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Updated: Jun 18, 2021


Environmental law has a long history and until we go through it, it is difficult to understand the policy and purpose of environmental law and its future modern era. Prior to the 19th century, there were no problems with pollution. In the mid-19th century, when the Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain and other parts of the world, it gave rise to the problem of environmental pollution.

The second cause of environmental pollution is abnormal growth in population. The day-to-day needs of men resulted in the destruction of the earth and its resources such as land, water, air, sea, forest, etc.

Status in England: In the mid-19th century the importance of environmental law was developed in England in response to public health problems. The Alkali Inspectorate was the world's first national public pollution control agency, established in Britain under the provisions of the Alkali Act, 1863. In particular the law of nuisance as a personal deterrent to environmental problems. Therefore, as a result, many laws related to environmental protection have been created and updated from time to time. Some important laws in India are:

Its main objective was to control atmospheric emissions from the caustic soda industry. In 1875, the Public Health Act was enacted to cater for items related to environmental safety. The Prevention of Pollution of Rivers Act, l876 was enacted to control water pollution again. Similarly, an Act on Town Planning was enacted in the year 1909. In addition to these controls, torture developed rapidly due to industrial accidents,

  • The Public Health Acts of 1848, 1855, 1860, and 187 consolidated in the Public Health Act of 1936. The law was updated again and consolidated in Part III of the Environmental Protection Act, 1990.

  • The Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 are consolidate in the Clean Air Act, 1993. 

  • The Town and Country Planning Acts of 1947, 1968, and 1971 were consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act of 1990. 

  • The Protection of Birds Act, 1954. 

  • The Clean Rivers (Estuarics and Tidal Waters) Act, 1960. 

  • The Forestry Act, 1967. 

  • The Countryside Act, 1968. 

  • The Conservation of Seals Act, 1970. 

  • The Control of Pollution Act, 1974. 

  • The Wild Life and Countryside Act, 1981. 

  • The Consumer Protection Act, 1987. 

  • The Electricity Act, 1989 and 

  • The Water Act, 1989. Position in India: The Indian civilization started with the Vedic and the Indus Valley civilization during which there was absolutely no problem of pollution of any kind. 

During the British period, contemporary developments were made by the British in India in various fields including the discipline of science and technology to meet the needs and requirements of their government. During that time, some legislations dealing with environmental problems were enacted; some of them being the Indian Penal Code, 1860, The Land Acquisition Act. 1894 and The Forest Act, 1927. There has also been a great progress in industrialization due to planned economy by the use of science and technology. At the same time, such industrialization also poses certain disadvantages such as unemployment and pollution. In India, problems such as pollution, population growth and fast depletion of the natural resources thus, started. After Independence and after the Stockholm Declaration of 1972, an environmental policy was declared for India and the Parliament amended the Indian Constitution and incorporated the provisions relating to environmental protection. 

The Indian Parliament and the various state legislatures have enacted many laws belonging to the public law branch to regulate the conduct of individuals to protect the environment and to provide restrictions against environmental pollutants. As a result, environmental law has been split into a number of statutes. 

In pursuance of the recommendations of the Stockholm Conference, India legislation on water pollution under the caption The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution), Act, 1974 and The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution), Act, 1981 on air pollution.

Though, after the Stockholm Declaration, India did declare an environmental policy, however, it has not really achieved its objective. 

After twelve years of the declaration, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy on 4 December, 1984, the governmental agencies, voluntary organisations, the people and the judiciary have come to realise the importance of protecting the environment.

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy influenced judicial activism in India and since then, the legislatures, the Supreme Court and the various High Courts in India have begun treating the issue of environmental protection as an important concern. out with an independent came Some of the important enactments are the Food Adulteration Act, 1954; the Insecticides Act, 1968; the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972; The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The Role of the United Nations Organisation: For the first time, the attention of the world was drawn towards environment concerns in the year 1972. A conference was held on the human environment at Stockholm under the United Nations Organisation. It is popularly known as the Stockholm Conference on Environment and Development, 1972. India also participated along with 112 other states in the conference and declared a remarkable environmental policy for India. The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, 1972 in Stockholm contains 26 principles which provide the basis of an international policy for the protection and improvement of the environment.

