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Key Takeaways

  • Environment plays the most important role in our lives.
  • Humans have been using the resources that the environment offers for our benefit, in a way which is damaging the environment itself.
  • Every natural resource is related to another in a necklace of pearls, so if the thread breaks, all the pearls fall apart.
  • The actions such as cutting down of forests, over use of natural resources, negligent behaviour towards cleaning the surroundings, etc. cause damage to the environment.
  • The article discusses the impact of the environmental degradation caused by people and the stand taken by the courts in the matter.

Introduction

India has majority of its lands covered with flora and fauna. In the last decade, more and more number of forests is being cut down either for the sake of use of the tree trunk and the other resources or for building buildings. This has been negatively impacting the ecological balance and the climatic conditions as well. As we can see, the constant melting of ice in Greenland and the estimates of the scientists as to how the glaciers would become non-existent in some years, present a dire picture.

Aside from progress, daily innovation and technological advancement increases the risk to human life. As a result, there is a pressing and urgent need for the law to keep up with the needs of society and individuals. As a result, environmental preservation is now a worldwide problem, not limited to any one country or area.

Environmental Degradation

Environmental deterioration is one of the most serious issues that the world faces today. Environmental degradation is defined by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction as the reduction of the earth's limit to satisfy social and environmental destinations and demands. Degradation of the environment can occur in a variety of ways. The environment is deemed contaminated and degraded when environments are destroyed or common assets are depleted. To counter this, a variety of approaches are being tried, including environmental resource conservation and general protection activities.

Causes of Environmental Degradation

Pollution: Pollution is destructive to the environment, whether it is in the form of air, water, land, or noise. Air pollution contaminates the air we breathe, causing health problems. Water contamination lowers the quality of the water we consume for drinking. As a result of human activity, land contamination causes the earth's surface to deteriorate. When our ears are subjected to constant loud sounds like honking cars on a busy road or machinery making a lot of noise in a factory or a mill, it can cause irreversible damage.

Population: Rapid population increase places a demand on natural resources, resulting in environmental degradation. Because of improved medical facilities, the mortality rate has decreased, resulting in a longer lifespan. Higher number of people means more need for food, clothing, and housing. More land is required to cultivate food and house millions of people. As a result, deforestation occurs, which contributes to environmental damage.

Deforestation: Cutting down trees to make place for additional dwellings and industries is known as deforestation. Deforestation is caused by a number of factors, including population expansion and urban sprawl. Aside from that, deforestation is caused by the use of forest area for agriculture, livestock grazing, fuelwood harvesting, and logging. Deforestation contributes to global warming by releasing carbon into the atmosphere when forest size decreases.

Indian Laws

There are several provisions laid down by the Indian legislations that ensure that environmental protection is taken care of. There are provisions like the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, the Air Act, etc. that provide for avoiding pollution of the natural resources. Each state has its own norms and regulations regarding tree felling as provided under the Indian Forest Act. However, you might be wondering if you need to get permission to cut down a tree on your property.

Cutting down a tree is punishable under this Act by a fine of Rs.10,000 or three months in prison. There have been multiple reports of laypeople paying the forest agency a compounded cost of Rs.10,000 for cutting down trees on their property. You must obtain permission from the Forest Department before chopping down trees that are impeding your path, whose branches are growing to your house, or that are blocking hoardings.

In a recent case, a trio of entrepreneurs had cut down trees in their alleged own property and the case was brought before the Court. So it is clear that cutting down of trees would definitely attract the attention of the authorities and even though this case is not decided yet and the discussions are still going on, it is imperative to say that people use loopholes in the legislation to exploit the natural resources.

The Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of the Shriram Gas Leak, which involved a leak of oleum gas that caused significant environmental harm to Delhi residents, that the amount of damages awarded must be commensurate to the polluter's ability to pay.

In the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case, it was held that when an enterprise is engaged in an inherently dangerous or hazardous activity and harm is caused to anyone as a result of a mishap in the operation of such dangerous or naturally unsafe movement, such as the escape of poisonous gas, the enterprise is obligated to compensate all those who are harmed by the accident, and such risk is not subject to an insurance policy.

In Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the court addressed the problem of the environment and development for the first time, holding that it must always be recalled that these are permanent assets of mankind that are not intended to be depleted in a single generation. Similarly, in the Vellore Citizen's Welfare Forum case, the Supreme Court stated in this judgement that sustainable development has become recognised as a credible concept for eradicating poverty and improving human life quality while remaining within the carrying capacity of the supporting eco-system.

In Damodhar Rao v. S. O. Municipal Corporation Hyderabad, the Court cited Articles 48A and 51A(g) of the Constitution, even going so far as to say that environmental degradation would be a breach of Article 21's fundamental right to life and personal liberty.

Conclusion

Even though urbanisation is necessary for social, economic, and personal development, the Indian government has established some laws for cutting down trees on private property and in private locations. Many citizens end up paying penalties and enduring the repercussions as a result of their ignorance of these policies.

Stopping deforestation is critical for our environmental system to prevent the negative effects of environmental degradation. We cannot afford to chop or burn down trees because they store greenhouse gases, create oxygen, and provide a natural habitat for a variety of animals and plants that may become endangered if the forests are destroyed.

Whenever there are issues that result in considerable environmental deterioration, governments must intervene and develop a framework. Governments impose high levies on activities that affect the environment and provide financial incentives for ecologically favourable conduct. Even though there are numerous regulations in place, the proper implementation is lacking. The usage of plastic, dumping of wastes into the rivers, huge consumption levels, etc. are some of the many reasons that contribute to environmental damage. If this is not stopped now, then the day is not far when we would be struggling to even breathe.


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