January 23, 2022


Environmental law


The term environment is not limited to one country but to all the countries. So it is important to take it seriously. The law making body also gives vital place to environment in legislation so that environment may be protected. Many attempts at national and international levels have made to tackle this problem like- Stockholm Declaration, Montreal Protocol, Brundtland Commission and Sustainable Development, Earth Summit(1992) etc. All these attempts show that how important environment is to us. So we can say that laws are the safeguard of the environment. And this paper talks about the problems related to environment which we are facing today and the laws made to protect environment.


If we talk about environment then the very first thing which comes to our mind is our surrounding. And our surrounding is not consists of one thing, it consists of livings, non-livings and natural processes which make our surrounding an environment. And it should be free from all types of pollution like noise pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, water pollution etc. Today we face a lots of problems related to environment and this problem is not limited to one or two countries but for all countries. Because environment is not for any one country it is equal for all and it is the duty of every individual to protect and improve it. According to Constitution of India, under Article 21 there is a right to life and to live in healthy environment. By many Constitutional provisions we come to know about the importance of environment in our life.

Problems which we are facing-

1. Depletion of Ozone layer– Ozone is a colourless gas which has 3 atoms of oxygen and which protects us from the ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun. These ultraviolet radiations are very harmful and if these radiations coming from the sun reach the surface of the earth then there would be no life on the earth. But the ozone layer is effected by the human activities like use of chemicals, fluoro-carbons etc. The layer of ozone was getting thin by human activities and it showed so many harmful effects on earth like low productivity, skin diseases etc. So, an international action was taken on ozone layer which became a successful story. It has been noticed that there has been decrease in atmospheric gases such as CFCs and halons, which are commonly used in refrigerators, spray cans, insulation foams and fire suppression.[1]

2. PollutionProgress and pollution go together, there can be no end to progress and consequently no escape from pollution. Pollution is not of one kind, it is of many types like- noise pollution, soil pollution, air pollution etc. The protection of environment is a global issue and it is not an isolated problem of any area or nation. And main problems related to pollution which we are facing-

Stubble Burning- In the regions of Punjab and Haryana, the practice of stubble burning is still in working. Due to which the atmosphere is becoming adverse and especially of Delhi. These types of acts of human are motivating air pollution.

Inadequate manner of celebration- Whenever there is any occasion like New Year eve, Diwali, Birthday party etc. we like to celebrate it with crackers or DJ system or both. This is very depressive way of celebration because these are the reasons of noise pollution as well as of air pollution.

Disposal of waste in water- Today we see that the waste from the factories is thrown in rivers and water bodies which causes harm to the aquatic animals because of its toxic nature. And water got polluted and there will be no more purity in it, if this process will be going on. It is causing water pollution.

Dumping of plastic waste-The industries and factories dump their plastic waste in land but plastic is non-biodegradable, so it does not decompose and thus it causes soil pollution due to which soil loses its fertility. So it becomes barren.

Vehicular Pollution- Pollution which is caused by the vehicles like- excessive use of horns, bullet bike noise, smoke etc. all these are the vehicular pollution which are polluting our environment day by day. And usage of vehicles in excess is also a reason affecting environment because usage of vehicles can be reduce by using public transport system.

3. Urbanisation- In real sense, urbanisation is not a problem rather it is development but there are certain problems which arise due to urbanisation and some of them are-

· Overcrowding- It is a common problem to see in big cities like Mumbai, Delhi etc. due to urbanisation. People move to cities in search of jobs, education and for having better lifestyle. Overcrowding is becoming a serious problem which is affecting the environment adversely.

· Housing Facilities- People who come in cities need house to live so for providing them house there is a need of land and for land, trees are being cut down. As held in Mumbai, trees were being cut for shelter. So it is also adversely affecting the environment because trees are the basic thing in environment.

· Sanitary Problem- It is usual that cities are more dirty and untidy than villages because sanitary problems are there due to urbanisation. And due to this problem, many types of diseases arise which affect the environment as well as human beings badly. Sanitation in cities is very current topic in India because Government of India is looking after this problem seriously and conducting survey under Swachh Bharat Mission- Urban by MoHUA and named it as Swachh Survekshan.