The main object. of the declaration is to overcome the environmental problems linked with the development of the stare and to provide clean and healthy conditions to live for its beings. Important principles of the Stockholm Declaration, 1972: 

1. To bear responsibility to protect and improve the environment for the present and the future generations and to provide adequate conditions of life which permit a life of dignity and well-being. 

2. To safeguard natural resources of the earth, i.e., the air, water, land, flora and fauna, and especially representative sample of natural eco-systems for the benefit of the present and the future generations through sound planning and management. 

3. The declaration states that all the States shall take all possible steps to prevent pollution of seas by substances that are liable to create hazards to human health Environmental Law harm to living resources and marine life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses of the seas (Principle 7).  4. The declaration states that the States have the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies and the responsibility to ensure that the activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause any damage to the environment of other States or areas beyond the limits of their national jurisdiction (Principle 21).

5. The declaration states that all the States shall co-operate to develop further the International law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damages caused by the activities within the jurisdiction or control of such states to the areas beyond their jurisdiction (Principle 22).  6. The declaration states that economic and social developments are necessary for ensuring a healthy environment for man.  7. The declaration condemned nuclear tests and Principle 26 of the declaration directs that all types of nuclear weapon tests shall be banned.  8. The Stockholm declaration drafred the action plan for the human environment and its development. It also declarcd that, there must be frequent Global Environmental Assessment Programme (Earth Watch) to encourage the people to participate in the activities of ibathe programmes to eradicate environmental pollution. The Impact of the Stockholm  Declaration:  After the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, the United Nations set up the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1983 for the preservation of environment to meet the present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. "The Earth Summit':

As a result, the UN General Assembly convened the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development popularly known as 'the Earth Summit' which took place in Rio de Janeiro from 3rd to 14th June, 1992. I: was a new dimension on environmental issues and development in international negotiations.  Object of the Summit:  The main object of this summit was to find an equitable balance between the economic, social and environmental needs of the present and the future generations and to lay down the foundation for a global partnership between the developed and the developing countries, as well as governmental agencies and private organisations.  The Rio Declaration, 1992:

This declaration defined the rights and obligations of States with respect to the basic principles of environment and development. It says that scientific uncertainty should not delay measures to Protect the environment and the "States have a sovereign right to exploit their own resources, but should not cause any damage to the environment of other States"; eradicating poverty and reducing disparities in the worldwide standards of living are indispensable and the full participation of women is essential for achieving sustainable development. 

First Global Consensus:

It gave a statement of principles for sustainable management of forests. It states that all countries, especially developed countries, should strive to 'green' the world through afforestation and forest protection. States have the right to develop forests according to their socio-economic needs and developing countries should be provided with specific financial resources to establish forest protection programs to encourage economic and social replacement policies. In the year 1995, a Joint-Governmental Panel on Forest (IPF) was established as a subsidiary body (CSD) of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. The panel aims to focus on implementing sustainable forest management and Earth Summit decisions related to forests.

In 1993, the Secretary-General formed a high-level advisory board on sustainable development. There is a 60 percent potential for carbon dioxide emissions in industrialized countries, resulting in a major climate change. In this regard, between the parties of the conference, 36 industrialized countries agreed to a voluntary objective of returning their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

However, only a few countries have been able to meet the voluntary objective of reducing emissions. Climate change will have a powerful impact on the global environment. One must realize that the faster the climate changes, the greater the risk of harm.

As a result, many problems can arise, such as:

(A) Mean sea level rise;

(B) flooding;

(C) may threaten global food security;

(d) It can affect water resources; And

(e) There will be damage to physical infrastructure.

Therefore, a good understanding of socio-economic and natural systems requires a real need to adapt to future climate governance.

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