The paper analyses the concept of importance of environmental law that has
determined the society to recognize and become aware of the importance of
environmental factors as well as of the functions and services that the
environment offers. Environmental law, or sometimes known as environmental and
natural resources law.
Is a term used to explain regulations, statutes, local,
national and international legislation, and treaties designed to protect the
environment from damage and to explain the legal consequences of such damage
towards governments or private entities or individuals. In this paper we want to
prove that environmental law plays a vital role in the current and future
generations health scenarios.
- Deeper Understanding
- Discovery of new facts
- Analyse existing facts
- Explain nature and scope
- Predict the consequences
Environmental law describes a network of regulations and customary laws that
address the effects of human activity on the natural environment. These laws are
also referred to as environmental and natural resource laws and centre on the
idea of environmental pollution. Environmental law works to manage specific
natural resources and environmental impact assessment.
There are some areas that
environmental law works to regulate in order to lessen the impact on the
- Air Quality
- Water Quality
- Waste Management
- Contaminant Clean-up
- Chemical Safety
Importance Of Environmental Law
Environmental laws play a huge part in protecting humans, animals, resources,
and habitats. Without these laws, there would be no regulations concerning
pollution, contamination, hunting, or even response to disasters.
Environmental law works to protect land, air, water, and soil, negligence of
these laws results in various punishments like fines, community service, and in
some extreme cases, imprisonment. Without these environmental laws, the
government would not be able to punish those who treat the environment poorly.
Environmental law and legislation are central in protecting our current and
future generations as well as the different plants and animals in the greater
ecosystem that we live in. Environmental law ensures that individuals and
governments, cooperates and do not cause harm to the environment or its
Principles Of Environmental Law
- Precautionary principle:
The precautionary approach enables decision-makers
to adopt precautionary measures when scientific evidence about an environmental
or human health hazard is uncertain and the stakes are high. It first emerged
during the 1970s and has since been enshrined in a number of international
treaties on the environment.
- Prevention principle:
This principle allows action to be taken to protect the
environment at an early stage .It's not only about repairing damages after they
have occurred, but to prevent those damages occurring at all . It means it is
better to prevent than repair.
- Polluter's pay principle:
Since the early 1970s the "polluter pays" principle has been a
dominant concept in environmental law. It simply means that those
who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to
prevent damage to human health or the environment.
International Treaties And Conventions
Ramsar Convention It is called the Convention on Wetlands. It was adopted in the city of Iran, Ramsar in 1971. The mission of this convention is to conserve and use wisely all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.
Stockholm Convention:It was adopted in 2001 in Geneva, Switzerland. It came into force in 2004. Stockholm Convention is a global treaty that was adopted by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in 2001. It was introduced to protect human health from harmful POPs suspended in the air for a long period of time. The convention aims to reduce or eliminate the use of POPs through the active measures of the member states.
Vienna Convention: It was adopted in 1985. It came into force in 1988. The purpose of the Vienna Convention is to protect the ozone layer from depletion. 28 countries originally signed the convention on 22nd March 1985.
Montreal Protocol: It was adopted in 1987.
It came into force in 1989. Montreal Protocol is related to the
regulation of ozone-depleting substances. It is an important
part of international environmental conventions and protocols
Kyoto Protocol It was adopted in 1997. It came into force in 2005. It is an international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kyoto Protocol applies to 6 greenhouse gases; carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride.
Rio Summit It was held in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) from 3 to 14 June 1992. 172 governments participated, with 116 sending their heads of state or government.
Need For Treaties And Conventions
- Affirmation and implementation of the Convention and its
protocols will reduce health and environmental impacts more cost
effectively than solitary action
- It also creates economic benefits as peace will be
maintained across the border and legislation will be harmonised and prevent parties from competing
with each other at the expense of environment and health.
- Factors that harm human health, affect food security, hinder
economic development, contribute to climate change and degrade
the environment upon which our very livelihoods depend.
- The Convention provides a platform to discuss these
interconnections and takes actions to prevent negative impacts.
Laws And Legislations In India
The environmental laws in India are guided by environmental
legal principles and focus on the management of specific natural
resources, such as forests, minerals, or fisheries. The need for
protection and conservation of the environment and sustainable
use of natural resources is reflected in the constitutional
framework of India and also in the international commitments of
Provisions in Indian constitution:
- Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV)
improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife The State
shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the
forests and wildlife of the country.
