The corona virus pandemic which has led to lock down on a global scale has had a clear and positive effect on environment. There are clear blue skies with good Air Quality Index 45 – which is considered to be in the range of good. Previously unimaginable AQI i.e. 360+ was noted in the city of Delhi due to stubble burning in the neighboring states. One can clearly say that Delhi had been a goodbye to good quality air somewhere in the mid-1970s. We can rightly say that human intervention was the sole reason for the state of environmental pollution be it air, water or greenhouse emissions. When the world emerges after the lock down, stringent efforts need to be made, including the repeal and amendment of certain laws to preserve the grains and carry forward the momentum nature has now reset for humanity.
Supreme Court -Environmental Concerns
The Supreme Court has come a long way as one of the foremost defenders of the environment. For the last nearly 33 years, judgments for the Supreme court have impacted all aspects of environmental protection starting with the oleum gas leak, discharge of effluents into the Ganga by tanneries, prevention of water pollution in Ganga, pollution in Delhi from the increasing number of vehicles, ecology, health, and medical aid as a fundamental right for workman employed in the asbestos industries, restrictions in the coastal regulation zone, ecological fragility and compliances with antipollution laws, duty to protect the green belt, shifting of hazardous and heavy industrial, falling of groundwater level, protection and conservation of forests, freedom from noise pollution, restrictions on the use of loudspeakers solid waste disposal city sewerage management, construction of dams dumping of hazardous waste, prohibition on the sale of fireworks and so on. In fact members of these issues are still pending before courts.
Polluter Pays Principle
The Supreme Court in its quest for a clean environment has accepted and adopted the principle of polluter pays and applied it in several of the cases mentioned above. This principle was first introduced as a guiding principle of international economic aspects of environmental policies by the organisation for Economics Corporation and development way back in May 1972 and was subsequently reiterated in the Rio declaration in 1992 and incorporated in it as principle 16.
Environmental Laws in India
In India there is no paucity of status protecting the environment. But on the number of laws that govern the subjects, the most important by the far is the environment act, 1986 which provides for the protection and improvement of environment and for matters connected therewith. This act is particularly needs a severe re-look.
While the act confers immense powers on the central government to take measures to protect aims improve the environment, with the power to give directions, and to frame rules to regulate environmental pollution. Nevertheless, the act falls short when it come to the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants, the handling of hazardous substances and Procedural safeguards and with respect to furnishing information to authorities.
The time has now come for a stringent enforcement regime from the authorities rather than the expectation of compliance. The act stipulates that industries shall not allow the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants in excess of the standards prescribed, as has been often found. And is evident by the number of judgments delivered by the Supreme Court.
Instead of expecting the polluter to prevent the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants, the government or its agency needs to set up its own effluent treatment plants that would mandatory be connected to every industry, operation, etc. Akin to the sewage connection provided by and with the permission of the municipal authorities. Needless to say, there will be capital investment outlay for the purpose; however, the same will be minuscule in comparison to the continuous and repetitive outlay as seem in the Ganga Action Plan.
At last I want to say that this is not a wish list but a constitutional mandate under Article 48 A with respect to protection and improvement of the environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife and also article 51 A (g) as a part of the fundamental duties to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures, all of which have been read into as a part of article 21 the right to life. After all, the constitution exists for the common man, the butcher, the backer and the candlestick maker.
Author: Shubham Sharma,
Delhi Metropolitan Education, I.P. University, 2nd Yr.