Environmental Laws, as the name suggests are the laws for the environment. These are basically, the principles, directives, policies, regulations, which are enacted and enforced by the national, international or even the local entities to regulate the behavior of humans to the non-human world, the nature. Environment means the surroundings of a person and it also consists of all the things that merely combine together to create environment.
The term ‘environment’ is defined in the Section 2(a) of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 as: –
“Environment includes water, air and land and its relationship which exists amongst and between water, air and land and human beings and other living creatures, plants, micro – organisms and property.”
In simple words, environment means surroundings which includes both living and non- living things. Land, water, air, animals and plants, all are the part of a natural environment, whereas technology, urbanization, etc. are the parts of a man-made environment.
These components of the environment are important for an individual’s physical, mental and spiritual growth. However, just as an individual, the environment, is, no doubt, susceptible to damage and danger. Over the ages, we, the human beings, have been utilizing the natural resources at such a rapid rate that these resources don’t get much of a time to get replenished and therefore, such activities have created an imbalance in the natural cycle. Therefore, there is a need to improve, conserve and protect the natural resources and to fulfill this purpose, environmental laws came into being.
WHEN DID THE ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS CAME INTO BEING?
Various National Governments have passed occasional laws throughout history, to protect the human health from environmental contamination. About A.D. 80, the senate of Rome passed a legislation to protect the city’s supply of clean water for drinking and bathing. In 14th century, England prohibited burning of coal in London and also, the disposal of waste into waterways was prohibited. In the 19th century, the British Government, in the midst of Industrial Revolution, passed certain regulations to reduce the harmful effects of chemical manufacture and coal burning on public health and the environment.
This gives us an idea that the lawmakers began to realize the importance of environmental laws and thus, began to pass the laws related to the protection of the environment in the 20th century. The main aim of the enactment of environmental laws is to conserve the nature from the inhumane treatment of the human beings.
WHAT DO THES ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS REGULATE?
A wide range of topics are covered under environmental laws from air, water, land to chemical safety, contaminant cleanups and much more.
- Air Quality: – These Laws are aimed to protect the quality of air, i.e., Protection of air against air pollution and may also include certain measures to protect the air. For e.g. – from forces such as Ozone depletion.
- Water Quality: – Environmental Laws also aim to protect the water from Pollution. They not only determine who can use the water but also handle problems such as treating waste water.
- Waste Management: -Wastes like Nuclear Waste, Municipal Waste and all other hazardous waste fall under the category of Waste management.
- Chemical Safety: – These Laws also manage the use of pesticides and chemicals in various products such as in plastic bottles.
- Contaminant Cleanups: – It deals with addressing pollution, after it happens. Not all the Environmental Laws are focused to prevent pollution, some of them also deal with contaminant clean up. It includes measures for cleanups and also, the punishments for the people, who cause pollution.
As Environmental Laws are aimed to protect the environment, they include a wide range of laws related to all the components of the environment.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS?
As observed from the list above, environmental laws play a huge role in protecting natural resources, animals, their habitats and humans. Environment is necessary for the survival of mankind and to protect the environment, we need to have some legislations. The environmental laws, also provide guidelines to everyone, so that we all can take care of environment. There are different legal organizations, charitable institutions and NGOs, that take care of the implementation of rules and regulations. There are two basic factors that come under environmental laws: – Conservation and Management. They include regulations, conventions, treaties and statutes to protect and preserve the environment.
Environmental laws hold much importance now-a-days. Due to the utilization of resources at a much faster rate, these resources don’t get enough time to replenish and thus, it creates an imbalance in natural capacities. The purpose is to ensure that the practices do not really cause any harm to the environment, animals and human health. Also, pollution is in prevailing form these days and waste management is one of the biggest problems in the world. These laws make sure that the whole process of waste management doesn’t cause any harm to the environment and human health. Also, the industries and factories are being established at a much higher rate, exploiting the natural resources. These laws make sure that the industries fulfill all the legal obligations that are required to respect and save our environment. Environmental laws focus on maintaining a balance between the humans and the environment.
ROLE OF JUDICIARY ACTIVISM IN PROTECRING THE ENVIRONMENT
Judicial activism is the active role of judiciary in preserving the constitutional and legal system of the country. The role of judicial activism in protecting the environment can be seen by having a look at some of the judgements made: –
- THE RIGHT TO A WHOLESOME ENVIRONMENT – In Charan Lal Sahu Case, the SC of India said, the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to a wholesome environment.
- FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO WATER – In Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India and Ors., the Supreme Court upheld that “ water is the basic need for survival of human beings and is part of right to life and human rights as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.”
- JUDICIAL RELIEF TO THE VICTIMS – In C. Mehta v. Union of India, the Supreme Court laid that there should be granted relief if a fundamental right is infringed.
No doubt, human life is possible only because of the existence of natural environment. Thanks to the nature, that we exist. Nature is the one which provides us with everything that humans need to live, from air to breathe, water to drink to the food that we eat, everything is provided by the nature. Instead of overruling the natural resources and destroying the nature for our own selfish motives, we need to protect the environment. It is so shameful that nature is in danger and that too from human and thus, laws are made for its protection. We all should promote the message of conservation of nature and follow the environmental laws.
Author(s) Name: Sehaj Sarin (The Law School, Jammu University)