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Environmental Protection in India only through judicial intervention

Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consumer with care. That is the theme of the World Environment Day, 2015. It is the dream of every Indian who visited Singapore that why we cannot make the environment of our country like that.

The life of Indian has been reduced two to three years due to air pollution, the recent study by the WHO declared.  Indians cannot drink water from natural sources due to severe water pollution. The holy rivers in many states have become sewage canals.  People work on the streets like scavengers, traffic police officers, two wheel drivers use mask to protect themselves from noxious gas generated by the driving of the vehicles. One of the dreadful disease carrier, Mosquito, has spread over the country raising the number of diseases. Of course, the pollution has created many industries like mineral water industry, water, air purifier equipments, mosquito control machineries, pesticides, etc. Diseases have increased ten times raising the need for more medicines and hospitals. But can we say that it is sustainable development ?

There is no scarcity of pure drinking water in developed countries. The water supplied through public tap is used for drinking purposes, like we do three decades back. In many countries, waste generated is converted and used as energy.  Waste management is not at all a problem in any of the countries. Littering is considered as a grave offence in many countries and the public are serious of it. Development does not mean industrialization. Development can be achieved without industrial activity. The modern Singapore is an example of the same where there is no industrial or agricultural activity, but it is developed because of tourism and other economic activities. They know that necessity to the keep the environment clean.

In the meeting held on 6th June, 1958 at Rio-de-janeiro India and other countries have taken an oath to protect the global environment. Several laws have been enacted to protect the environment of our country. The lackadaisical attitude in implementing the said Green laws has given rise to several public interest litigations. The Courts were constrained to interfere to direct the authorities to perform their statutory obligations. The public interest litigations are intended to protect the community rights, which the public bodies are bound to do. The Municipalities, which fail to perform their statutory, were directed to perform their duty enshrined under the laws. It was in 1980, wherein the Supreme Court of India  was constrained to direct the Ratlam Municipality to construct drains in the interest of public. Does the situation improved? Speaking for the bench, Justice V R Krishna Iyer observed, public nuisance , because of pollutants being discharged by big factories to the detriment of poor sections, , is a challege to the social justice component of the rule of law.

India has survived due to public interest litigations, and the interference by the Green Bench of the Supreme Court of India and other High Courts without which the common man would been wiped off by the so-called developers. Now the  Corporates  also following the Green laws of our country being afraid of activists going to Courts challenging violation.

Why we are not able to manage the waste, which is the main cause of polluting the rivers as well as the land? A responsible Government authority, with responsibility, constituted for the precise purpose of preserving public health is the need of the hour. The Committees, Conventions, Commissions and Pollution Control Boards without any accountability will not save any portion of the environment. A serious thinking is essential to keep the environment and to protect the bio-diversity.  If any environment is available, today it is only due to the interference of the Supreme Court of India, which issued directions to provide justice to the nature. On several occasions, the Courts were constrained to appoint Committee to manage the affairs of waste management.

Enactment of environmental laws in our country and its blatant infringement is commons sight in many States. The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 seems to be the only legislation, which has reduced the smoking in public places to a certain extent. It is a  fact that even this legislation came because of the interference by the Supreme Court of India.

What we need a single person with a mindset to get things done and like-minded team for each State. It is difficult to the change the old habit of the people by restricting them from throwing plastic bags of waste in public places. The people must be compelled to change in view of the strict implementation. Take the case of ban on smoking in public places. It was reduced due to strict implementation. Such a compelling circumstance must come and the public must be forced to change their attitude of throwing rubbish in the street.

Executive and Legislative Government need not wait for a direction from the Supreme Court to prevent any action to protect the environment of the country. A person who is capable of understanding the basic principles of environmental science is sufficient to issue directions to the authorities for proper environmental management. A proper Ombudsman or an Environmental Authority, which can do what the Courts and Tribunals are now doing, is sufficient to discharge the said duties of environment protection.  We cannot forget the fact that we used to drink water from public tap without any hesitation. If the development of our country has made the water coming in public taps unsafe, it that speaks itself is failure of our environmental management system. For making Cleaner India, we need clean water and clean air, which are the basics need of the all of us. For that strict implementation of environmental laws are very much essential to make the dream of every citizen of this country to make India clean. We hope for the best in future.

PB Sahasranaman

Adv. P.B.Sahasranaman is a Lawyer practising at High Court of Kerala.

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