· Traffic Problem- Due to population, there is more use of vehicles in cities than villages. So it very clear that the atmosphere of cities is very severe as compared to villages. Especially cities like Delhi have very worst air quality due to pollution arises from vehicles, fireworks, crackers etc. To overcome this problem Government of Delhi took step of Even Odd Number of vehicles. And further more steps have been taken to improve the quality of air in cities so that environment to be protected.

· Industries- The dust and fume from the industries and their wastes also play a vital role in polluting the environment and make it difficult to survive there. From day to day life the workers of the industries are increasing and the work is also increasing, so there is more production of waste and dust out of manufacturing processes. And that waste is thrown in the rivers and other water bodies which is degrading the quality of water in urban areas. The Clean Ganga Mission is well known to all of us in this regard.

4. Amazon Rainforest Fire– As we know that the fire which was spread in the Amazon forest due to dry weather. Do not blame dry weather for the swift destruction of the world’s largest tropical forest, say environmentalists. These Amazonian wildfires are a human-made disasters set by loggers and cattle ranchers who use a slash and burn method to clear the land.[2]It is really a serious issue because the Amazon rainforest produces 20% of the world’s oxygen. Reasons of the fire and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest are-

· Farming- According to studies, the farming is one of the reasons of the fire in the forest because for farming we need land and trees will be cut down and after agriculture when new crop will be sought then land will be needed to clear by fire and that fire goes to the forest. So the fire in the forest arises due to this reason too.

· Infrastructure Development- The plans for constructing dams and rail lines, roads, ports etc. is the part of development and for this purpose the trees are being cut down. And the plans of the development by the Government of the Brazil estimated that 40% of the Amazon could be deforested. So this is affecting the environment very much.

· Dry seasons- The climate is also one of the cause of the fire in the Amazon. Due to extreme hot weather and climate change the fire catches more rapidly and it is also the season of dry vegetation in which farmers clear the lands for further cultivation by it on fire for increasing its utility. So these are some of the causes of fire and this fire continued many months in 2019 but now this fire is controlled by the act of God i.e. rain.

So these are the few problems which are facing today which are not only environmental issues but also taken as legal issues in the eyes of the law.


As we know that now environmental issues are getting more importance than before. There is a close relationship which exists between a healthy environment and economic condition of the community at large. The problem of environmental pollution is the problem of both developed and under-developed or poor nation.[3]And it is very interesting to know that Indian Constitution is the first constitution which has provisions related to environment also. There are several laws and constitutional provisions which safeguard the environment from being polluted.

Constitutional Provisions-

1.Preamble- The Preamble of the Constitution of India provides that our country is based on Socialistic pattern of society where the state pays more attention to the social problems than on any individual problem. Its aim is to provide decent standard of living to all which is possible only in pollution free environment. As we know that pollution is a social problem, so under the Supreme law, State is required to pay more attention to this social problem.

2. Fundamental Duties- The Part 4A was introduced in the Constitution by 42ndamendment of 1976 by which Article 51A was added and it contains 10 fundamental duties. From these 10 duties there is one duty i.e. Article 51A(g) which deals with environment. Article 51A(g) provides that it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve natural environment. So it is not only duty to protect natural environment but also to improve it so that our future generations also have it in the way we have today. In the case Sitaram Chhaparia v State of Bihar[4]– It was held by the Patna High Court that protecting the environment is a fundamental duty under Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of India.

3.Directive Principles of State Policy- These principles are for the State to follow which are given in Part 4 of the Constitution and represent the socio-economic goals which the nation is expected to achieve. The Articles 36 to 51 deal with Directive principles and from these Article 47 and 48A specially deal with environment’s improvement.

Article 47-It provides that the state shall raise the level of nutrition and the standard of the living of its people and the improvement of public health. The improvement of the public health is also include the protection and improvement of environment without which public health cannot be assured.[5]

Article 48A-It was added up by 42nd amendment of 1976 dealing especially with the protection and improvement of environment. It provides that the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. In the case T. Damodhar Rao v S.O. Municipal Corporation, Hyderabad[6]– It was held by the court that it is clear that the protection of environment is not only the duty of every citizen but also the obligation of the State and other State organs including Courts under Article 48A.

