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Environmentally Sound Appropriate Technologies

The Term Environmentally Sound Appropriate Technology (ESAT) is amalgamation of two terms -Environmentally sound Technology and Appropriate Technology.

An environmentally sound technology is a technology that serves the goals of development and also reduces the risk of harm to human health (or the environment),
enhancing cost-effectiveness (of achieving environmental protection), improving process efficiency, and creating products and processes that are environmentally beneficial or benign[i].

Appropriate Technology is a term that represents the social and cultural dimension of innovation. The idea here is that the value of a technology lies not only in its economic viability and its technical soundness, but also in its adaptation to the local social and cultural environment

Taken together, ESAT is a technology that has two considerations. Firstly, it protects the environment, is less polluting, uses all resources in a more sustainable manner and secondly, it springs from indigenous creativity in response to local needs and possibilities.

The Environmentally Sound Appropriate Technology, primarily, shares three characteristics:

1. It is relevant and ready for use by the common people and aims directly to improve the quality of their lives.
2. It derives maximum leverage from the local cultural environment, by drawing upon the existing managerial and technical skills and providing the basis for extending them.
3. It uses the physical potential of an area, and maintains man’s harmony with nature.

Assessing the appropriateness of a technology necessarily involves some sort of value judgement, both on the part of the developer of technology as well as the user of technology. This also implies that a technology that is environmentally sound and appropriate in one condition may be inappropriate in a different condition, meaning thereby that ESAT is a condition specific technology, a relative notion that varies in space and time.

Nevertheless, the concept of “Environmentally Sound Appropriate Technology” might be summarized as follows

1. The design of technology is more in response to the local needs, thus it promotes ingenuity of local people.
2. It compliments human labour and skills rather than attempting to replace human labour and eliminating human skills; there is an effort to make the human element more productive and creative.
3. The processes and procedures involved are simple, at which people without sophisticated management training can work together and understand what they are doing.
4. It allows a more economical operation by minimizing the transport of goods in an era of expensive energy, allowing greater interaction of local industry and permitting greater use of local resources – both human and material.
5. It makes unnecessary many expensive or unavailable finance, transportation, education advertising, and management and energy services; and avoids the loss of local control that the use of such outside services implies.
6. It helps to establish a self-sustaining and expanding reservoir of skills in the community, which begins from already existing skills;
7. It tends towards decentralization of production, thus permitting the full benefits of work to remain within a community; this also allows the control to remain within community;
8. It provides a region with a cushion against the effects of outside economic changes (e.g. the sudden unavailability of fertilizer);
9. It helps to reduce economic, social and political dependency between individuals, between regions, and between nations, by recognizing that people can and will do things for themselves if the obstacles to this are removed.
10. It is in harmony with the cultural traditions of the area; this does not mean it is stagnant, but that it evolves along with the culture, and does not contradict values the people believe to be important.

[i]Technology for a Sustainable Future (NSTC, 1994, p. 9, and pp. 42–43).
[ii].Appropriate Technology Problems and Promises (OECD, 1976. page 19 pp.
[iii] Appropriate Technology Sourcebook Volume One (Volunteers in Asia, 1981 page 14)

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