technologies available and the demand for real estate soaring, high rise buildings provide a better solution in terms of living conditions at affordable pricing. Economic Survey of India report, 2015-16, indicates shortage of about 20 million residential units. In urban scenario, economically weaker sections and lower income groups together constitute for 95% of the urban housing shortage in the country.
One of the most defining challenges of 21st century is to respond to a problem of climate change that is staring at us more than ever. It is not that Climate has never changed in the past before human activities infused more heat into the atmosphere. It was there. But, the rapidity with which the climate change we are experiencing now, has never happened in the last three lakh years. It is projected that, by 2100, we will be tipping off from all the Planetary boundaries. We are already witnessing some of the unprecedented events such as - Melting of glaciers, Ocean acidification, global warming, changing season patterns, etc. As our planet faces massive economic, social and environmental challenges, the tri-pronged genesis of the whole issue, the ‘Global Warming – Climate Change – Bio diversity loss’ caused by anthropogenic activities has to be combated and global priorities to be strategized. To combat these and draw up global mitigation goals, 17 Sustainable Development Goals- (SDGs), were unanimously adopted by 193 Member economies of the United Nations in 2015, at COP 21, Paris.
In the Conference of Parties (COP 21), 2015, Paris, about 195 countries including India pledged to restrict global temperature rise below 1.5 degree centigrade by 2030. As a follow-up, each country submitted its ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)’ including India. INDCs contained strategies to achieve the sustainability goal.
In terms of sustainability, there is a need to reduce consumption of global reserves of raw materials that are anthropogenic in nature. Environmental impact due to consumption of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and minerals attract higher attention in assessing the impact of built environment on natural environment. These resources are provided by the nature by slow geological processes and their unscrupulous use diminishes available stocks and soon critical thresholds will be crossed.
Increase in population demands increase in infrastructure development and in turn exerts pressure on natural resources. Studies carried out by National institute for Public Health and Environment, Netherlands, 2010, have shown that worldwide demand for fossil and mineral resources are continuing to grow at rapid pace. Unavoidable industrial growth in developing countries has also added to this demand. Use of raw materials by built-environment is directly proportional to natural resources consumption.
Sustainability Development Goals-SDGs
17 SDGs dovetailed into 169 targets, address the global challenges including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. All the 17 SDGs are all interconnected balancing social, economic and environmental sectors and provide a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030, popular as 2030 Agenda. Unlike their predecessors, the SDGs commit both developed and developing countries, and embrace the economic, environmental and social aspects of development. The Bruntland Commission, appointed in 1983 by the UN Secretary General, defines sustainable development as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.
The SDGs replace the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which started in 2000 and continued till 2015. MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives for tackling extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly diseases, and expanding primary education to all children, among other development priorities. For 15 years, the MDGs drove progress in several critical areas viz. poverty, water and sanitation, child mortality, maternal health, free primary education etc. MDGs also made huge strides in combatting HIV/AIDS and other treatable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
17 SDG-Goals and Spheres
SDGs integrate Economic, Social, Environmental and Peace Initiative spheres and inclusively connect targets as under:
SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
SDG 4 - Quality Education
SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
SDG 7- Affordable and Clean Energy
SDG 8- Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 9- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 11- Sustainable Cities and Communities
SDG 12- Sustainable Consumption and Production
SDG 13- Climate Action
DG 14- Life below Water
SDG 15- Life on Land
Peace and Partnership
SDG16- Peace, Justice and Strong institutions
SDG 17- Partnerships for the Goals
Civil Engineers, Built Environment and SDGS
Civil Engineers have a greater role to play as they are able to contribute in achieving 6 SDGs in all the four spheres referred above. Goal No 17 being general in its character, is applicable to all 16 SDGs. All professionals directly or indirectly associated with entire Construction industry and Infrastructure Development, including manufacturing sectors are involved to the extent of 42% of global GHG emissions, depletion of natural resources and global warming.
Dr. Ajit Sabnis, is Principal Consultant @ ASP-SDI, Sustainability Assessment Consultants