By Aditi Wandale
The author is a first-year law student at MNLU Nagpur
21st Century has proved to be a hard one for our environment. With rapid industrialization, ever-increasing progress in technology, and principally the goal of these industries (who are one of the main causes of pollution, deforestation, poaching, etc.) of nothing other than capital growth has made our environment suffer a lot. Our carelessness towards our duties towards the environment and ignorance towards this issue will soon or later make us pay the price of our deeds. In fact, we have started paying the ‘first installment’ – Climate Change. Thankfully, there is hope. India’s Environment Laws pay a lot of attention towards the ecological balance highlighting the importance of safeguarding the forests and wildlife of our country.
Following are some of the constitutional provisions, whose right use if made, can help us protect our environment and restore the damage we have already done to it.
- Article 51A – Fundamental Duties: According to this, it is the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to take measures to protect environment and work for its further growth and improvisation. The natural environment includes forests, water bodies and wildlife. Along with the sense of duty a feeling of compassion towards the surroundings is also expected from the citizens. This is one of the most important fundamental duties a person as a responsible citizen should take note of.
- Article 48A– Directive Principles of State Policies: This article says that State shall endeavour to protect the environment, forests, and the wildlife of the country. Keeping in mind that it’s the duty of the State too, to protect environment, we as Indian citizens have the right to criticise the State’s failure in doing so.
The first Environment Law was passed in the year 1950, but due to India’s preference for economic development, little attention was given to the Environment. It was the UN Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm (1972) that acted as a stepping stone for India’s quest for Climate protection and Sustainable development. National Council for Environment Policy and Planning was set up in the same year within the Department of Science and Technology. Today it has evolved into the Ministry of Environment and Forest. Following are some important Environment Laws which need the attention of everyone and whether they are being followed.
- The National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
This Act received the assent of the President of India on June 2, 2010 and was enforced by the Central Government vide Notification no. S.O. 2569(E) dated October 18, 2010. This act provides the effective and expeditious disposal of causes related to the conservation of forests, environmental protection, and enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment. The act also provides proper compensation and relief for damages to persons and properties and related matters. The act envisages the establishment of the National Green Tribunal to counter environment-related problems such as pollution, and those related to the Forest Conservation Act, Biodiversity Act, and Environment Protection Act with appropriate clauses.
- The Environment Protection Act, 1986.
This Act is also known as the Environment Act, provides for the protection and improvement of the environment. It establishes a framework to research, plan, and implement various projects to play a role in environmental safety and preparing for an adequate response if there is any threat to the environment. The ‘ Environment’ in this act includes water, air, and land as well as the interrelationship which exists between water, air, land, human beings, animals, microorganisms, etc. It is important to have harmony among these interrelationships which is taken care of by this law and if not, the Central Government has the power to take necessary actions.
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act ,1981.
Also known as the ‘ Air Act’ is an act to provide for the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution and for the establishment of Boards at the Central and State levels with a view to carrying out the previously mentioned purposes. This act prohibits the use of polluting fuels and substances and regulates the appliances that give rise to air pollution. Under this Act, the establishment of industries in air pollution control areas (declared by the State Government after consultation with SPCB) requires the official consent of SPCBs. Violation of this would be thus, liable for legal action.
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
Also known as the ‘Water Act’ has been enacted to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution and to maintain or restore the wholesomeness of water in the country. The Water Act has set up the CPCB at the Centre and SPCBs at the state level. CPCB lays down penalties if an industrial activity is resulting in the discharge of pollutants more than the standards set by it. SPCBs function under it.
- The Wildlife Protection Act,1972.
This Act was enacted with the objective of effectively protecting the wildlife of the country and controlling poaching, illegal trade in wildlife, and smuggling and its derivatives. There has been an amendment in the law to provide more efficient protection to the endangered flora and fauna and to give stricter punishments to those who breach it.
- The Forest Conservation Act, 1980
It was enacted to check deforestation and lay down prerequisites for the diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes. An approval from the Central Government is necessary to use forest land without the purpose which is beneficial to it.
- Hazardous Waste Management Regulations
Any waste which, by reason of any of its physical, chemical, reactive, toxic, inflammable, explosive or corrosive characteristics’, causes dangers or is likely to cause danger to health or environment, whether alone or when in contact with other waste substances are hazardous wastes. Listed below are certain legislations to deal with them.
A) Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary) Rules,2008.
It guides about the manufacture, storage, and import of hazardous chemicals for managing hazardous wastes.
B) Biochemical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules,2008.
These were formulated for proper disposal segregation, transport, etc., of infectious waste.
C) Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000.
These aim at enabling municipalities to dispose of municipal solid waste in a scientific manner. We all make mistakes, but what matters is that we do not repeat them. With the current state of the Environment and increasing threats of climate change no further mistakes, misdeeds, crimes relating to the environment would be tolerated. It is our duty to carry out responsibilities by following the environmental laws, spreading awareness about them, and causing no further harm to the environment. If a sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg can open the eyes of the world, our contribution, no matter how small would be of immense value. A sustainable way of life is what we need, for the betterment of ourselves as well as the future generations