Development of Environmental Law

As we know that today mankind is facing environmental problems. These environmental problems strike directly on our health and life. This increasing number of environmental problems is known as “Environmental Degradation”. Basically, environmental degradation is a situation by reason of which many environmental problems come into play.

Industrialization is one of the main reasons behind this degradation. Today we are continuously running behind the money and luxuries and neglecting the environment.

In the 18th century when huge industrialization took place in Europe and the industrial and technical revolution has been considered as the major fundamental for the world growth, the situation became worst. This industrial growth has started to affect the entire environment and the health of the people with many problems.

So some people and organizations like; United Nations get worried about this kind of situation and they started to think about the environment. It was the first time when we become a little bit conscious about this issue and we felt that we must need some rules and regulations to control such kind of hazardous situation.

After that, so many attempts were made in this direction and many declarations and summits took place.

The first important declaration was “Stockholm Declaration” adopted in the year 1972.

Stockholm Declaration- On 16th June 1972, “United Nation Conference on Human Environment” took place. It is commonly known as the Stockholm declaration. It was made with intention of creating a world charter on the environment and its problems, whereby they decided that global nature of environmental problems and other state of affairs that requires solution should be resolved as soon as possible and benefit should be given to every nation and their citizens. 26 principles were given in this declaration and these principles guide the nation about their responsibilities towards the nature and environment.

Basically, these 26 principles have provided an action plan which is required to resolve issues such as poverty, hunger, mal nutrition, unemployment, racial discrimination, and exploitation of resources, diseases like TB, cancer etc and most importantly agriculture. Since these all problems are directly connected with the environment so this Stockholm declaration was regarded as one of the very important declarations in the field of environment.

After the Stockholm declaration, another attempt was made in the year 1992 when Rio Declaration was adopted.

Rio Declaration- United Nation conference on environment and development, popularly known as Rio Declaration was produced in the year 992. Here the whole of the world accepted that environment and development are two sides of same coin and without environment, there is no meaning of development.

Again 27 principles were given in this declaration, which requires the acceptance of whole of the world and they were based on mutual acceptance and consent.

Apart from those 27 principles the core thrust of Rio declaration was two important principles

  • Polluter pays principle- According to this principle the person who is engaged in industry will have to keep in mind that if he did not comply with the rational of the just, fair and reasonable principle then he owes to pay compensation to public at large.
  • Precautionary principle- This principle says that where you owe the responsibility, then the onus to take care and keep watch is on you. Hence you have to take precautions to protect the environment.

In this way the Rio declaration was a revolutionary step for the environment. After the Rio declaration next important convention was the Kyoto protocol in the year 1997.

Kyoto Protocol- Another development came in the form of Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto protocol was adopted in Kyoto, a city of Japan on 11 December 1997.

It was an international treaty which extended the field of United Nation framework convention on climate changes-1992, which imposes the obligation on the state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions based on scientific consensus, that global warming is occurring and most likely it is because of the human intervention or we can say human-made CO2 emission.

The Johannesburg declaration 2002- The Johannesburg declaration was another important development in the field of the environment. The Johannesburg Declaration on sustainable development was adopted at World Summit on Sustainable Development. Sometimes it is also referred to as Earth Summit-2002.

Paris Conference 2015- United Nation climate change conference, popularly known as Paris conference, happened with a mandate which is climate change.

On 16 December 2015, 174 countries mutually decided to reduce the emission level to such an extent whereby it leads to a reduction of the temperature by 1°c to 2°c.

So, there were many such conferences and summits for the protection and promotion of the environment. These conferences and declarations are the milestones for the development of environmental law and they commit the countries to think about nature along with the industrial and technical development.

Environment law in India-

After the Stockholm declaration, many countries incorporated some provisions for the environment.

India was also one of those countries. Originally, the constitution of India did not contain any specific provision for the protection of the environment. But in 1976, The Constitution (42nd amendment Act) was passed and it expressly provided for some provisions for the protection and promotion of the environment. These provisions were given in the form of the Directive principle of state policy and fundamental duty.

Under Article 48 (a) it is given that it must always be the endeavour of state to protect lakes, forest, wildlife and ecology as whole.

So under this section obligation was made on the side of state and government that they must provide a healthy environment to their citizens.

But under the Fundamental duty constitution imposes a duty on each and every citizen of the country to protect and promote the environment.

Article 51(a)(g) put an endeavour on every citizen to protect lakes, river, forest, wildlife and ecology as whole.

So, Article 48(a) and Article 51(a)(g) contain both constitutional directions to the state as well as the constitutional duty to the citizens to not only protect the environment but also improve it and to preserve and safeguard the natural resources.

Apart from above provisions court also declared the “Right to healthy environment” as fundamental right under Article 21 of constitution because without healthy environment there is no meaning of “Right to life.”

However the above constitutional provisions were not sufficient and we were not getting the desired result so we also adopted a codified environment law for the protection and promotion of the environment, known as the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. It includes many provisions to prevent the situation of environmental degradation.


So, we can see that there were many views, reasons and steps for the development of environmental law but according to me all laws, rules and regulations have no meaning until and unless we change our minds. Today we are blindly running behind the money and luxury and neglecting our health, our society, our environment and our natural resources. We must understand that god has given these lakes, river, forest, wildlife and mountains for us and for our healthy environment, so it must be our duty to protect and promote it. We must understand that environment and development are two sides of the same coin and without environment, there is no meaning of development.

So lastly that thing I want to say that please “Enjoy everything but don’t destroy anything”.

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