Interview with Pooran Chandra Pandey, Managing Project Director, DOC India

Pooran Chandra Pandey, Managing Project Director, DOC India is one of India’s leading experts on advocacy, economic and social development work, management and the voluntary sector.  From 2011 to 2016, he served as Executive Director for UN Global Compact Network India. Prior to taking up that post, he was Director at the Times Foundation, one of India’s leading corporate foundations working in the areas of health, education, environment, women’s empowerment, and disaster management. From 2004 to 2007, he was CEO at Voluntary Action Network India, the country’s largest association of voluntary organizations, comprising 2,400 members within India.


He had also been instrumental in mainstreaming environment and climate agenda in discourse on sustainable development and had been involved in various policy evolution processes both with the government, bi-lateral donors and United Nations on various aspects including volunteering, governance, sustainable development and public policy. Throughout his career, he has worked with policy-makers to create an enabling environment for the voluntary sector in the country.


Pandey was in Kolkata this September when got in touch with him to delve deeper on the issue of sustainability, a topic that is being discoursed globally as a key issue facing twenty-first century society.


An excerpt from the interview –


How important it is for today’s students to understand the concept of sustainability?


Every student is tomorrow’s leader in a specific field and hence understanding of concepts and issues around sustainability are important to inculcate in them sense of responsibility with respect to inclusion and diversity both within the ecosystem and beyond. More importantly, issue of resource management and constraints optimisation is of a critical significance from the start. Sustainability is all about undressing the value of natural resources and optimising these in order to keep consumption of these resources under required levels for meeting tomorrow’s need in a meaningful way.


What roles can education institutions play to make students aware?


Role of education and importance of academic institutions in outreach activities, spreading awareness and disciplining students through a number of programs – academic and non academic are key and significant. Many schools in different parts of our country have realised the value of such an education around sustainability, resource constraints and individual responsibilities are undertaking their programs and projects to educate students  and instil in them a sense of shared responsibility to save our Mother Earth. Government’s education policies are also now geared around such matters. Examples of schools and academic institutions can be seen from the point of view of their roles in almost banning use of plastics and a ban on fire crackers in or country. These are some of encouraging developments while much more remains to be undertaken and done.


What is the desired role of government and civic bodies in this respect?


Public Policy Issues are of key value here while assessing and assessing issues related and linked to sustainability. This is where the role of the government assumes critical importance in driving public policy agenda and framing policies and rules for implementation of a long term agenda to mainstream sustainability in daily lives of people. Many governments also come out with incentives and power a fast track implementation plan around sustainability.

Role of the civic bodies is equally important as these bodies are on ground and can effectively involve people for effective follow up and implementation of the policies brought out by the government.

In this policy framework, its implementation and follow up on sustainability issues, role of government in making policies, role of civic bodies in involving people on ground level and role of civil society and people for implementation of the policies are essential. Policies best get implemented when there is a sense of shared approach and such an action can be collectively undertaken. Every link in the chain is critical and there needs to be a complete understanding of issues across these players and they must work in a targeted manner to address this important agenda of putting sustainability issues firmly on the table.


What are the primary sustainability challenges for India?


Sustainability issues should be seen in a wholistic manner and from what can affect us adversely on a day to day basis to build a sense of urgency.

There are many and several challenges however broadly speaking, these challenges particularly relate to scarce availability of resources and their maximum optimal and responsible use on a daily basis. Ans these may relate to every thing from food to electricity to consumable to natural resources such as water and waste to everything that we consume. It a vast supply chain that has potential to affect us adversely in case we do not recognise the seriousness of issues and not take appropriate steps to mitigate consequential outcomes of our actions.

This is in sum total a behavioural issue.


What are the solutions?


It all starts with each one of us from our planning to do things responsibility and commit ourselves to keeping things around us as simple as possible. Our actions at home right from putting the water tap off for careful use of water to switching off lights can be good examples here to highlight to give a sense of how small yet useful tips can go a long way in solving the sustainability challenges around us effectively. And when such actions can be aggregated at community, district, state, regional and national levels, one can imagine the change.

We need to reset our priorities and work collaboratively to mitigate many such challenges that often crop up due to our ignorance and lack of ability to take corrective action in time.


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