The impact of man on environment through his economic activities are varied and highly complex as the transformation of the natural condition and process leads to a series of changes in the biotic and abiotic components of the environment. Environment condition would have been worsened if the pandemic had not hit world. Before 2019, holy rivers like Ganga were polluted also the air pollution in Delhi was worse that people started wearing masks. People were taking initiative to save the environment and planting more trees.
On late December 2019 in Wuhan city, in China, an unusual pneumonia was noticed caused by microorganism, named COVID-19. COVID-19 soon spread to other parts of the world. WHO declared the situation a pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of human life and the global economy. The number of new cases and deaths is increasing at an alarming rate with no signs of control yet, making the estimates of its economic and other impacts uncertain. Due to the unusual outbreak of COVID-19, many countries were under partial or total lockdown for a long period of time for months. Under the nationwide lockdown, all transport services â road, air and rail were suspended with exceptions for essential services which improved the condition of environment.
There are many causes for environmental problems in India. However, some of the very common causes of environmental degradation which can be clearly pointed out are the population growth, the economic growth, industrial growth, unplanned urbanization, poverty, change of technology, and etc. The conditions of poverty and underdevelopment themselves create a situation where the people are forced to live in squalor and further degrade their environment. The process of development itself also leads to damage of the environment, if not properly managed.
It is fundamental human right to live in an unpolluted environment and It is fundamental duty of every individual to maintain purity of environment. Protection and improvement of environment is a constitutional mandate. The Indian Constitution contains specific provisions for environment protection under the chapters of Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties
Equality before the law and equal protection of the law has been granted under article 14 of the Constitution. This fundamental right impliedly casts a duty upon the state to be fair while taking actions in regard to environmental protection and thus, cannot infringe article 14.
The right conferred upon the citizens under Article 19(1)(g) is thus subject to the complete or partial prohibition or to regulation, by the State. However, under the provisions of Article 19(6) the prohibition, partial or complete, or the regulation, has to be in the interests of the general public. To which Supreme Court held in the case Small Hydro Power Developers’ vs Transmission Corporation of A.P. on 8 May, 2008, that Industries engaged in the work of chemicals and production of hazardous substances owe a duty to protect environment.
Article 21 of the constitution of India provides for the right to life and personal liberty. It states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. In the case of Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar, again the apex court held that the right to get pollution free water and air is a fundamental right under Article 21.
It is the duty of state to protect environment under article 47. Supreme Courts and High Courts have been taking petitions under articles 32 and 226 as the violation of article 21.
Kendra v State of UP, also known as the Dehradun quarrying case, the Supreme Court of India has held that pollution caused by quarries adversely affects the health and safety of people and hence, the same should be stopped as being violative of Article 21.In this case, the Supreme Court for the first time held that the right to wholesome environment is a part of right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
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In State of U.P. v. Yamuna Shanker Misra & Ors., (1997) 4 SCC 7, this Court interpreted the object of writing the confidential reports and making entries in the character rolls by deriving support from Article 51-A(j) which enjoins upon every citizen the primary duty to constantly endeavour to strive towards excellence, individually and collectively.
M C MEHTA, who was single-handedly responsible for making environmental degradation a part of public discourse, says it is vital that PILs have no ulterior motive.
On December 4th, 1985. Oleum gas had just leaked from the Shriram Chlorine plant in Najafgarh, and Delhi had panicked. When the matter came up, Mehta referred to the Oleum gas that had leaked just three hours earlier. The gas leaked at 11 am; the case was listed and heard at 2 pm, no case has been heard this quickly. The Supreme Court punished the company heavily; the entire complex eventually shut down. More far reaching, the Supreme Court created the `absolute liability principleâ â companies engaged in inherently hazardous activities had absolutely no excuse when an accident occurred.
The court held that any enterprise that is engaged in an inherently dangerous activity is `absolutelyâ liable to compensate all those affected by an accident. They key feature of the judgment was the principle of `absolute liabilityâ, in which no exceptions (such as an `act of Godâ) are brooked.
The Court held that the Municipality has failed to discharge its ‘primary duty’ resulting in the acute sanitation problem in Jaipur city which is hazardous to the life of the citizens of the city. In this case the Court explained the true scope of Article 51-A in the following words:’ can call Article 51-A ordinarily as the duty of the citizens, but in fact it is the right of the citizens as it creates the right in favour of the citizens to move to the court to see that the State performs its duties faithfully and the obligatory and primary duties are performed in accordance with the law of the land. Omissions or commissions are brought to the notice of the court by the citizen and thus, Article 51-A gives a right to the citizens to move the court for the enforcement of the duty cast on the state, instrumentalities, agencies, departments, local bodies and statutory authorities created under the particular law of the state.
The Petition was filed against the water pollution caused due to excessive release of pollutants by the tanneries and other industries in the State of Tamil Nadu into the river Palar. Palar River was the main source of water for the livelihood of the surrounding people. Later, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Research Centre, Vellore discovered that approximately 35,000 hectares of agricultural land has turned either entirely or partially barren and not fit for cultivation.
The court observed that these Tanneries are the major foreign exchange earner to the country and also provide employment to several people. But at the same time, it harms the environment and poses a health hazard to everyone. The Court ruled in favour of Petitioners and directed all the Tanneries to deposit a sum of rupees ten thousand in the office of Collector as fine. The Court further directed the State of Tamil Nadu to award Mr M. C. Mehta with a sum of Rupees Fifty thousand as a token of appreciation towards his efforts in protecting the environment. The Honâble Supreme Court also made it a point to emphasize on the formation of green benches in dealing with matters related to the protection of the environment
Connecting human rights and environment is a valuable sourcebook that explores the uncharted territory that lies between environmental and human rights legislation. Human beings can ensure fundamental equality and adequate conditions of life in an environment that permits a life of dignity and well-being.
There is an urgent need to formulate laws keeping in mind the fact that those who pollute or destroy the natural environment are not just committing a crime against nature, but are violating human rights as well.
Indeed, health has seemed to be the subject that bridges gaps between the two fields of environmental protection and human rights. The advancement of the relationship between human rights and environment would enable incorporation of human rights principles within an environmental scope, such as anti-discrimination standards, the need for social participation and the protection of vulnerable groups.