- Fundamental duties (Part IV A) Article 51A:
To protect and improve the
natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have
compassion for living creatures.
Laws And Acts:
The wildlife (protection) act, 1972
The Act provides for the protection of wild animals, birds, and plants; and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto. It extends to the whole of India. It has six schedules that give varying degrees of protection:
- Schedule I and part II of Schedule provide absolute protection, offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
- Species listed in Schedule III and Schedule IV are also protected, but the penalties are much lower.
- Animals under Schedule V, e.g., common crows, fruit bats, rats, and mice, are legally considered vermin and may be hunted freely.
- The specified endemic plants in Schedule VI are prohibited from cultivation and planting.
The water (prevention and control of pollution) act, 1974
To provide prevention and control of water pollution. Maintaining or restoring the wholesomeness and purity of water in the various sources of water. It vests regulatory authority in Centre Pollution Control Boards (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Board (SPCB).
- CPCB and SPSB are statutory bodies created under the Water Act, 1974. It empowers CPCB and SPCB to establish and enforce effluent standards for factories discharging pollutants into water bodies.
- CPCB performs these same functions for union territories along with formulating policies related to the prevention of water pollution and coordinating activities of different SPCBs.
- SPCB controls sewage and industrial effluent discharge by approving, rejecting, and granting consent to discharge.
The air (prevention and control of pollution) act, 1981
The act targets to control and prevent air pollution in India and its main objectives are:
- To provide for prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution.
- To provide for the establishment of the boards at the central and state levels to implement the act. It states that the sources of air pollution such as internal combustion engines, industry, vehicles, power plants, etc., are not permitted to release particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or other toxic substances beyond the predetermined limit.
The environment (protection) act, 1986
- This act was passed under article 253 (legislation for giving effect to international agreements).
- This was passed in the wake of the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984.
- It was enacted to achieve the UN conference on the human environment, 1972- Stockholm declaration.
The energy conservation act, 2001
- It was enacted as a step towards improving energy efficiency and
reducing wastage. It specifies the energy consumption standards for
equipment and appliances.
- It prescribes energy consumptions norms and standards for consumers.
It prescribes energy conservation building codes for commercial
- Bureau of energy efficiency (BEE) is a statutory body
established under the act.
- The biological diversity act, 2002
- It was implemented to give effect to CBD, Nagoya Protocol.
- To check biopiracy, protect biological diversity, and local growers through a
three-tier structure of central and state boards and local committees.
- To set up National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity
and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCS).
The national green tribunal act, 2010
- It was established in concurrence to Rio Summit 1992 to provide judicial
and administrative remedies for the victims of the pollutants and other
- It also agrees with article 21, the Right to a healthy environment to
its citizens of the constitution.
- The NGT has to dispose of the cases presented to it within 6 months of their
- NGT has original jurisdiction on matters related to substantial questions of
Importance Of Environmental Law
- Importance of environment law is basically universal law of respect and
understanding mother nature, echo-system and wildlife.
- Environmental law works to protect land, air, water, and soil. Without
these environmental laws, the government would not be able to punish those
who treat the environment poorly.
- The environment is a shared resource. One cannot simply allow
corporations to freely exploit those resources in ways that have an impact
on all of us, especially on current generation.
- Everyone is affected by polluted water, skanky air, and toxic waste dumps,
because it affects us all, there need to be regulations that protect us all.
- Environmental law is a great tool for awareness related to our rights,
health, environmental exploitation, so that we can take appropriate action
to save our environment and ourselves.
Deteriorating Health Due To Environmental Issues
- WHO estimates that the environmental factors are responsible for an
estimated 24 per cent of the global burden of disease in terms of healthy
life years lost and 23 per cent of all deaths; children being the worst
- Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of
health - clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
- According to WHO, between 2030 to 2050 climate change is expected to
cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition,
malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
- Most of the environmental disease burden is attributable to a few
critical risk factors which include unsafe water and sanitation, exposure to
indoor smoke from cooking fuel, outdoor air pollution, exposure to chemicals
such as arsenic, and climate.
- Children are the worst sufferers of the adverse impact of environmental
risks, as an estimated 24 per cent of all deaths in children under 15 are
due to diarrhoeal diseases, malaria and respiratory diseases, all of which are
- Currently in Asia, 2.5 billion people lack sanitation facilities, with
coverage being poorest in South Asia; as many as 629 million population in
India is without sanitary facilities.
