C Talimoa, President, NLSF
M.K. Gandhi, the father of the nation once gently says that, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs but not every man’s greed’. 5 June i.e. World Environment Day (hereinafter “W.E.D”); let me begin by repenting that W.E.D has become no more an occasion to celebration but one for concern. As it is known what it is like when we have rivers that are polluted by toxic waste, when we have air that is not fit to breathe and with which we choke when our environment has taken the brunt of man’s inhumanity to its own surroundings.
That being so, on this W.E.D, “I Call on One and All to Protect and Restore our Environment for the Benefit of Mankind and Planet”.
“Ecosystem Restoration”, the theme for this year W.E.D 2021 is a call to action for all of us to combat one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time to revive our ecosystems and assist the undamaged natural resources which is both urgent and existential. It also invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of environmental pollution on our natural places, our wildlife and our own health.
Pakistan, the host nation for the W.E.D 2021 targets to plant 10(ten) billion tree tsunami to restore ecosystem in its global effort to contribute to the linked to the U.N. decade on Ecosystem Restoration. However, the fundamental question before us today is whether we can allow the destruction of the environment leading to the destruction of all living creatures including human beings on this planet. The answer is obviously-No. Despite our brutal exploitation of our forests, indiscriminate quarrying, pollution of rivers and other water resources, rapid increase of air and noise pollution, it is still possible to protect the deteriorating environment through proper policies and management and greater attention to environment will lead to the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living standards for mankind, better health and managed ecosystem and a safer, more prosperous future. And the recent developments in the area of environment protection prove this point.
The main causes of environmental degradation is the human activity in one way or the other, where the Indian constitution is perhaps one of the rare constitutions of the world which contains specific provisions relating to environment protection. It puts duty on the “State” as well as “Citizens” to protect, improve and promote the environment. The judicial grammar of interpretation has made the right to live in healthy environment as Sanctum Sanctorum of human rights. Now it is considered as an integral part of right to life under article 21 of the constitution.
Law is a regulator of human conduct. Hence, the law plays an important role in the protection of environment from pollution by regulating the human activities. Various statutory provisions in India played a vital role in preventing and controlling all kinds of pollution. As such, the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter “I.P.C”), 1860, makes various acts affecting environment as offences. Chapter XIV of the I.P.C containing sections 268 to 294-A deals with the offences affecting the public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals. The sole object of Chapter XIV is to safeguard the public health, safety and convenience by causing those acts punishable which make environment polluted or threaten the life of the people.
Section 268 of the I.P.C defines public nuisance and section290 provides for punishment for public nuisance in cases not otherwise provided for. Thus, under these provisions any act or omission of a person which caused injury to another person by polluting the environment can be controlled. Under section 268 of I.P.C, inter alia, noise pollution can also be controlled.
In K. Ramkrishanan Vs State of Kerala, the Kerala High Court held that Smoking in public places amounts to public nuisance and cases can be filed under Section 290 of I.P.C. The Court also held that it is violative of right to life provided under Article 21 of the constitution. Further, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Murli S. Deora Vs Union of India held that Smoking in public places violates the fundamental right of the Passive Smokers under Article 21 of the constitution.
Furthermore, Sections 269 to 271 make a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life, is punishable. The punishment provided for such act is imprisonment up to Six months, or with fine, or both. Thus, if the pollution is caused by any act which spreads the infection of disease dangerous to life, the same can be controlled by punishing the person who is responsible for such act.
Sections 272 to 276 deal with the adulteration of food, drinks and drugs. Section 277 can be used to prevent the water pollution in certain cases.
The I.P.C can also be used to prevent the negligent handling of poisonous substances, combustible materials and explosive substances which may cause environmental pollution. Under sections 426, 430, 431 and 432 of I.P.C, general pollution caused by mischief can be controlled as the same is punishable.
Similarly, the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (Cr. P.C.) can also be invoked to prevent the pollution of almost all kinds. Chapter X Part B containing Sections 133 to 143 and Part C having Section 144, can provide most effective and speedy remedy for preventing and controlling public nuisance causing air, water and noise pollution.
The parliament of India, in the wake of the Bhopal gas tragedy, enacted the Environment Protection Act 1986 under Article 253 of the constitution, relating to the protection and improvement of the human environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, living creatures, plants and property. Thus, various laws have been enacted for the protection of environment and wild life in India.
Going further, it is extremely qualified to express on this W.E.D that there is no denying fact that climate change is also a serious threat if we continues at the rate that we are going at. The climate crisis is something where the consequences are not local but global as it affects us all. And that is a red flag that is something we need to realize is a serious issues that requires a global effort towards fixing. Thus, to prevent the locking in of outdated environmental actions, equal environmental standards must be enforced internationally for the purpose of sustainable set of environmental standards. However, in the history of global warming crisis humans have been incredibly short-sighted. Many countries have established some form of governmental structure that seeks to address their environmental problems. However, their inherent barriers within these governments such as, corruption, bureaucratic inefficiencies and lack of political willingness that are preventing visible differences from being seen which is a classic and all the while our Earth is dying. Hence, I can say with the definitive stance that environmental standards indeed should be imposed internationally. We cannot afford to look locally anymore.
The consequences of human recklessness are already apparent in its sufferings, towering economic losses and the accelerating erosion of life on Earth. The prevailing global disease pandemic has clearly demonstrated the superficiality of mankind towards environment. Human actions today have pushed the nature beyond its limit and if we continue on this path, ecosystem loss will have severe consequences for mankind.
As such, the emergence of COVID-19 Pandemic has underscored the fact that when we destroy ecosystem, we destroy the system that supports human existence on earth. Utterly, we have to say should be a warning cry to our mankind that W.E.D is a reminder of how much we owe to the Mother Nature.
Just as we have rights, we have duties and responsibilities too to protect, improve and restore natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures and by protecting we can help save the future of our fellow citizens and to planet earth. And if we fail to do so to take care of our nature as a world citizen, there is no reason for us to exists on this earth.
“Your Environment, My Environment is our Environment”. Therefore, as an Environmental Lover, I, on this W.E.D, appeal to every individual to have the heart to embrace the rallying call for the protection and restoration of our Ecosystem as a Fundamental Duty as enshrined under the constitution of India for the benefit of mankind and nature as “The Earth We Live Today Is Not Ours; It Is A Treasure That Is Entrusted To Every Individual To Pass On To The Next Generation”.