CONTEMPORARY NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION LAWS: A DESCRIPTIVE EXPOSITION

Ajay Pal Singh[1]

Rahil Setia[2]

“It is our collective and individual responsibility to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live.”

-Dalai Lama[1]

Introduction

Environment is the foundation for the life on Earth. It is a complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (such as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival.[2] In the 21st century the biggest challenge is to balance the simultaneous and competing interests of environment and development. In this context, the present article attempts at a commentary on national environmental protection laws in three jurisdictions: India, United States and China. 

  1. Environmental Protection Laws in India
  2. Central Legislations: These include:[3]
  3. The Wild Life Protection Act, 1972[4]: The Act aims at protection of various species of plants, animals and birds, by regulating their hunting and harvesting.
  4. The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974[5]: The Act has been enacted to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution and to maintain or restore wholesomeness of water in the country.
  5. The Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1981[6]: The Act has been enacted for the control and abatement of air pollution by prohibiting the use of polluting fuels and substances, as well as by regulating appliances that give rise to air pollution.
  6. The Environment Protection Act, 1986: [7]The Act is an “umbrella” legislation which is aimed at protection and improvement of the human environment. It is also aimed at preventing hazards to humans, and all other lifeforms.
  7. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002[8]: The Act seeks to provide for the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits and knowledge arising out of the use of biological resources.
  8. The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010[9]: The Act has been enacted with the objective of setting up a National Green Tribunal (NGT) for dealing with cases relating to environment protection and conservation of forests etc.
  9. Judicial Decisions: The Higher Judiciary in India has dealt with environmental issues in a catena of cases. In Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India & Ors[10], the Supreme Court of India remarked that the decline in Environmental quality is manifested by increase in pollution, loss of vegetal cover and biological diversity. In Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar and Ors[11], the Right to a Pollution Free Environment was declared to be a part of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution by the Supreme Court.
  10. Environmental Protection Law in the United States
  11. Federal Statutes: The US Congress has enacted several federal legislations intended for conservation of environment and prevention of environmental pollution.[12]
  12. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 1969[13]: The Act provides for completion of Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) by the Federal Government before undertaking any major developmental activities.
  13. The Endangered Species Act,1973[14]: The Act aims at protecting and repopulating, threatened or endangered plants, animals, and animal habitats.
  14. The Clean Air Act, 1970[15]: The Act aims at regulating air emissions from various different sources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is in charge of enforcing the Act.
  15. The Clean Water Act, 1977[16]: The Act makes it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a source point into navigable waters of the United States.
  16. The Pollution Prevention Act,1990[17]: It is aimed at reducing the amount of pollution in the environment by making changes in production, operation, and use of raw materials by both private industry and the government.
  17. Judicial Decisions: Federal Courts especially, the US Supreme Court have dealt with Environmental issues in several judicial decisions. In Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency[18], the US Supreme Court directed the EPA to regulate Greenhouse Gas emissions. In Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc[19] the US Supreme Court held that civil penalties under Clean Water Act are aimed to achieve a deterrent effect to prevent future pollution.
  18. Environmental Protection Law in China
  19. Legislations: Relevant laws in the People’s Republic of China include:[20]
  20. Environmental Protection Law, 2015[21]: It is the basic legislation for environmental protection in China and is aimed at protecting and improving the environment, preventing and controlling pollution while safeguarding human health and facilitating the development and modernization.
  21. Atmospheric Pollution Prevention and Control Law, 2015[22]: It aims at prevention and control of pollution from burning coal and other energy sources, industrial pollution, pollution from motor-driven vehicles and vessels, dust pollution and agricultural pollution.
  22. Prevention and Control of Water Pollution Law, 1984[23]: It provides for regulation and control of discharge of water pollutants.
  23. [24]: It is aimed at protection of marine ecology and prevention and control of pollution caused by land-based pollutants, coastal and marine construction projects, vessel pollution and dumping of wastes.
  24. Environmental Protection Tax Law, 2016[25]: It imposes an Environmental Pollution Tax on the enterprises, public institutions, other producers and operators that directly discharge pollutants to the environment.
  25. Wild Animal Conservation Law 1989[26], Forest Law, 2019[27] and the Grassland Law[28],1985: These Laws are aimed at protection of wildlife and plants.
  26. Judicial Decisions: Environment related litigation in China includes both civil and criminal cases. In the Nanping case (2015), it was held that the courts have jurisdiction to enforce environmental laws beyond merely awarding monetary damages for environmental pollution. Further, in the Taizhou Case (2014), a local court sentenced individuals to imprisonment who had illegally dumped hazardous waste into a river.[29]