- Currently, 30 per cent of urban and
90 per cent of rural households in India depend on untreated surface or
ground water and this causes an enormous adverse health impact in many
- Vellore citizens welfare vs. union of India
- This is a leading case in which the Supreme Court critically analysed the
relationship between environment and development.
- The petitioner- Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum, filed a Public Interest
Litigation U/A 32 of Indian Constitution against the large-scale pollution
caused to River Palar due to the discharge of untreated effluents by the
tanneries and other industries in the State of Tamil Nadu. The water of River
Palar is the main source of drinking and bathing water for the surrounding
people. 11 � Further, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Research Centre,
Vellore found that nearly 35,000 hectares of agricultural land has become either
totally or partially unfit for cultivation.
- The question which arose for consideration before the Supreme Court was
whether the tanneries should be allowed to continue to operate at the cost
of lives of lakhs of people.
- The Supreme Court examining the report delivered its judgment making all
efforts to maintain a harmony between environment and development.
- The Court admitted that these Tanneries in India are the major foreign
exchange earner and also provides employment to several thousands of people.
But at the same time, it destroys the environment and poses a health hazard
to everyone. 2.M.c Mehta vs. union of India ( oleum gas leakage case )
- The rule of Absolute Liability which is a more stringent rule than
Strict Liability was laid down in this case. This case is more popular as
the oleum gas
leaked case .
- Shri Ram Food and fertilizers Industry is a subsidiary of the Delhi Cloth
Mills Ltd. Located in a thickly populated area of Delhi.
- On 4th December 1985, there was a leakage of oleum gas from the Sulphuric acid
plant resulting in the death of an advocate and several injuries to other
persons. Again, on 6th December 1985, there was a minor leakage of Oleum gas
from the same plant. Against a complaint under Sec 133 Cr.P.C., the District
Magistrate directed the management of Shri Ram Food and Fertilizers Industry to
close the unit and to show cause the reason within seven days in writing.
- The petitioner Mr. M. C. Mehta files a PIL u/A 32 of Indian Constitution. The
petitioner in his petition requested the Court to direct the Government to take
necessary steps to avoid such leakages from the industries engaged in dangerous
and hazardous manufacturing processes. He also reminded the Court of the recent
incident of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and 12 prayed the Court to direct the
management to shift these industries somewhere far from the city.
- The issues before the Supreme Court in this case were: 1. Whether the
plant can be allowed to continue or not? 2. If not, what measures are
required to be taken to prevent the leakages explosion, air and water
pollution? 3. Whether there are any safety devices existing in the Plant or
not? � The Supreme Court after great debate and discussion, decided to
permit Shri Ram Food and
Fertilizers Industry to restore its operations. The Court observed that although
such industries are dangerous, they are very essential for the economic and
social progress of the country.
- The court directed the management to deposit in the court Rs. 20 lakhs as
security for payment of compensation to the victims. Further, all the
recommendations of the expert committees are to be complied by the industry and
safety equipment are to be installed at the first instance.
- The court further directed the industries to establish and develop a
green belt of 1-5 kms in width around such industries.
- The court appreciated the petitioner Mr. M.C. Mehta for filing a number of PIL
and ordered the Shri Ram Food and Fertilizers to pay Rs. 10,000 towards the
- The court directed the Central Government to set up an environmental
- The court delivering its judgment in favour of petitioners directed all the
Tanneries to deposit a sum of Rs. 10,000 as fine in the office of Collector as
- The Court further directed the State of Tamil Nadu to award Mr. M. C. Mehta
with a sum of Rs. 50,000 as appreciation towards his efforts for protection of
- The Court in this case also emphasized on the constitution of Green
Benches in India dealing specifically with matters relating to environment
13 protection and also for speedy and expeditious disposal of environmental
To conclude, we can say that to meet the challenge of health and environment now
and in the future, the necessary strategic approaches must be considered and
that environment and health aspects must become, as a matter of urgency, a
national priority, in terms of policy , resources allocation and focusing on the
health aspects of current and future generations. The study and awareness of
environmental law has a great significance of importance for us and our planet,
thus we to focus on our environment and laws related to it.Reference:
Landmark Judgments on Environmental Protection BOOK:
- Environmental law by Dr. Paramjit. S. Jaswal Dr. Nishtha Jaswal.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Tahura Furqan
Authentication No: MY314226220599-22-0523