Now that you have completed this study session, you can assess how well you have achieved its Learning Outcomes by answering these questions.

You have a colleague who has difficulty in understanding the difference between economic development and sustainable development. How might you explain the difference between these two concepts?

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You could start by saying that economic development is primarily concerned with income although it is more than just economic growth. Economic development means improving the living standards of people, for example by improvements in infrastructure, education and health systems as well as income. The central concept of sustainable development is that people’s lives can be improved without exhausting natural resources and without damaging the environment. In other words, it is about friendly coexistence between economic growth and the environment so that the needs of future generations can continue to be met.

A friend has read in a newspaper article that in order for a society to thrive in the long term it must first address the three pillars of sustainability. Your friend asks you what these pillars represent and why they are considered important. Before answering, make a note of the three pillars and against each, list one or two key points you think your friend should know.

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Your notes might have resembled the following:

Pillar 1: Economic sustainability

  • Efficient and responsible use of land, labour, capital and technology.
  • Good value for money

Pillar 2: Environmental sustainability

  • Minimise damage and impact on the environment.
  • Use renewable energy to limit environmental damage and climate change.
  • Minimise waste

Pillar 3: Social sustainability

  • Improve quality of life for the population.
  • Reduce poverty.

Imagine a project to install a new water or sanitation service for a community. What is wrong with each of the following statements?

  1. Developing a process for paying for future maintenance of the service is not important as long as the users were fully involved in the planning of the project and participated in decision making.
  2. WASH projects should be designed to meet the current needs of users so that financial costs can be minimised.
  3. When identifying the best location for the new installation, the only factor to consider is the wishes of the users.

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  1. It is important to involve users in decision making but future financial sustainability is also important. The service is likely to fall into disrepair if maintenance cannot be paid for.
  2. Project design should take account of future needs as well as the current needs. Keeping costs down should not be the only criterion.
  3. Consulting with the users about their preferred location is important but other factors must also be considered including the potential environmental impacts and also the costs, which may differ between different possible locations.

Last modified: Monday, 3 October 2016, 3:03 AM