The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit is an annual event conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute, India (TERI) in the capital of India, New Delhi. This year it was held on January 22-24. It is mainly concerned with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and how it can be achieved. Slowly it is becoming a bigger force in the world with the setting up of the WSDF (World Sustainable Development Forum) to conduct similar events in different parts of the world.

The background:

Commenced in 2001, the DSDS (Delhi Sustainable Development Summit), an annual event organized by TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), has emerged as the most credible platform for international deliberation and dialogue on issues of long-term sustainable development. Each year, discussions among participants from the corporate sector, governments, international agencies, and institutes result in a comprehensive framework for practical and workable strategies to take the sustainable development agenda forward.

This year the theme is “Meeting the MDGs: Exploring the Natural Resource Dimensions”.

India faces a unique challenge. It needs to continue its existing economic growth of 8%+ into the future so that it has a chance to better the lives of more than 350 million Indians who live in poverty earning less than $1 a day. At the same time the increasing problems of a high carbon based economy is evident all around the world.

The Keynote address of DSDS 07 concentrated on the business role in sustainable development and concluded the following:

The session concluded with the consensus that the corporate sector needs to look at sustainable development challenges not as a component of corporate social responsibility practices, but as a business opportunity. Like in all business opportunities, first movers will hold the advantage in the coming business model in which social and environmental sustainability are integral to the bottom line.

Rajendra K Pachauri is the director-general of TERI. He is the main person behind DSDS. In an interview with Financial Express he shares his views on the issues facing India.

But MDG’s does not focus on all the major environmental issues. So, why are you linking up with MDGs this year?

All the MDGs are constrained by the damage that we are doing to our natural resources. An essential prerequisite for poverty elimination is that you got to enrich your natural resource base. You can’t plunder the soil, ruin your water streams, overexploit groundwater potential and yet be able to meet the MDGs.

You are able to get some of the world’s best thought leaders year after year. How do you manage it?

I think there are two reasons. Firstly, the idea of a get together where one comes to grips with the concept of sustainable development and the challenges associated with it is appealing. It’s also an opportunity to exchange experiences by those, who are involved in its pursuit.

Secondly, it has also to do with concerns worldwide about what the emerging economies are going to do. Are they going to pursue the same paths that the developed countries did? If so, then the world obviously has to wake up.

Indian government’s stated position is more in favour of economic development than sustainable development. Is it the right stance?

We want economic development, but the question is do we want dirty economic development. But the fact remains that we are not focussed on some of these issues. It’s important to do it at this stage. Otherwise it will be much too late. You can’t turn the clock back.

I have not known Pachauri’s work before. He talks the right kind of balance which India and other emerging countries need to achieve a low-carbon, high resource productive, minimal waste generating, greater well-being, lower cost, low poverty, economy of the future.

The website of DSDS provides only small summaries of the various keynotes and discussion sessions. It would have been highly valuable if like Davos 07 the technologies available could be used to webcast, podcast, blogs and full-length summaries of various presentations were available to the general public.