GOV & SOCIAL ISSUES
Environmental Governance consists of the rules, procedures, policies, practices and institutions that shape how humans interact with their environment. Good environmental governance takes into account the roles of all stakeholders that impact the environment.
Environmental resources play a significant role in economic progress and improvement of quality of life of the society and good environmental governance is an important means of ensuring it. Environmental resources are under pressure because of developmental activities. The consumption of natural resources viz., water, air, land and biota, in the production process of economic activity, the discharges from it and the quality of life improvement shall have to keep in mind the finite resource base, the rights of people, legal framework and the implications of one's actions.
Both environmental governance and good governance ideally lead to sustainable development, a major departure, however, comes in the form of good environmental governance reflecting sustainable quality of life improvement not only from the viewpoint of human/community needs, but also from the larger societal point of view while keeping in mind the finite resource base and the implications of actions within and between the generations (Pearce 1992).
However, given the common objective of sustainable development, it can be affirmed that the principles of good governance can also usher in good environmental governance. The common goal of sustainable development of the society has several aspects, which include laws, policies and mechanisms of implementation, institutions, equity, gender sensitivity, national and international conventions, democratic processes, participatory decision making and respect for diversity.
Constituents of Good Environmental Governance:
Social and political leadership and bureaucracy that are well informed and concerned about sustainable development, that prepare the people at large for sustainability imperatives, and that keep the distant future in focus as much as present.
Institutions that are functioning democratically with transparency, accountability and synergy. Participation of stakeholders at different levels in decision-making and, where possible, in implementation.
Focus turned on the basic development needs e.g., poverty eradication and protecting the environment.
Laws and policies reflecting viable reconciliation of the country’s development needs conservation imperatives, geographical and cultural diversity, equity and gender concerns.
Constitutional Provisions for Environment Protection:
Union list contains environmentally appropriate subjects like atomic energy and mineral resources; regulation and development of interstate rivers and river valleys; airways, aircraft and air navigation; highways; shipping and navigation in national highways; major ports; regulation of mines and mineral development; development of oil fields etc.
List II contains public health and 66 sanitation; agriculture; communication; preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases; water; land; etc. • Under List III or Concurrent List, contains subjects like forests, protection of wild animals, and mines and mineral development, population control and family planning, minor ports, factories and electricity. Article 262 gives exclusive power to Parliament to enact a law for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of waters of, or in, any interstate river or river valley.
In exercise of the power conferred under Article 262, Indian Parliament has enacted The Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956. And the jurisdiction of all Courts, including the Supreme Court, is barred with respect to such disputes, which are to be settled by the Tribunal established under The InterState Water Dispute Act, 1956.
Article 248 confers the residuary powers of legislation on Parliament. It grants exclusive power to Parliament to make law on any subject matter not covered by the State or Concurrent lists.
Article 253 empowers Parliament to make laws for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country/countries or for implementing any decision made at any international conference, association or other body.
Article 51(c) provides that the State shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations. These 2 Articles, thus, legitimize the Parliament enact acts on any entries in it provided it is necessary for the purpose of implementing the treaty obligations of India. In fact, 2 major and vital Indian environmental laws, The Air [Prevention and Control of Pollution] Act of 1981 and The Environmental [Protection] Act of 1986, have been enacted under these Constitutional provisions.
Likely, the National Environmental Tribunal Act of 1995, The National Environment Appellate Authorities Act, 1997 and The Biodiversity Act, 2002 were enacted by the Indian Parliament pursuant to the Earth Summit of 1992. The United Nations Conference on Human Environment also gave rise to the Constitutional (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976.
The Constitutional (42nd Amendment) Act of 1976 also included Article 48A and Article 51A(g) in the Constitution. Article 48A casts an obligation on the Indian State to protect, to improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
Article 51A(g) imposes a fundamental duty on the Indian citizens to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. Thus, the duty to protect and enhance the quality of environment in India is the duty of the Union, States and the citizens.
The panchayat can handle agriculture; minor irrigation, water management and watershed development; animal husbandry; land improvement and soil conservation; fisheries; social forestry; rural housing; drinking water; fuel and fodder; electricity and nonconventional energy sources.
The municipality can undertake town planning; regulation of land-use and construction of buildings; urban forestry, protection of environment and promotion of ecological aspects; provision of urban amenities and facilities like parks and gardens; cattle ponds and prevention of cruelty to 67 animals; and regulation of slaughter houses and tanneries.
History of Environmental Governance in India:
The history of environmental governance began 25 years after Independence when the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, returned back from the United Nations Conference on Human, Environment and Development in Stockholm in 1972.
The National Environmental Planning and Coordination Committee was set up by the Prime Minister under the chairmanship of B P Pal (FRS). In 1972, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was established followed by the state boards. The department of environment was created on November 1, 1980 and various state departments afterwards. Environmental laws on water (1974), air (1981) and forest conservation (1981) were enacted, and also the umbrella Environment Protection Act 1986.
An Environment Policy and Strategy Statement was published in the same year when the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 was convened. Environment Impact Assessment for 32 sectors made mandatory by a notification of 1992. Environment approval committees were set up for each sectoral assessment and all powers were vested with the Centre.
In 1996, India became a nation to follow the environmental governance system with a series of further controlling notifications on coastal zone management, hill development, disposal of wastes (biomedical, plastic, hazardous). Public Interest Litigation provided justice through the Supreme Court and high courts.
Need for Environmental Governance:
Dismal state of India’s environment: 3 in 5 monitored rivers across the country are grossly polluted. Much of our solid waste is not processed even in wealthy parts of the country for instance 90% in Maharashtra and 48% in Delhi.
Rising Level of Pollution: 3/4th of India’s population lives in areas where air pollution (PM2.5) exceeds the Indian national standards, which itself is 4 times higher than the global standards. In fact, 72 out of 640 districts in the northern region have emissions more than 10 times worse than the global standards. In the recent Global Environmental Quality Performance Index, India ranked 177th out of 180 countries.
Impact on Heath: Long-term exposure to outdoor and household air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases and neonatal diseases in India in 2019, according to the State of Global Air 2020 . For instance, WHO report suggests that 10% of the children who die before the age of five do so due to air pollution.
Impact on vulnerable sections: The poor people are the worst affected due to environmental destruction. The livelihoods of fishers, farmers and forest communities are affected by a degraded environment, and the poor are far less able to insulate themselves against dirty water and air than the rich. Pollution makes the impact of poverty worse.
Economic impact of environmental degradation: A degraded environment itself impacts the economy negatively: pollution adds excessive public health burdens; degraded environments cannot provide ecosystem services like 68 filtering waste and buffering against storms; and degraded resources affect the livelihoods of the poor. Moreover, as we transition toward a knowledge economy, high-skilled talent will refuse to live in toxic urban environments.
Going green can actually be a road to growth in a world where there is growing attention towards the world’s oceans, forests and climate. The world is undergoing a renewable energy revolution, which gives competitive advantage to countries best placed to seize the moment.
Ideas of the circular economy, waste generated from one industrial activity forms input for another activity, promising efficiency gains with both environmental and economic payoffs. Increasingly, there is more scope for growth through enhancing the environment than by devastating it.
Finally, sustainable growth needs smarter environmental governance. Currently, every environmental issue is desperately waiting for the decisive judicial or administrative enforcement. Rather we have to combine effective regulation, behavioural change and technological solutions to meet multiple social and ecological objectives