4. Fundamental Rights- The Part 3rd of the Constitution deals with the fundamental rights. The fundamental rights come under Articles 14 to 32 and amongst these, Article 14, 19 and 21 come under the sphere of the environment.

  • Article 14-It provides that everybody have right to equality and this equality also extends to the equality to have best environment.
  • Article 19-It guarantees every citizen a fundamental freedom of speech and expression. If any problem related to healthy environment comes to citizen then he has right to speech and expression in front of court. But this right is subject to reasonable restrictions.
  • Article 21 –It guarantees all the persons a fundamental right to life and personal liberty. And right to life means a life of dignity, to be lived in a proper environment, free of danger of disease and infection. In case M.C. Mehta v Union of India[7]- S.C. held that the right to live in pollution free environment is a part of fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

5.Writ Jurisdiction- The Supreme Court and High Court both have power of writ jurisdiction under Article 32 and 226. The difference between the writ jurisdiction of S.C. and H.C. is that we can move to S.C. only for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights but in H.C. not only for fundamental rights but also other purposes. Most of the cases of environment have been settled by writ jurisdiction, so these provisions play very vital role in developing environment jurisprudence in India. For example-

In case Tarun Bharat Sangh v Union of India[8]- It was directed by S.C. that Police Administration to provide police protection to environmental activists against any physical threats and there should be no hindrance in their work.

So these are the Constitutional provisions which deal with the protection and improvement of environment.

Acts made by Legislature-

From time to time there is a need to make new laws or to amend the laws to satisfy the situations and needs of the people. And Article 245 of the constitution empowers the Parliament to make laws for the whole country and State Legislatures to legislate for their states. And further Article 246 divides the subjects between Union and States in 3 lists- Union list, State list and Concurrent list. Some of the acts enforced are as follows-

1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1974- This act was the first attempt of India to deal with environment issues. The main objectives of this act are-

  • Prevention and control of water pollution.
  • Maintaining or restoring of pure water.
  • To establish Central and State boards for prevention and control of water pollution.
  • Penalties for violation the provisions of this act.

2. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981- After facing so many problems related to air this Act was made to prevent and control the air pollution. The objects of this act are-

  • Prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
  • The establishment of Central and State boards.
  • To maintain the quality of air.

3. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986- This act was passed to protect the environment in the way told by the U.N. Conference on Human Environment held at Stockholm in June, 1972. Sustainable development is one of its goals to achieve.

4. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972- This act was passed to safeguard the wild animals and their habitats. Its purposes are-

  • To protect wild animals, birds and plants and for matters connected with them.
  • To ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country.

5. The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010- This act came into force on 18-10-2010. The NGT have the jurisdiction over all cases related to environment. The main objective is of this act are-

  • Effective disposal of cases of environment.
  • Protection of forests and natural resources.
  • To provide relief and damages for harm caused to environment.

These are some of the acts passed by the Legislature to protect and improve the environment so that the goal and aim of Sustainable Development be achieved.

Conclusion-By concluding one can say that now environment is also the part of Constitutional Provisions and no law can be passed which is against the environment protection and fundamental rights. Many attempts made at International level also because environment is not only affected by one country but by all. So by getting together this problem is seen to be solved.


[1] “Ozone layer showing signs of recovery-UN” The Hindu
[2] Visited at https://earthsky.org on Jan 13, 2020
[3] From the book ‘Environmental law’ 2019 by Dr. Paramjit Singh Jaswal, 2
[4] A.I.R. 2002 patna 134
[5] From the book ‘Environmental law’ 2019 by Dr. Paramjit singh Jaswal, 48
[6] A.I.R. 1987 A.P.171
[7] A.I.R. 1987 S.C. 1086
[8] 1993 supp(1) SCC 4 at 5-6

Author Details: NISHA AND MEHAK MALAK (3rd year student of B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) at BHAI GURDAS COLLEGE OF LAW, SANGRUR)

The views of the author are personal only.

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