EASE OF LIVING, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: AN APPRAISAL
Just as our vision behind Agenda 2030 is lofty, our goals are comprehensive. It gives priority to the problems that have endured through the past decades. And, it reflects our evolving understanding of the social, economic and environmental linkages that define our lives… The sustainable development of one-sixth of humanity will be of great consequence to the world and our beautiful planet.” – Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
In this hi-tech epoch, States are at the edge of the global transformation. States are striving for their development through various plans and programs. The international community, through the United Nations, has set in motion a historic plan – 17 Sustainable Development Goals .1 – that aims to build a more prosperous, more equal, and more secure world by the year 2030. To this extent, the Government of India is strongly committed to the 2030 Agenda, including the SDGs, as evidenced by the statements of the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers at national and international meetings. India’s national development goals and its “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas” or “development with all, and for all,” policy initiatives for inclusive development converge well with the SDGs, and India will play a leading role in determining the success of the SDGs, globally. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted, “These goals reflect our evolving understanding of the social, economic and environmental linkages that define our lives.”
In modern life, each and every person is getting advantage with the advent of science and technology and people are encouraged to be on almost all the time to avail these opportunities. India is no way inferior to any other country in this process. People in India acquainted with technology in all transactions. Paperless and cash less transactions, are the best examples for technological development in India. Reports revealing that India’s economy expands to 7.5% GDP growth rate in 2018. ‘2
Ease of living, Economical development and Environmental degradation have very proximity with each other. Wherever economical development takes place, people can get the fruits of ease of living and on the other side Economical development may overlook the conservation of the ecological situation. The Sterlite Company in Tamilnadu is the best example for the economical as well as ease of living of the people. It provided employment directly to 3,500 people and indirectly to 25,000 people and at the same time it caused for promoting pollutants in the environment. Hence, the Tamilnadu State Government instructed for the permanent closure of the industry.
In most of the developed countries, the situation is visible and one cannot rebuke the known fact. Hence, economic development, life style has been changing on one side and conversely, human suffering increases day by day and as a result they deprive of their right to life. Despite the fact that India’s development objectives have consistently emphasized the promotion of policies and programs for economic growth and social welfare, but the vulnerable situations faced by human beings are constantly increasing. Large quantities of industrial and hazardous wastes brought about by expansion of industries have compounded the waste management problem with serious environmental health implications.3 With 2.51 million deaths in 2015, 4 India has been ranked No. 1 in pollution related deaths, according to a report by The Lancet Commission on pollution and health. China recorded the second highest number of such deaths (1.8 million). India accounted for about 28 per cent of an estimated nine million pollution linked deaths worldwide in 2015. Nearly 15,000 people died prematurely in Delhi due to pollution by fine particulate matter in 2016, according to a new study which ranked the national capital third in a list of cities reporting most deaths due to air pollution According (R.5) to WHO’s World Global Ambient Air, the air quality in India is becoming a serious public health issue with serious repercussions on the quality of life and the economy. The database shows that air pollution is a global problem nine out of ten people breathe highly polluted air and about 80% of the people living in cities have to breathe in poor air that exceeds health standards.(R.6) These statistics reveal that in developing and developed State violates the fundamental and inalienable rights i.e, right to health which is an integral part of right to life of human beings. Environmental pollution effects on the daily life and lead too many health issues. There is one saying that ‘Health is Wealth’, it should be acknowledged by everyone. When health is severely affected, it effects on the economical degradation of not only individual and effects on the Nation as well. Because unhealthy situations restricts the productivity or capability of the people. A healthy society is a productive society. The development of a country is intrinsically linked to the health of its people. Having a trained workforce and educated people is not good enough for the growth of any country. The greatest resource of a society is its people, and its accomplishments depend upon how the people are nurtured and cared for. Nonetheless, there is an obligation on the State to take initial steps for further development of the State by keeping peoples, health conditions.
The situations which effect environmental pollution by Government, corporations or legitimate organizations, Organized crime syndicates and the individuals for the benefit of themselves can be considered as ‘Environmental White Collar Crimes’ or ‘Green Collar Crimes’. The reason for environmental degradation is toxics are permitted at the point of production for private gain. Like many types of white-collar crime, environmental crimes are not regarded as seriously as street crimes. Similarly, the victims of environmental crimes are very diffuse, and the people who have been affected may not even know it. Illnesses ranging from cancer to allergies have been traced to substances involved in many environmental crimes. Epidemiologists and medical sociologists have documented alarming trends in the rise of diseases associated with toxic exposure and the release of certain chemicals into the environment.
II. JUDICIAL INTERPRETATION ON THE PROTECTION OF ENVIRONMENT
Recently, (R.7) the Supreme Court Judgment says that ” Kant Enclave is a forest and to be treated as a forest or forest land” and absolutely no construction activity could have been permitted on it with effect from 18th August, 1992. All construction activity in Kant Enclave since that date is illegal and impermissible in law. Court further directs R. Kant & Co. to deposit Rs. 5 crore for rehabilitation of the damaged area of the Aravallis. Supreme Court further ordered Rs.50 lakhs to be paid to those who constructed after 18th August, 1992 and whose construction is directed to be demolished. The quantified amount will be paid, in equal proportion, by R. Kant & Co. and the Town & Country Planning Department of the State of Haryana. The quantified amount is directed to be paid on or before 31st December, 2018.
In Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India,(R.8) a writ petition filed by the Environmentalist Organization on behalf of the people who is living in the vicinity of chemical industrial plants in India. It also highlights the disregard, contempt for law and lawful authorities on the part of some among the upcoming entrepreneurs, taking advantage as they do, and causes maximum humiliation to fellow human beings. On the basis of alleged facts, the Supreme Court drew attention to Article 48-A (R.9) and Article 51-(R.10) A(g) of the Constitution and also to Objects and Reasons appended to the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 which “attracted the attention of the State Legislatures and the Parliament”. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 contains similar provisions which states that the preamble to the Act recited that the said Act was made pursuant to the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in June, 1972 in which India also participated. Further it explained the word ‘environment’ (R.11) and the powers of the Central Government as per Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.(R.12)
While taking into consideration of the statutory provisions in India, the Apex Court referred to the “polluter pays” principle (R.13) which has been incorporated into the European Community Treaty and is now universally accepted. This treaty specifies that environmental considerations are to play a part in all the policies of the Community, and that action is to be based on three principles; the need for preventive action; the need for environmental damage to be rectified at source; and that the polluter should pay. While considering this principle, court interpreted the enforcement of customary international law in the light of the universally accepted rule to safeguard the interest of the public with reference to environmental pollution in the absence of legislative measures. The same view was confirmed by the Supreme Court in Vellore citizens’ welfare forum v. Union of India & Others. (R.14) It is a public interest petition – under Article 32 of the Constitution of India has been filed by Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum and is directed against the pollution which is being caused by enormous discharge of untreated effluent by the tanneries and other industries in the State of Tamil Nadu. The untreated effluent is finally discharged in river Palar which is the main source of water supply to the residents of the area. These effluents have spoiled the physico-chemical properties of the soil, and have contaminated ground water by percolation. According to the petitioner an independent survey conducted by Peace Members, a non-governmental organization, covering 13 villages of Dindigal and Peddiar Chatram Anchayat Unions, reveals that 350 wells out of total of 467 used for drinking and irrigation purposes have been polluted. Based on the facts the Apex Court confirmed that the precautionary principle (R.15) and the Polluter Principle have been accepted as part of the law of the land and which is enshrined in Article21, Article 47,(R.16) Article 48-A (R.17) and 51-A(g)(R.18) of the constitution.
M.C.Mehta and Anr. Etc vs. Union of India and Ors. Etc (R.19) It is a landmark judgment in which the principle of Absolute Liability was laid down and also the Apex Court held that the permission for carrying out any hazardous industry very close to the human habitation could not be given and the industry was relocated.
The link between environmental quality and the right to life was first addressed by a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court in the Charan Lal Sahu Case v. UOI, (R.20) the judgement discusses the doctrine of ‘parens patriae’. Accordingly, the Government has an obligation to protect the rights and privileges of its citizens for discharging its obligation. This was reaffirmed in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India.” (R.21) The Apex Court held that State Government is responsible to ensure a better quality of environment to the public within the means of Art.21. The Supreme Court ordered the central government to show the steps they have taken to restore the quality of environment through national policy. Judgments of the Apex Court indicate new trend and novel remedies to reach a given result, although these new remedies seem to encroach on the domain of the executive.
III.CONSTITUTIONAL AND STATUTORY SAFEGUARDS TO PROTECT ENVIRONMENT:
Indian constitution had no specific provision for the environmental protection initially. When the international community initiated conferences (R.22) for global consciousness for environmental protection, being a member of the community, Indian Government in 42nd constitutional amendment introduced certain direct provisions for protection of environment. In the Directive Principles of the State policy, Art.48-A states that “The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.” This amendment places a duty on every citizen hence, Art.51-A (g) also amended. One of the important duty on every citizen is “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.” These two Articles in the Constitution emphasized the importance of environmental protection and states the responsibility of the Government as well as every individual.
INDIAN PENAL CODE:
Chapter XIV of the Indian penal code carries section 268 to 294(A) deals with the offenses against public health, safety, convenience, decency and morality the main object of chapter XIV is to safeguard the public health, from hazardous activity which causes adverse effect on the life of the people. Thus any act or omission which caused injury to person/s due to hazardous activity or pollution is also can be liable under section 268 of IPC.
WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT, 1972
This Act came into existence with an intention to protect flora and fauna and to prevent environmental degradation, and provide a better environmental protection, This Act prohibits hunting of animals and also imposes a penalty.
THE WATER (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1974
Under this Act, Sewage or pollutants cannot be discharged into water bodies including lakes and it is the duty of the State pollution control board to intervene and stop such activity.
THE FOREST CONSERVATION ACT, 1980
The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted for the conservation of forest and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto. The forest resources are valuable as an integral part of the environmentalism, from the commercial point of view. In the today’s state of affairs, the commercial use of forests has reached at a pinnacle and thereby it causes a severe threat to the environment such as increase in temperature, lesser precipitation, frequency and volume of floods, soil erosion etc,.
