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Green laws

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLICY IN INDIA: CASES, MATERIALS AND STATUTES By Shyam Divan and Armin Rosencranz •Second edition • Published by Oxford University Press • Delhi • India • 2001

By Milind Sathe
Published: Monday 15 July 2002

-- When the Republic of India began its democratic journey in the 1950s, people were given incentives to cut and clear forests to bring more land under cultivation and help alleviate poverty. This scenario has turned full circle today, with every inch of forest cover being protected as sacred.

This journey of the Indian republic and the issue of development versus environment is meticulously documented in the book Environmental Law and Policy in India by Shyam Divan and Armin Rosencranz, now in its second edition.

What encompasses environment and ecology has become a legally complex issue. The interpretation of these concepts gets wider with the high courts and Supreme Court extending the scope of what is 'personal liberty'. Today, personal liberty includes the right to a pollution free environment, planned development and town planning, maintenance of hills, mountains, forests, rivers, coastal areas, flora and wild life. Although this makes the task of the authors more difficult, they have handled it deftly.

Natural resources are scarce and the demand on them is heavy. Conflicts are therefore inevitable between the greens on one side and industry and pro-development on the other. Governments, on most occasions, support pro-development. Such a situation mandates the creation of an institution headed by an independent arbiter. The Indian constitution assigns this task to the high courts and the Supreme Court. These courts have dealt with a variety of cases ranging from tortoise breeding, shrimp farming, cutting of forests, construction of dams, hydro, thermal and nuclear power projects to construction of hotels and resorts in coastal zones or cleansing of rivers and protection of ancient monuments.

This book chronicles important litigations with critical comments. The experience of Shyam Divan, who has actually handled some of these cases, would have been helpful in making an incisive analysis of these decisions. Authors have also touched upon issues like the Bhopal gas disaster, Dahanu thermal power project, Konkan railway, Narmada dam besides urban development, solid waste management, building regulations and relocation of industries.

The appendices in the book reproduce important statutes. However, inclusion of the Indian Forest Act and Coastal Regulation Zone notification would have added to the usefulness of the book. The legal fraternity including law students, lawyers and judges besides environmentalists and policy makers would find the book helpful. References to important precedents with citation would serve as an invaluable tool for research for academics.

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