Sustainable development was a central theme of the class Eco-sensitive Low-cost Housing in which twenty-four students from all over the United States and parts of Canada participated in this winter break. The class focused on efforts from a non-profit organization Costford to provide affordable and environmentally friendly housing for local communities. It was both interesting and inspiring to actually observe sustainable development at work, since I have learned such a great deal about the subject in my classes back home. The Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Through a number of site visits and lectures I got to see how the Indian state of Kerala is attempting sustainable development.
Kerala is far more progressive than many other Indian states for a variety of reasons. It has the highest human development index, has had large economic growth and increasing GDP, and has recently decentralized its government. In 1992 Kerala added the 73rd and 74th amendment to their constitution to decentralize government by creating a third, local form of government called Panchayats. Creating local governments throughout the state of Kerala has made development processes more sustainable by allowing local residents to participate in those processes. Forty percent of the states’ budget is now allocated to these local governments! This increased revenue has furthered sustainable efforts by creating jobs, uplifting women, and including citizens in community development.
Kerala has a past history of discrimination against women, and still struggles with many woman rights problems today. But a decentralized government has helped create government jobs for women. The state of Kerala currently requires a minimum of 33% of its employees to be female, and the local governments in Kerala now require a quota of 50% women employees! Now that’s progress. These local governments have also created programs such as, Kudumbashree. Kudumbashree provides work for neighborhood groups of women to improve womens’ economic statuses. They have provided work such as, paramedic services, solid waste management, and canteen groups. Community development is especially important to many of the local Panchayats in Kerala and thus they have developed many schools and educational services. Kudambashree has created a chain of schools called “Bud’s schools” that provide education for the mentally challenged and children with disorders. Costford has also helped develop several low cost, environmentally friendly campuses that we were able to visit such as, the Mithraniketan campus.
The local Panchayat government of Pudukkad defined sustainable development differently than the Brundtland Commission to relate more to its unique society. Sustainable development includes no marginalization against tribes because Kerala has eleven tribal colonies. Must increase production and wealth and reasonably distribute that wealth, because Kerala is a democratic communist state. It must be ecologically balanced and finally, must promote social peace. Kerala has made impressive efforts toward sustainable development of its communities, residents, and economy.
Although Kerala differs greatly from our homes in North America, they share similar problems that require similar solutions. Being able to see the solutions created by Costford, Kudambashree, and other local organizations has both enlightened and inspired me as a student concerned with the sustainability of our own local communities.