The protection of the environment is immensely vital for the survival of mankind. It helps maintain the ecological balance and preservation of the environment. Two terms are often used synonymously, i.e. environment and ecology. Ernest Haeckel, who is known as the father of Ecology, has defined ecology pollutants as a reciprocal relationship between organisms and their surroundings. The term ‘eco-system’ is derived from the word ecology and it implies, “an organic community of plants and animals viewed within the physical environment or habitat.” According to Justice P. N. Bhagwati, the former Chief Justice of India, the term ‘Environment’ refers to “all the conditions within and around an organism, which affect its behaviour, growth and development, or life processes, directly or indirectly.”
What is an environmental crime?
An environmental crime is any illegal activity that breaches national and international environmental law. The unlawful exploitation of the planet’s natural resources is a threat to the survival of all organisms on Earth. India has a very rich animal and plant heritage. There are 13,000 species of flowering plants, 65,000 species of fauna, more than 2000 varieties of fishes, 200 species of birds and 340 kinds of mammals.
Environmental Crime is also known as Green Crime or Green Collar Crime. It is a life and death issue all over the world. The crimes against the environment are connected with the unlawful exploitation of wild fauna and flora, pollution, waste disposal and its trade.
What is environmental pollution?
The term “pollution” is derived from the word “pollute” which means to make unclear or dirty. The release of substances and energy as waste products of human activities results in changes usually harmful to the environment is called pollution. According to Section 2(c) Of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, when Pollutants substances which mark their presence in the natural environment may be present in solid, liquid or gaseous form, defined as environmental pollution.
Environmental Pollution And Crime
Natural pollution is caused due to natural forces such as tsunamis, soil erosion, fire causing forest destruction, cyclone, acid rain, global warming, greenhouse emissions etc. Air Pollution, Water Pollution, land Pollution, noise Pollution, and radioactive pollution are also called aerial pollution, food pollution, thermal power plant pollution, sea pollution and
pollution caused by solid wastes, and acid rain pollutants are kinds of artificial pollution caused by human activities and this pollution is an example of environmental crime. Wildlife crime, illegal mining, dumping into oceans and other water bodies, illegal fishing, illegal logging, groundwater contamination, burning garbage, improperly handling
pesticides and chemicals, and oil spills are the most common environmental crimes. In the current world context Environmental crime is one of the paramount concerns of India as well as all over the world.
• Wildlife Crime: The term wildlife not only includes terrestrial and aquatic animals living in the forest but it includes all the living organisms and microorganisms living in their natural habitat. Illegal hunting and killing of animals are called poaching. Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, are the golden triangle of wildlife evil action and also a hub for illicit wildlife business. China is the largest importer of illegal animal products. Animals are captured alive and traded into zoos. Uganda is the home to hunting majestic elephants. Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya are the biggest countries in the world having poaching problems. Pangolin is the most hunted mammal in India and the world’s most trafficked mammal. Illegal trade of Indian star tortoise, rhino horns, tiger and leopard skins, and tusks of elephants.
•Dumping into water bodies: Water pollution has many reasons which include the discharge of industrial effluents and drainage of sewage. In India, rivers like Ganga, Gomti, Yamuna and Kaveri have become polluted and unfit for drinking purposes. The practise of dumping dead bodies in rivers is one of them in India. Hundreds of corpses have been found floating in the river or buried in the sand of river banks. Villagers in India are usually dependent on the river for drinking, irrigation and giving water to their animals which has become a slow torturous process. Wastes from shipping fuel and oil, off-shore drilling rigs, toxic substances like cyanide, acetylene, acids and alkali present in industrial liquid effluents, and inorganic substances like chloride and nitrogen, and dyes which are harmful to make the water unsafe and harmful for human health. Atomic reactors contain different kinds of radioactive substances which are very harmful to organisms.
