Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
The Supreme Court request last month to the Bar Council of
India, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and
The BarAssociation of Howrah, West Bengal, to devise means
nincing pollution and cleansing the environment, points
it dsomand-headed hydra that environmental issues have
ner suday. The court issued notices seeking responses on
r bmpm can participate in solving environmental
ftm in the country. It frankly admitted that it is not in a
him to respond to the thousands of poUution-related
s nednocuning all over the country. It held that the
infassociations, "the largest body of intellectuals who are
sockwith the people" should help find out how the almost
sw6k situation can best be dealt with.
beentially. the issue is lack of governance. In the past couple
stpears, the judiciary has had to take over the work of
nomental governance. The spate of closure orders issued
lannsts apfinst polluting units all over the country shows
dw 4nvironmental regulatory agencies have remained
9* wannolent. In fact, the apex court has even ordered
ensign of officials on charges of corruption. Which
n der not jug the environmental regulatory
Vapsocies but also the internal vigilance
it espitionima of the administration had
god in responsibilities. The result has
isse environmental Hades.
The apex court's efforts to enlist the
mom of lawyers in its environmental
singer is not a cry of anguish, nor an
a in diro" back its own responsibilities.
e woognition of the immensity of the
is Is" and the fact that the solution
gene from the people themselves and
bon be routed through the lawyers
Mintsups. This, therefore, should be seen as a request for
es bodies zW institutions to come together for a greater
There are two aspects of this request. The first is that the
:om wishes to ensure that there is capable, institutionalised
ctpert support in resolving environmental cases.
y of environmental litigation shows that much of it
I been lawyer-supported. From the deforestation of
wrie Hills, Chernobyl butter, the Narmada and
a projects, to Sariska, the list of instances in this
regard is long.
undkr4ing message in the Court's statement is that
Mestal activists and lawyers should create a common
a and seek institutional support in order to convert
pas on environment into legal campaigns. The effort
a the cause of a Right to Clean Environment.
But it must be clearly realised that the law in itself can be as
much a trap as a liberating force. Courts should not necessarilyu
ly be the first port of call for those concerned tvith environment
mental degradation. But this has become so because of an
unholy combination of mismanagement, corruption, ineptitude
tude and lassitude of the environmental authorities - including
ing politicians. Ideally, the courts should have to take over
only if normal regulatory mechanisms fail.
The second aspect of the Court's plea is for a diversification of environmental action, so that all the struggles are not
sought to be resolved within the confines of a court. Neither
courts nor the law can, by themselves, alter much. They can
create the bargaining endowments for activists through which
social and political struggles can be strengthened. Greed and
political subterfuge create environmental crises. It is only
struggle that can provide discipline to replace the present
greedy and mindless travesties that are perpetrated. Judicial
action cannot replace struggle, but can assist it.
The biggest need of the hour is, however, to rebuild a
regulatory system which upholds the laws for which it was
created. Closures will do little towards that
end. There is not much threat to the regula
tory authorities from the court judgements
on dosing down polluting units. The courts,
instead of closing down errant units, can
tighten the leash, gently but firmly, around
the neck of the government's enviromnentad
agencies, by demanding that they must
ensure that the ambientpollution levels con
form to the standards set by the government
itself. The court should ask not only for the
bringing down of pollution levels, but also
put the responsibility for doing so on The
pollution control boards and related regulatory authorities.
Downing the shutters of polluting units will solve little,
and in addition, create an issue of environment versus work
ers'livelihood. Fears on this count can be counterproductive
and even lead to rnass ire against court decisions. Introducing
effective governance, thus, is the ultimate resolution of the
environmental crisis. If the pollution control authorities are
unable to perform, they must be hauled up for their incompe
tence and abetting the law breakers. The courts can put the
fear of god into the regulatory authorities by hauling them up
for contempt, if its orders are not carried out.
Sending the regulators to prison is the only answer.
This alone will shake them up, and then the regulating
authorities will demand from the political system adequate
resources and the right to take independent decisions and