Saturday, November 9, 2013

Issues involved in enforcement of environmental legislation

Three issues that are especially important for environmental legislation are:

1. The precautionary principle This principle has evolved to deal with risks and
uncertainties faced by environmental management. The principle implies that an ounce of
prevention is worth a pound of cure— it does not prevent problems but may reduce their

occurrence and helps ensure contingency plans are made.

2. The polluter-pays principle In addition to-the obvious—the polluter pays for the
damaged caused by a development—this principle also implies that a polluter pays for
monitoring and policing. A problem with this approach is that fines may bankrupt small
businesses, yet be low enough for a large company to write them off as an occasional
overhead, which does little for pollution control.

3. Freedom of information: Environmental planning and management is hindered if the
public, NGOs or even official bodies are unable to get information.

A number of laws have been enforced for safeguarding the environmental quality. However, these laws and acts could not be enacted successfully in light of the following problems.
  1. Drawbacks of wildlife protection act, 1972
    1. Since this act has been enacted just as a fallout of Stockholm conference held in 1972, it has not included any locally evolved conservation measures.
    2. The ownership certificates for some animal articles (Ex: Leopard and Tiger skins) often serve as a tool for illegal trading.
    3. Jammu and Kashmir have their own wildlife acts, therefore, hunting and trading of many endangered species, prohibited in other states are allowed in Jammu and Kashmir.
    4. The offenders of this act are not subject to any harsh fines. The fine is only Rs. 25000 or imprisonment for up-to three years.
  2. Drawbacks of the Forest (conservation) Act, 1980
    1. This act only transfers the powers from state to centre to decide the conversion of reserve forests to non-forest areas.
    2. The power has been centralized at the top and local communities have been completely ignored from the decision making process regarding the nature of forest areas.
    3. Tribal people living in forests are totally dependent on forest resources. If they are stopped from exploiting forests for their livelihood, they resort to criminal activities like smuggling, killing, etc.
    4. This law is concentrated on protecting trees, birds and animals but not on protecting poor people
    5. The forest dwelling tribal communities have a rich knowledge about forest resources, their importance and conservation. However, their role and contribution is not acknowledged.
  3. Drawbacks of pollution related acts
    1. The power and authority has been given only to the central government with little power to the state government. This hinders effective implementation of the act in the states.
    2. The penalties imposed by this act are very small when compared to the damage caused by big industries due to pollution.
    3. A person cannot directly file a petition in the court.
    4. Litigation, related to the environment is expensive, since it involves technical knowledge.
    5. For small industries, it is very expensive to install an individual custom-made effluent treatment plant
    6. The position of chairman of the board of most industries is occupied by a political appointee. Hence it becomes difficult to implement the act without political interference.