In the wake of affirmative effects of the global lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the incapacity of the environmental laws come in question. There are national environmental laws on top of that there are international bodies like World Wildlife Fund (WWF), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), etc. yet the pace of environmental degradation has been increasing rapidly since past two decades. It is rightly said by Sadhguru “Mother Earth is so generous. If only we give her the chance, she will restore everything in absolute abundance and beauty”. What we failed to achieve by working for the environment is easily achieved by not working at all due to the lockdown. The factories, that exhale a large amount of air and water pollution, are shut. Roads are empty resulting in negligible emission of exhaust gases from automobiles, and people are locked inside their houses across the globe as a result of which the rivers are getting cleaner, air visibility is increasing, wildlife is returning to their habitat which they evacuated because of human interference. Surprisingly all these changes took place in just a couple of weeks.
The global leaders and men in power have convinced us pretty easily with their inefficient efforts and empty laws that they care about the planet. Unfortunately the economy is given preference over the environment. The human greed of a better economy is a threat to natural resources and ultimately the environment. More and more industries are being established increasing pollution levels. Section 6 of the Environment Protection Act,1980 talks about the rules to regulate the environmental pollution where sub-section 2 talks about the standards of quality of air, water or soil and the limits of maximum allowance of environmental pollutants. But the limits are set up in a way that even complying to them still creates a lot of pollution resulting in environmental degradation. We must think about our environment and then our economy or soon we will end up giving a deadly place to live into our coming generations. Therefore the question arises, are environmental laws serving their purpose or are just delaying the catastrophe? because they are not strict enough to save the planet.
It is not only pollution and hazardous substances that cause harm to the environment, which the Environment Protection Act 1980 is concerned about, but also the depletion of natural resources. Deforestation, being one of the major reasons behind climate change, causes damage to the environment at many levels. The natural habitat of many species gets lost which can result in their endangerment and even extinction. The cycle of the ecosystem also gets hit by deforestation because every species on earth is linked to one another in a certain way. According to UNEP, we cut 7 million hectares of forest every year. In 1980 India enacted the forest conservation act to fight deforestation by putting restrictions on non-forest use of the forest i.e. industrial use, cultivation use, residential use, etc. The act helped us in decreasing the deforestation rate but with the increase in population, the laws are getting weaker.
Overpopulation is the primary reason that gives rise to other threats to the environment. China, the most populated country in the world, has set laws and policies to bring down the nation’s fertility rate. Unfortunately, in India, which is on the verge of beating China in population in upcoming years, has no such law and policies to cut short the population growth rate. In 2017 a population control bill was introduced in the parliament but is yet to be passed as a law.
The groundwater level has fallen to critical depths in many countries. Since it is a clean source of water, humans are extracting it shamelessly. The water that someone pumps up the ground is not only the water that is below one’s land but it is the common water of the planet that we share with other living organisms. The U.S. has made a groundwater law to maintain the water level at safe levels and allow only a certain amount of groundwater for public use. But countries like India, where the groundwater level is falling at a rapid rate there is no law as such.
Environmental pollution is a big hurdle for the world to clear. Out of many sources of pollution air and water pollution are the one that needs serious attention. In India, Environment Protection Act has tried to curb the emission of the pollutants but it is the time for the law to get strict. The effects of pollution can be seen on plants, animals and humans as well. Air pollution, for instance, can cause respiratory and heart diseases. Long term exposure to air pollution can cause irritation in eyes, difficulty in breathing, unclear vision, etc. water pollution poisons the soil and water bodies. In short environmental pollution is a recipe of death for all living beings. Big steps are needed to be taken to curb the pollution level in the form of laws and policies.
For an effective change in the environment apart from working towards reducing the emission of pollutants we should also be concerned about reviving nature. Some individuals have given their lives for this cause. They worked hard and helped the mother earth to heal. Their stories inspire us and motivate us to do the same.
Amla Ruia, popularly known as Jal Devi, established “Aakar Charitable Trust” and has helped more than 518 drought villages of Rajasthan where there was a serious scarcity of water, she constructed several check dams to collect water when it rains and stores it to use throughout the year. Government and other people should also take inspiration from her.
Sadhguru, whose Isha Foundation is working to save the environment at multi-levels has started a one of its kind initiative to save rivers of India (Cauvery in particular) through which more than 50 million tree saplings have been planted at Cauvery river basin.
Sonam Wangchuk, a Ladakh engineer, has built ice towers to overcome water shortage in the region. He used glacial meltwater and let it freeze into towering conical mounds resembling Tibetan religious stupas. These ice stupas behave like mini glaciers, slowly melt to release water for growing reasons.
The perception of development needs to change. Every nation is working hard to become more and more developed, but what we mean by development? Big sky-high buildings? gravity-defying roads? Malls? Airports?
What we need to understand is that nature should also be a part of development. Every nation should work on environment conservation. There should be laws to control groundwater consumption and to promote rainwater harvesting, there should be laws to control environment pollution and also to promote the planting of new saplings to tackle deforestation. Industries should be provided with more strict limits of pollutants emission. In a country like India, the population control bill should be passed as soon as possible with guidelines to control overpopulation. The citizens should also contribute and comply with the guidelines of the government to heal our planet Earth.
References Section 6, Environment Protection Act, 1986.  Section 6, sub-section 2, Environment Protection Act, 1986.  UNEP, www.unenvironment.org.
Contributed by: Rohan Singh