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Every human has a right to live in a clean and healthy environment. This is a general right which is inalienable.  Many constitution all over the world has guaranteed a healthy environment and they also take appropriate measures to prevent any kind of environmental harm so as to maintain a healthy environment. They not only prevent any kind of environmental destruction but also aim to preserve the nature and its natural resources. All the constitution adopted since 1992 also recognizes right to clean environment as open right. About 200 treaties are registered under the UN environmental program register. 

Stockholm Declaration was the first international conference on human environment held on 1972 which emphasis on right to healthy environment. Principle 1 of the Stockholm Declaration established a foundation for linking human rights and environmental protection, declaring that man has a fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being. The resolution called for enhanced efforts towards ensuring a better and healthier environment.

The conference issued the Declaration on the Human Environment stating 26 principles. An Environmental Agency was also developed known as 'UNEP'. Attended by the representatives of 113 countries, 19 inter-governmental agencies, and more than 400 inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, it is widely recognized as the beginning of modern political and public awareness of global environmental problems.

Principles of the Stockholm Declaration:

1. Human rights must be asserted, apartheid and colonialism condemned

2. Natural resources must be safeguarded

3. The Earth’s capacity to produce renewable resources must be maintained

4. Wildlife must be safeguarded

5. Non-renewable resources must be shared and not exhausted

6. Pollution must not exceed the environment’s capacity to clean itself

7. Damaging oceanic pollution must be prevented

8. Development is needed to improve the environment

9. Developing countries therefore need assistance

10. Developing countries need reasonable prices for exports to carry out environmental management

11. Environment policy must not hamper development

12. Developing countries need money to develop environmental safeguards 13. Integrated development planning is needed

14. Rational planning should resolve conflicts between environment and development

15. Human settlements must be planned to eliminate environmental problems 16. Governments should plan their own appropriate population policies

17. National institutions must plan development of states’ natural resources

18. Science and technology must be used to improve the environment

19. Environmental education is essential

20. Environmental research must be promoted, particularly in developing countries

21. States may exploit their resources as they wish but must not endanger others

22. Compensation is due to states thus endangered

23. Each nation must establish its own standards

24. There must be cooperation on international issues

25. International organizations should help to improve the environment 26. Weapons of mass destruction must be eliminated.

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development also known as Earth Summit consists of 27 principles intended to guide future sustainable development around the world. Some of the Rio Declaration principles may be regarded as Third Generation Right. In the first principle of Rio Declaration, 1992 the people were given the right to healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. This is not the same as a human right to a healthy and clean environment. Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development  proclaims as follows: Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.

There are two basic conceptions of environmental human rights in the current human rights system. They are:-

(i) the right to a healthy or adequate environment is itself a human right

(ii) the idea that environmental human rights can be derived from other human rights, usually – the right to life, the right to health, the right to private family life and the right to property.


African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights:- The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights also known as Banjul Charter is the first international human rights instrument to adopt right to environment that is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent. . The African Charter states in Article 24 that ‘all peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development’. Art. 24 ACHPR is a so-called “third generation human right” and that ACHPR entitles a right to environment, which should be ‘general’, ‘satisfactory’ and ‘favorable to development.

San Salvador Protocol, 1988:- Article 11 of the San Salvador Protocol states that ‘everyone shall have the right to live in a healthy environment and to have access to basic public services’ and that states ‘shall promote the protection, preservation and improvement of the environment’. The San Salvador Protocol distinguishes between the right of individuals to 'live in a healthy environment' and the positive obligations of the state to protect, preserve and improve the environment.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:- Article 12(b) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

It says as follows:

The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for: (b) The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene;

Environment right in India:- More than 100 constitution around the world has adopted and included 'Right to Environment'. And India is one of the country which also give importance as the constitution makers were aware that to promote the welfare of people and their health, clean environment should be maintained. Though environmental rights in India do not really exist in written form, they are guaranteed under Part III and Part IV of the constitution. But they are not directly enforceable on individuals or groups.

In Koolwal v. Rajasthan, the Rajasthan High Court even decided in favor of environmental rights, although no injuries to the population were alleged in the particular case. This shows how serious Indian courts take environmental issues.

The Environment (Protection) Act:- It was enacted in 1986 with the objective of providing for the protection and improvement of the environment. It empowers the Central Government to establish authorities [under section 3(3)] charged with the mandate of preventing environmental pollution in all its forms and to tackle specific environmental problems that are peculiar to different parts of the country. Its aim is to protect the environment.

According to the Act, Environment 'includes water, air, and land and the interrelationship which exists among and between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants, microorganism and property. “Environmental Pollutant” means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be injurious to environment.'

“Environmental pollution” means imbalance in environment. The materials or substances when after mixing in air, water or land alters their properties in such manner, that the very use of all or any of the air water and land by man and any other living organism becomes lethal and dangerous for health. “Occupier” It means a person who has control over the affairs of the factory or the premises, and includes, in relation to any substance, the person in possession of the substance.

Conclusion:- Clean environment is impotant for health of humans. Every country must ensure that its citizen lives in a better and healthy environment. And it is also the duty of citizen to protected and preserve environment.Indian couts have recognized this right and Constitution also protects this right.

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Category Constitutional Law, Other Articles by - Neethu Ravikumar