Critical Analysis/Conclusion

In the contemporary world, humans have a greater responsibility to protect environment as their developmental activities have increased enormously. Governments across world, have responded by enacting environmental legislations. Since, these mechanisms have had limited success, there is a tremendous scope for improving them and thus the need for popular public participation/awareness in dealing with the environmental issues continues.

ENDNOTES


[1] B.A.LL. B 4th Year Student, Army Institute of Law, Mohali, Punjab, Mobile: 7087046386, Email: ajaypalsingh0702@gmail.com. 

[2] B.A.LL. B 4th Year Student, Army Institute of Law, Mohali, Punjab, Mobile: 9988742218, Email: rahilsetia@gmail.com


[1] ‘Quotable Quote’ (Good Reads) <https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/132851-it-is-our-collective-and-individual-responsibility-to-preserve-and > accessed 20 September 2020

[2] ‘Definition of environment’ (Merriam Webster Dictionary) <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/environment&gt; accessed 20 September 2020

[3] Vinay Vaish, ‘Environment Laws in India’(Mondaq, 31 August 2017) <https://www.mondaq.com/india/waste-management/624836/environment-laws-in-india> accessed 21 September 2020

[4] The Wild Life Protection Act [1972] ACT NO. 53 OF 1972

[5] The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act [1974] ACT NO. 6 OF 1974

[6] The Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act [1981] ACT NO. 14 OF 1981

[7] The Environment Protection Act [1986] ACT NO.29 OF 1986

[8] The Biological Diversity Act [2002] ACT NO. 18 OF 2003

[9] National Green Tribunal Act [2010] ACT N0. 19 OF 2010)

[10] Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India & Ors [1996] 5 SCC 647

[11] Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar and Ors [1991] SCC (1) 598

[12] FindLaw’s team, ‘Overview: Key Federal Environmental Laws’ (Find Law, 20 June 2016) <https://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/business-laws-and-regulations/overview-key-federal-environmental-laws.html>  accessed 23 September 2020

[13] National Environmental Policy Act [1969] 83 Stat. 852.

[14] Endangered Species Act [1973] 87 Stat. 884.

[15] Clean Air Act [1963] 77 Stat. 392.

[16] Clean Water Act [1972] 86 Stat. 816.

[17] Pollution Prevention Act [1990] 42 U.S.C. §13101 et seq.

[18] Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency [2007] 549 U.S. 497.

[19] Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc [2000] 528 U.S. 167.

[20] Beveridge & Diamond PC, ‘Citizen Suits” Under China’s Revised Environmental Protection Law’ (Lexology, 9 March 2016) <https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=4cbdb869-d7d9-4cef-af08-d5d69601d0de> accessed 21 September 2020

[21] Environmental Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China [2015]

[22] Atmospheric Pollution Prevention and Control Law of the People’s Republic of China [2015]

[23] Prevention and Control of Water Pollution Law of the People’s Republic of China [1984]

[24] Marine Environmental Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China [1989]

[25] Environmental Protection Tax Law of the People’s Republic of China [2016]

[26] Wild Animal Conservation Law of the People’s Republic of China [1989]

[27] Forest Law of the People’s Republic of China [2019]

[28] Grassland Law of the People’s Republic of China [1985]

[29] Peter C. Pang, ‘China’s Evolving Environmental Protection Laws’ (Mondaq, 18 June 2020) <https://www.mondaq.com/china/clean-air-pollution/955486/china39s-evolving-environmental-protection-laws>  accessed 21 September 2020

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