Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Implementation of green laws essential for ecosystem restoration

Image credit: decadeonrestoration.org

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The World Environment Day (WED) is observed every year on 5 June to mobilize, motivate and energize the international community for the protection and promotion of the environment globally.

Since 1974, it became a practice to observe the WED globally. The milestone was set by 1972 Stockholm Declaration which met at Stockholm from June 5 to 16 with 114 nations’ participation. A home to 26 principles, Stockholm declaration emphasizes on the control of pollution and conservation of natural resources.

While celebrating the WED with the theme of “Ecosystem restoration”, it's high time for us to evaluate whether or not we have succeeded in observing the international commitments made at different stages. It highlights the significance of United Nations Environment Program’s campaigns of “Recreate, Re-imagine, Restore”.

While celebrating the WED with the theme of “Ecosystem restoration”, it's high time for us to evaluate whether or not we have succeeded in observing the international commitments made at different stages.

In 1987, the idea of rotating the centre of environmental activities under different themes by selecting different host countries began. This year, Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been declared the global host by the United Nations for 2021 World Environment Day celebration. Pakistan is hosting this year’s WED with a pledge of planting 10 billion trees to restore over one million hectares of forest across the country.

International conventions

Environment protection and development are conceptualized as the two sides of a coin. The 1972 Stockholm declaration is considered to be Magna Carta of environment protection and sustainable development. It includes seven universal truths and 26 Principles, including that of Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) and Precautionary Principle. The Brundtland Commission report of 1987 provided the impetus of sustainable development that emphasized the common concerns of people, like environment, development, peace, poverty alleviation and security.

Then, the Earth Summit of 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, through Rio declaration and Agenda 21, has further canvassed the concept of environmental protection and sustainable development. The notion of PPP finds a prominent place under Principle 16 of 1992 Rio Declaration which mirrors Principle 22 of Stockholm declaration of 1972. Article 30 of the Constitution of Nepal, and the Environment Protection Act, 2019 enacted to enforce Article 30 acknowledge the PPP which envisages that the absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also the cost of restoring the environmental degradation.

In 2002, the World Summit on sustainable development was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was an implementation summit to further advance the goals of Agenda 21 and Rio declaration, 1992. Again, the UN Conference on sustainable development was held in 2012 at Rio which was the third international conference on sustainable development aimed at reconciling economics, environment and development.

These international instruments have a purpose of securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development. In fact, progress and pollution go together. There can be no end to progress and accordingly no escape from pollution.

Judicial response

The apex Court of Nepal has pronounced scores of green judgments that supplement this year’s theme of “Restore ecosystem.” In the leading case of Prakash Mani Sharma v. His Majesty Government of Nepal, the Court observed that the priority should be given for lessening the impact of pollution emanating from brick kilns operating in the vicinity of densely populated areas, schools, cultural and touristic zones.

Similarly, in Bhojraj Aire v. Government of Nepal (2061 BS), the Court was of the opinion that the funds collected for the purpose of conservation of environment or prevention and control of pollution should be spent for the same purpose. The highest court observed that the right of persons to live in a healthy environment has been badly compromised with pervasive pollution in Kathmandu.

The highest court observed that the right of persons to live in a healthy environment has been badly compromised with pervasive pollution in Kathmandu.

Also, in Surya Prasad Sharma Dhungel v Godavari Marble Industries Pvt Ltd, the Supreme Court was of the opinion that human life would be in danger in a polluted environment. This way, the Court pronounced that the protection of environment leads to protection of human life.    

From the perusal of the above cases, it's evident that the judicial attitude has been for protecting the environment.

Constitutional perspective

As per the scheme of the Constitution, federal units have been conferred with the power to enact laws at their competence for the protection and promotion of green democracy. The Central government under Schedule-V, entry 27, the Provincial governments under Schedule-VI entry 19, and both governments under Schedule-VII entries 12, 18 & 23 have mandates to act on national ecology and of course, on sanitation, clean and healthy water, wildlife conservation, or forestation. Nevertheless, there are ways that they could partner with private citizens as well as NGOs for realizing the goals of environmentalism.

Moreover, the Constitution hosts a plethora of fundamental rights provisions that, in one or some other way, advances the cause of green democracy. For instance, individuals’ right to live in a clean environment (Article 30); clean water and hygiene (Article 35); food sovereignty (Article 36); the right of state to carry out the land reforms for bringing reformation in agriculture or environment protection (Article 25); or right of consumer to have quality foodstuffs and services (Article 44) are put in place to control or prevent any act or omission in pollution or likely pollution of the environment.

Time to implement laws 

It’s a crucial time for the world community to reaffirm its fresh commitment towards a cleaner and sustainable planet, without which the themes of WED would not materialize. Nepal must direct its efforts to development, bearing in mind its priorities and the need to safeguard and improve the environment.

It's high time for the states to implement green laws to repair the country’s environment so that future generations will have a better and secured future.

The pollution and unsustainable development patterns across the globe clarify that the countries are unsuccessful in connecting and consolidating environmental actions within the context of sustainable development in letter and spirit. It's high time for the states to implement green laws to repair the country’s environment so that future generations will have a better and secured future. Are we ready to do our bit to reduce environmental hazards as much as we can? Time to think!      

Published on 5 June 2021

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