The Challenge of Sustainability
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 2: The Conceptual Framework of Sustainability
INTRODUCTION The notion of sustainability, or at least the notion of the careful and prudent use of water, has long been recognised. Only recently has it become institutionalised and formalised. There has been much debate about what it means, what is its function, what part it plays within the legal system and how it can be applied and achieved. In any event it is and will remain for the foreseeable future the pivot around which water resources are governed. While sustainability sits at the apex of discourse about water resources governance, it is the most general and least precise expression used in this context. It is sustainable development that has emerged as the most commonly used expression. There is even now little consensus about the meaning of this expression and, more importantly, how it can be put into effect. Judge Weeramantry of the International Court of Justice, it has already been noted, has suggested that the key to good governance of water resources is sustainable development. The idea of sustainable development is quite simple and straightforward. It is to integrate the social, economic and ecological aspects of the use and development of natural resources for present and future generations in making decisions about these resources and in undertaking operations in relation to them. It is difficult to apply in specific sets of circumstances. It is more difficult to construct a system of governance for the sustainable use and development of water resources. It is perhaps impossible to create a set...
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