Implementation of Environmental Laws in India
In the recent days, there is a need to prevent depletion of the environment which is being sabotaged by increasing human activities and interference into the nature. There is a necessity to protect the flora and fauna of nature to maintain the balance in the ecosystem. There are various rules and regulations put forth by our constitution to protect, preserve, conserve and to improve the natural environment like forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife and other natural living creatures.
There are various laws, supporting the welfare of environment laid down under the parts of the Constitution of India. MOEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) looks into the legal and regulatory framework of the legislations laid down for the protection and improvement of environment. Fundamental rights, Fundamental duties, Directive principles of state policy (DPSP); which are framed with the insight of protecting and preserving the ecosystem. Along with this there are some important legislations for environment laid down. In spite of all these laws laid down, there is also a need to look into the effectiveness in the implementation of these laws.
Insight into Environmental law in India
Under different parts and sections of the Constitution of India, there are laws related to environment laid down. Under part IVA, which states fundamental duties of citizens of India; Article 51 A casts a duty on every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural ecosystem including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. Amidst the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), under Part IV of Constitution of India, Article 48A stipulates that the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the flora and fauna of the country. There are some important environment legislations put in place. These includes:
The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010:
This Act came into force with the establishment of National Green Tribunal (NGT). NGT works with the objective of effective and speedy disposal of cases related to environmental issues. Along with this it was established to enforce new and convenient environmental legal rights for the protection and improvement of ecosystem. It also makes sure that the required relief or compensation for the damages caused to the person or the property is met equally.
The Air (Prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1981:
This Act was established to prevent, control and abate air pollution. There are several air pollution control boards at central and state levels. It ensures that ambient air quality standards are maintained in the environment. This is done by checking and looking into the pollution emitted into the air by means of vehicle, industries, manufacturing plants etc. It uses various air pollution control equipments to regulate the air pollution.
The Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1974:
There are water pollution control boards at both centre and state levels. It checks on the pollutants emitted into water bodies, especially lakes and rivers; with the objective of retaining the naturality, wholesomeness and purity of water. It prohibits the discharge of pollutants into the water beyond the certain standard level laid down. On violating these, there are penalties and compensations to be paid by the individuals for the damages caused to the environment.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986:
The main objective of this Act is protection and improvement of environment. It studies, plan and implements the same to achieve its objective. It regulates the amount of pollutants discharged into the ecosystem by various human activity centers as industrial units, camps, resorts, farmland etc. The term ‘environment’ is explained under 2(a) of this Act. It says, “Environment includes water, air and land as well as the interrelationship which exists between water, air, land and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organisms and property.” On violation of the laws laid down in this Act, an individuals will be punished with imprisonment or compensation or with both.
The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations:
Hazardous waste includes chemicals and physical substances which are explosive, toxic, inflammable or reactive in nature. These when isolated or react with substances surrounding it, causes or is likely to cause harm to the environment. The emission and use of such chemicals are regulated by these legislations. Such hazardous chemicals are mainly used in nuclear power plants, chemical manufacturing incident. There are various instances of leakage of such gases into the environment; this includes Bhopal gas tragedy case and the recently the leakage and spread of styrene vapour from LG Polymerase India Pvt.ltd company at Vishakhapatnam.
Reasons for ineffective implementation of these laws
Although, the laws for environmental protection and improvement is laid down, our country is lacking in implementing these laws and making it efficient. In the year 2020, India secured 168th rank among 180 countries evaluated under Environmental performance index. There are various reasons for ineffective implementation of these laws in our country.
Pollution control boards both at central and state levels do not have any legal authority and will have to depend on the governments consent for the approval of the decisions taken. Also regular intervention of government in the functioning of MoEF ( Ministry of Environment and Forest), limits the effectiveness of its functions and activities. There is very less funds received by the PCBs (Pollution control boards) from public and government in order to execute its plans and decisions effectively. The infrastructure and laboratories needed to carry out the activities of PCB is not meeting the sufficiency.
In spite of various environmental laws laid down, there is no strong and equivalent penalty measures adopted and implemented. There is no principle of polluter pay incorporated along with these laws. Penalty to be paid does not meet the minimum expenses of recovering the damage done. It is quiet low and minimum when compared to the compensation to all other damages done in other cases. However, the environmental litigation is expensive. This discourages individuals from taking responsibility towards the protection and improvement of the environment.
Strong rules and regulations along with high penalty payment policy have to be adopted and implemented on violation of environmental laws; in order to make these laws effective and to achieve its objective. The PCB and MoEF must be given independent powers to take its decision and act accordingly to achieve its goals without any government intervention. More public awareness for environmental protection and improvement has to be created along with ensuring the creation of political will in order to achieve the desired objective.
Upon all individuals have to take personal responsibility to not pollute the ecosystem by their activities. Expert testimony and authorities along with technical evidences has to be included to make the process of environmental litigation more efficient and affordable to common people. All this helps in preserving our mother earth.
Author: Harshini P,
IFIM LAW SCHOOL, 2nd year