In India, like many other countries, two crucial elements frequently perceived as competing with one another are economic growth and the environment. Economic growth is the rise in a society’s standard of living due to the increased production of products and services. On the other hand, the environment refers to the natural world and the ecosystem that sustains life on Earth collectively.
With the idea that a healthy economy is essential for a community to prosper, economic expansion has frequently taken precedence over environmental protection in the past. As a result, there has been an increase in pollution, the exploitation of natural resources, and other types of environmental degradation in the country. However, it is now evident that this strategy cannot be sustained over the long run as the effects of climate change and other environmental problems have become more apparent.
THE POINTS OF CONFLICT
- The Development of Infrastructure Projects
While strengthening infrastructure is essential to raising a society’s standard of living and fostering economic progress. The foundation for commercial operations and public access to goods and services are provided by infrastructure projects,s including roads, bridges, airports, ports, and power plants. However, the creation of infrastructure projects may also have enormous adverse effects on the environment, such as the destruction of natural habitats, climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, and the displacement of local communities.
For example, building a dam may cause extensive sections of land to flood, destroying wetlands, forests, and wildlife habitats and evicting nearby populations that depend on these resources. In a similar vein, the building of a highway may result in the fragmentation of natural habitats, which will make it more challenging for animals to move about and find food.
Another example can be the “Narmada Bachao Andolan.” The movement opposed the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which was built as part of the Narmada Dam Project. The project involves the construction of a network of large dams, canals, and hydroelectric power plants on the Narmada River, one of the largest rivers in western India.
- The Rapid Urbanisation and Industrialisation
Rapid urbanization is the process of an increasing proportion of the population moving from rural to urban regions, usually due to population expansion. On the other hand, industrialization refers to the process by which a society or country transforms from an agricultural or rural-based economy to an industrial one characterized by the growth of manufacturing and industry.
While both rapid urbanization and industrialization are significant for the country’s economic growth, they have led to many problems, such as the limited focus on sustainability, congestion, inequalities, and biodiversity loss.
To counter the ill effects caused by economic growth, the government of India has taken specific steps towards sustainable development, which the UN defines as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” such as various legislations, like the forest conservation act of 1980, and various policies like NAPCC launched in 2008.
The critical regulatory legislations and Policies have been mentioned below:
- The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980: This act regulates the diversion of forestland for non-forestry purposes, such as mining, industrial development, and infrastructure projects.
- The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972: This law creates protected areas like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and offers protection for wild animals, birds, and plants.
- The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 1994: This act requires that a detailed impact assessment be conducted for certain development projects, such as large-scale construction, mining, and power generation projects, to evaluate the potential environmental impacts.
- The National Green Tribunal Act of 2010: It established a special court, known as the National Green Tribunal, to hear environmental protection and conservation cases.
- The Forest Rights Act of 2006: This act recognizes the rights of tribal and other forest-dwelling communities over the forest resources and aims to secure their livelihoods and protect their traditional knowledge.
- The National Action Plan on Climate Change: It acknowledges the nation’s responsibility for combating climate change and lays out a thorough plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for its effects.
In India, environmental policy has had a mixed record of success. On the one hand, the laws and policies have aided in increasing awareness and promoting biodiversity and natural resource conservation. Additionally, they have assisted in reducing some of the damaging effects of economic expansion on the environment.
For instance, the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 has assisted in protecting India’s forests and wildlife by regulating forestland use for non-forestry activities. Similarly, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 1994 has aided in ensuring that the potential environmental effects of particular development projects are assessed before their implementation.
On the other side, there have been issues with these laws and regulations’ implementation and enforcement. There have been instances of non-compliance and violations of these rules due to the resistance of many industries and businesses to comply with environmental standards. Additionally, there have been concerns about the lack of resources and capacity of the government agencies responsible for enforcing these laws, which have hindered the effectiveness of the regulations.
Environmental rules have also come under fire for causing development projects to be delayed and cost more money, which has slowed economic growth. It is crucial to remember that these restrictions were put in place to ensure that economic expansion is environmentally friendly and sustainable.
In conclusion, the link between environmental protection and economic development in India is complicated and frequently at odds with one another. India has prioritized economic growth in recent years, emphasizing industrialization and urbanization to grow the economy and raise the standard of living for its people. The country’s natural resources are now under more stress, contributing to environmental contamination and degradation.
The Indian government must put policies into place that balance environmental conservation and economic growth to resolve these two issues. The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 1994 are just a few of the laws and regulations that India has in place to safeguard the environment.
However, there have been issues with these laws and regulations’ implementation and enforcement. Concerns like the inadequate funding and capability of the government organizations in charge of upholding these rules have hampered the effectiveness of the regulations.
The Indian government must address these issues and strengthen the implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental protection. This entails supplying resources, enhancing government organizations’ ability, and ensuring that local communities are involved in the conception and execution of development programs. The government should also work on creating and implementing innovative technologies and regulations that support sustainable growth and lessen the harmful effects of economic activity on the environment. Furthermore, the government should support sustainable development.
Author(s) Name: Mayank (National Law University, Delhi)
 “The Sustainable Development Agenda – United Nations Sustainable Development” (United Nations) <https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/>
 The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
 The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
 EIA notification, 1994
 The NGT Act, 2010
 The Forest Rights Act, 2006
 NAPCC, 2008