“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
The uncontrollable population of the world has put an immense pressure on the limited Natural Resources across the world. Earth has been overexploited from decades just to fulfill man’s greed, such as over cultivation and excessive use of pesticides, over mining etc. Rapid growth of industries for economy expansion resulted to a huge pile of un-disposed garbage and sewage, and thus is one of the major concerns for environment degradation. However, our ‘Vedas’ and ‘Upanishads’ have also states that ‘Environment is the source of livelihood of the people’. Atharva Veda (8.7.10) has described floras as the jewels and has also stated to preserve them as they remove pollution. Ecological balance and ecology has been thoroughly discussed in ‘Yajur Veda’ (6.33), it also discuss about oceans and to protect them from pollution. Nevertheless, people are now coming up to save ecology and biodiversity by various methods, one of which is through legislations and judicial pronouncements. Environment is described under Section 2(a) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 as, “it includes water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organisms and property”.
India is a federal country i.e. Legislative and Administrative functions between the Centre and the States are divided by the Indian Constitution. Part XI of the Constitution specifically deals with the legislative and administrative relations between the Central and State Governments. Pollution is dealt and controlled by various laws of the country; however the term ‘Pollution’ hasn’t been listed in the Constitutional Lists but it has been categorized in different forms under the State Lists such as protection of “public health and sanitation’ and “water”. Central Government has also drafted legislations on Air, Wildlife, Biodiversity, and Water under Environment Protection Act, 1986. A nodal agency, named Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been formed under these Air and Water Acts by the Central Government which is responsible for the protection of the environment. The Board has created State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) in each state whose work is to inform CPCB regarding any pollution. CPCB has the right to set parameters of pollution for better Air and Water quality. It has also the power to inspect premises and can file cases in courts or NGT for penalizing the offender.
The concept of Right to Life under Article 21 of the constitution has been broadened by the time. This article is considered to be the most important article in the constitution, because it deals with the life and dignity of the people. It is very difficult to describe the right to life as it is not just taking away one’s life and has a wider scope. The main objective of this article is to prevent one’s personal liberty and deprivation of one’s life from the cruel acts of the state and it also encourages the strictness to follow the procedure of law. Right to Clean Environment in included under Article 21 of the Constitution which provides for the Right to life. Further it also includes right to live life with dignity i.e. the right to have food, shelter, clothes and the clean environment. An environment is called clean if it is free from pollution and all kinds of diseases and infections. Under Article 32 of the Constitution, every individual has the right to go to the Supreme Court for the infringement of any Fundamental Right by filing a Writ Petition; moreover s/he can also appear in front of the High Court under Article 226 of the constitution for the same. But if there has been a violation of a fundamental right of a society as a whole and the public’s interest has been violated then any individual can file a Public Interest Litigation in a way of Writ Petition with a minimum interest in that subject matter.
Life And The Environment
Environment and life are closely related and the existence of life on earth depends on the relationship between ecosystem and environment. While the constitution was being framed there was no provision for the conservation of nature. However these problems prevailed that time also but were very acute as people lived a simple life and industries, transport facilities were not much. The principle of ‘sustainable development’ was highly encouraged in the Stockholm Conference which meant that there must be a balance between development and ecology, and at these times there is an urgent need to make a balance between the demands of the people and the levels of environmental protection in order to ensure sustainable development. The current situation of the environment in this pandemic is better than other normal days, however it is clear from the instances in the past that environmental changes during pandemics are of short duration but if we do implement fundamental changes in the economy and our lifestyle we can continue this for a long period of time. Luckily we have the ample amount of time to do these structural changes.
Environment and development are two faces of the same coin, where neither one can be sacrificed for the other. Both are essential for the betterment of the future, still public health and clean environment weighs more than the economic development. Most of the environmental issues can be dealt by us only by educating ourselves and by taking rational steps towards saving environment. Also, government should take strict actions against the hazardous industries. State should facilitate and encourage public awareness by sharing the information about the happenings in the environment to all the individuals. A healthy environment is necessary for the overall growth of an organism; it’s high time for us to be awake and to invest in building a resilient society, economy and ecosystem. Also, our rational thinking and logical steps will make the environment completely pollution free. So let’s do it!