•Illegal Logging: Forests are the lungs of the environment and help the process of transpiration and condensation. Trees help to purify the air by releasing oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Forests provide wood, timber, fuel, medical herbs etc which have a great trade value for industries. The uncontrolled logging to get wood for furniture or other good, and the trade of timber and ivory for financial gain is the most serious cause of environmental crime. There are several movements to protect forests. Chipko Andolan and APPIKO Andolan are the famous ones. Chipko Andolan was launched by Shri Sunder Lal Bahuguna, a noted environmentalist in the early 1970s in protest against the indiscriminate cutting of trees and deforestation.
Protection of Environment – Legal Framework
The former Prime Minister of India Late Smt. Indira Gandhi, the credit goes to her who spread awareness about the preservation and conservation of the environment. She was inspired by the Stockholm Conference (1972) on Environment in which she had represented India. The two new constitutional provisions were inserted in the Constitution of India by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976. Article 48-A imposes a constitutional obligation on the State and the Courts to protect and improve the environment and Article 51-A(g) imposes a duty upon the citizens to preserve the environment.
The major acts passed for the protection and control of environmental crime are as follows:
The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974, The Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act 1981, The Forest Conservation Act 1980, The Environment Protection Act, 1986, The Wildlife Protection act 1972, The Biological Diversity Act 2002, Batteries and handling rules 2001, recycled plastics manufacture and uses rules 1999, municipal solid waste management and handling rules 2000.
Some other statutory laws also contain provisions relating to the prevention and control of the environment. They are:
- The Indian Penal Code 1860 (chapter- XIV Nuisance, Sections 268 – 278 in Section 290) provides punishment.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ( chapter X, Part B- sections 133 – 143 and part C -section 144).
- Atomic Energy Act 1962
- Insecticides Act 1968
- Factories Act 1948
- Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act,1958
- Public Liability Insurance at 1991
- The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954.
- Indian Easement Act 1882.
•Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India (2000) 10, SCC 664 (767)
The Supreme Court has declared the right to have access to drinking water as a part of the right to life and human rights as enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution of India.
•M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (1988) 1 SCC 471
The River Ganga Pollution Case. To prevent the river Ganga from being polluted in Kanpur due to the industrial discharge of effluents and sludge into the river the Supreme Court issued directions to the Municipal Corporation labour. Increase and widening of sewers, construction of a sufficient number of public urinals, preventing throwing of dead bodies, installation of treatment plants in factories, prevention of waste accumulated at dairies and generating awareness about the importance of cleanliness and a pollution-free environment for public health.
• Indian Handicrafts Emporium v. Union of India AIR 2003 SC 3240.
The Supreme Court held that trading in ivory is totally banned under chapter V-A and any person who has obtained a certificate from the chief wildlife warden under section 49-C (3) may keep possession of such property but cannot display it on any commercial premises.
•Samir Mehta v. Union of India 2014 SCC OnLine NGT 927, 17-04-2014 – Marine pollution case due to the ship sinking.
National Green Tribunal held that ship sinking accident has led to marine pollution. Therefore, environmental compensation of Rs. 100 crores were imposed. It is one of the biggest compensation ever made by a private entity to the Government.
Industrial and technological development lead to environmental-related problems in developed countries whereas undeveloped countries have problems because of poverty and over-population. The balance between Environmental Protection and development activities could only be maintained by the principle of sustainable development. The objective of sustainable development seeks to maintain and protection of biodiversity and enhancement of the quality of life. Thus, Development and environment, both are interdependent and therefore, there cannot be development without the protection of the environment, nor can there be conservation of the environment without development. The Environment Minister, Prakash Jawdekar on 5th February 2015, inaugurated the sustainable development summit in Delhi. He said that India is carried out to improve the lives of future generations and urged all the nations to work together to save the earth from disastrous consequences. If we want to save the earth, then come forward and contribute to protecting the environment for ourselves and the upcoming generations also.
“Ecology and human consciousness cannot be separated. Only because human
beings have become insensitive, we have to talk today about saving the world…”
This article is written by Ashmita Dhumas who has completed her B.A.LL.B from Agra College and currently doing a
diploma in Corporate Law from Enhelion.