How can the perceived trade-off between poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability be analysed? (150 words)


  • Explain briefly the relationship between poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.
  • Analyze the perceived trade-off between poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability.
  • Explain how a sustainable development approach eliminates this trade-off.
  • Give a positive ending.


“Are poverty and need not the worst polluters?” Indira Gandhi, Stockholm Conference, 1972

Poverty reduction, also known as poverty alleviation, is a set of economic and humanitarian measures aimed at permanently lifting people out of poverty, whereas environmental sustainability can be defined as the ability to meet the needs of the present without jeopardising future generations’ ability to meet their own needs.


A trade-off happens when prioritising one sector has a detrimental influence on the other. Thus, a trade-off between poverty reduction and environmental sustainability entails a “conflict” between poverty-eradication and environmental sustainability initiatives.

According to conventional wisdom in development strategy, poverty alleviation would unintentionally result in negative environmental externalities. Poverty is a manifestation of unequal distribution of limited resources, therefore eradicating it necessitates the creation and extraction of more economic and natural resources, both of which have an impact on the natural environment. Increasing food production, creating hospitals, roads, and schools, and establishing industries, for example, necessitate changes in the natural environment through deforestation, mining, and extraction of other natural resources.

Historically, countries have used natural resource exploitation to alleviate poverty. This created the perception that forests, rivers, and land would bear the brunt of poverty-reduction measures; however, in modern times, the world is witnessing irreversible climate change and anthropocentric interventions in the natural environment, requiring developed and developing countries to reconsider their development strategies. International conventions such as the Paris Agreement add to the burden of reducing carbon emissions. Such a circumstance creates a quandary for developing countries like India, which cannot employ the developed world’s poverty-reduction policy.

The ‘Sustainable Development’ strategy, on the other hand, solves the trade-off between poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. Through the application of technology and the adoption of global best practises, Sustainable Development provides an escape route from this trade-off. The issue of poverty might thus be addressed without negatively impacting the environment. In India, for example, the government created the Ujjwala scheme to provide discounted gas cylinders to low-income people.

Previously, these families cooked with wood, which harmed women’s health and increased carbon emissions. We now have ways for lowering our carbon footprint while alleviating poverty and disadvantage thanks to advances in science and innovation. Green economy and circular economy concepts are gaining traction among policymakers and could be extremely beneficial in this area.


Sustainable practises, people’s participation, and decentralised resource management are key to solving the problems of poverty and environmental degradation. Because the lives of poor people and environmental circumstances are inextricably intertwined, there can be no solution to poverty without environmental sustainability. In the same vein, the United nations sustainable goal calls for the abolition of global poverty by 2030.


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