THE AIR PREVENTION AND CONTROLLED ACT, 1981
To control air pollution and maintain ecological balance, this Act has been enacted. It states that sources of air pollution such as industry, vehicles, power plants, etc., are not permitted to release particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other toxic substances beyond a prescribed level. To ensure this, Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) have been set up by Government to measure pollution levels in the atmosphere and at certain sources by testing the air.
THE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION ACT, 1986
The issue relating to the environment has increased over the world since last decade. The reduction in the environmental quality is the indication of increasing pollution the Environmental protection act, 1986 is the most important act relating to environment protection it was enacted under Article 253 of the Indian constitution. In the Stockholm conference on human-environment 1972, the government of India also takes part and raised the issue of environmental pollution. Several measures had been taken for environment protection (R.23)before and after the conference and hence the Environment protection act 1986 (EPA) was passed.
PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE ACT, 1991:
This Act provides public liability- insurance for the purpose of providing immediate relief to the persons affected by accident occurring while handling any hazardous substance. This Act, inter alia, it imposes an obligation on individuals to protect environment and not to cause for any environmental degradation
THE NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL Act 2010
The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection
COMPANIES ACT, 2013:
According to the Companies Act, 2013 corporate sectors have Social Responsibility, in ensuring environmental sustainability. (R.24)
ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT –
Environment impact assessment has come into force on 27 January 1994 from the ministry of environment forest. The main objective of environment impact assessment is to protect the environment from the impact of development projects especially from the mining, hydro power thermal stations, ports and harbors, pit – head thermal power stations. And if the development project likely to cause damage or harm to the environment, than it has to be corrected before the implementation of the project thereby preventing from future liabilities.
The environment impact assessment includes the impact on local people, biodiversity etc. the environment impact assessment improves the quality of development project by analyzing the environmentally sensitive area and reduced the damage to environment. Although overall quality of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies and the effective implementation of the EIA process have improved over the years, and institutional strengthening measures such a straining of key professionals and staffing with proper technical persons are needed to make the EIA procedure a more effective instrument for environment protection and sustainable development. Hence, the environment impact assessment can help to understand all the aspects of environment effects by the development projects. Despite all these safeguards i.e, a perfect machinery to protect ecological system, still it is a high time to take certain necessary steps to protect environment within the concept of sustainable development. No one shall be rebuked that the health is a fundamental human right as well it’s a duty of the citizens to protect our nature for the benefit of present and future generations. The pursuit of economical development ignoring the health concept can lead to deterioration in the environment affecting all aspects of the quality of life. Environmental hazards need policies to improve health services. Strict implementation of various provisions of environmental laws may save the people from various epidemic and non-epidemic diseases which will in turn improve their health.
Ease of living and living standards of the people has been drastically improved in these present days. State enacted various laws to protect the ecological system for sustainable development as well as the sake of future generations. Hence, it is claimed that Individuals are entitled to live in free pollution environment and they are obliged to maintain pollutant free environment. Otherwise every one must pay the price before the others. However, through collective approach to combat the problem, individual responsibility and strict implication of laws, are the only solutions to prevent environmental degradation and apart from all the above citizens contribution of responsibility in protecting, promoting and preventing the environmental surface where we are living for an ease of living.
Ban of using recycled plastic is to be carried to into the public very rampantly. State governments are already implementing the ban very strictly and public also contributing their responsibility for the upliftment of the ban in a responsible manner to safeguard the future generations.
1. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
2. As per the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report.
3. By Rajiv Chopra, Environmental Degradation in India: Causes and Consequences ; International Journal of Applied Environmental Sciences , ISSN 0973-6077 Volume 11, Number 6 (2016), pp. 1593-1601
4. Most pollution-linked deaths occur in India,https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/india-ranked-no-1-in-pollution-related-deaths-report/article19887858.ece5. 5.https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nearly-15000-premature-deaths-due-to-air-pollution-in-delhi-study/article24419003.ece
7. The decision of the Supreme Court of India in the matter of M. C. Mehta Vs Union of India & Others dated 11/09/2018 regarding Kant Enclave constructions at Aravallis in Faridabad, Haryana.
8.AIR 1996 SC 1446
9. Directive Principles of State Policy.
10. Fundamental Duties of the citizens.
11. “ environment” to include “water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro organism and property.”
12. Sec3 –Sec.6 of Environmental Protection Act, 1986.
13. The ”Polluter Pays” principle as interpreted by this Court means that the absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also the cost of restoring the environmental degradation.
14. AIR 1996 SC 2715.
15. The “Precautionary Principle” in the context of the municipal law means: Environmental measures by the State Government and the statutory authorities must anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation.
16. Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health. The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and in particular, the State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.
17. Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wild life – The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country
18. To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
19. 1986 SCR (1) 312
20. AIR 1990 SC 1480
21. AIR 2004 SC 4016
22.Stockholm Declaration, 1972
23. Environment protection Act, 1986,(Sep- 2016), Available at https://www.legalbites.in/environmental-protection-act1986/ (last visited on 26 May 2018)
24. Section 135and Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013.,