Environment is one of the major concerns in today’s time, the quality of air is depleting, tones of garbage is dumped into the rivers, the soil is left polluted and barren after years of exploitation. The increase in urbanization, deforestation, industrialization and most importantly the population explosion has left the environment in a pitiable state. The laws are made from time to time in order to deal with the situation but there’s a serious lacuna where the implementation is concerned.
environment should also be a criteria to judge a country’s progress
In the ancient period man lived in harmony with the nature and the people worshipped the nature in the form of vanaspati as mentioned in the Vedas, there was a balance between the human society and the nature. Then in the medieval period as well there wasn’t much disturbance created between the harmony between humans and nature. The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev was himself a naturalist and insisted that God existed in the nature. Mughal Emperor Akbar also was a great promoter of afforestation, management of water bodies and disapproved the killing of animals. The East India Company brought with it the immense exploitation of the Indian flora and fauna and they were more concerned about filling their treasury with the profits gained after such exploitation than with the preservation of it. The British introduced many environment related laws in India like : The Forest Act, 1927, Oriental Gas Company Act, 1857, Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act, 1912 etc.
With the coming into force of the Constitution of India in 1950 post-independence, many new legislations were enacted like the Factories Act, 1948, the Mines, and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1956 The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1974 etc.
With the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment also known as the Stockholm Declaration India began to turn its perspective towards environmental protection and thus came in many Central level legislations related to preservation of environment, it is during this time only that the National Council for Environment Policy and Planning came up in 1972 which later came to be known as Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) in 1985.
By the 42nd Amendment in 1976, Article 48A was added to the list of Directive Principles of State Policy which declares that “the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.” Article 51(g) under the new chapter ‘Fundamental Duties’ mentions that it is the responsibility of every citizen of India “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.” In the recent times many laws have been enacted viz. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002, National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 etc.
In spite of the enactment of these laws and the introduction of policies and the efforts of Environmentalists like MC Mehta in the formulation of some of the most important principles of law related to the environment there is still poor implementation of laws in India, due to which the environment has to suffer.
Major reasons why there is a problem of implementation of laws in India is :
there is a major lack of will in the politics and there is definitely a huge lack of public awareness, many times some other issues like economics, religion, technology etc. become the priority and environment protection takes a backseat.
The present mechanism of laws fails to implement the Pollution Pays Principle, wherein the one who’s responsible for pollution has to make sure that environment returns to its original state.
The litigation when it comes to the environment is much expensive as it includes many experts, technicalities and deep knowledge of the issue at hand.
The penalty measures in place are also not stringent and in many cases to weak to be implemented.
The interference of the State and Central Government in the appointments to the Central and State Boards is a hindrance in the implementation. These Boards lack authority and the decisions are overruled by the Government and they lack majorly on the funds.
The judiciary is already swamped with the existing backlog in the cases related to the environment and thus the poor implementation and lack of time and resources to tackle these cases tells only the sad story about the degradation of the environment.
Most of the laws made in our country are human centric and not environment centric and thus focus more on the development of technologies and exploitation of the environment.
Another sad truth is the population of India which is still increasing and thus bring in other problems like poverty, unemployment and lack of space for housing and occupation and urbanization and industrialization create more and more pressure on the environment.
The present COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a halt and thus has given time to heal to the environment and thus if the environment is dealt with consciously without the mindless exploitation the we could bring in the harmony which would help to sustain the environment for the future generations.