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  • Shantanu Dubey

The Apathy of Environmental laws

Rachel Carson in her revolutionary book Silent Spring writes that nature practices preservation by the rule of “Conservation of Diversity”[1] but the recent inferno in Amazon and Australian forest illustrates that our biodiversity is in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the existing environments laws seem too questionable and futile? The emerging threat to environment has resulted from commercialization of tourism, mining, exclusion of tribal communities, deforestation under the veil of development. But the rapacious hunger for development has given the environment not only a setback but has led it on the path of destruction. And the biggest paradox is that the laws which should have been the vanguard of environment are instead used as the most potent instrument to get the desired goal.

For instance, the ambitious project of bullet train requires diversion of 3.2756 ha of forestland from the Thane Creek Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary and 97.5189 ha of land close to the boundary of the forest’s protected area[2]. The apex body accountable for giving permission to developmental projects within 10 km of national parks and sanctuaries is the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (SCNBWL) which instead of protecting the forest has asked for compensation of 10 crores for habitat improvement. What improvement will take place when there is no habitat left? Development is imperative but at the cost of what?  The prevalent tends of development is jeopardizing the very existence of humankind.

India has still not overcome from the destructive inundation in Kedarnath and recently in Kerela where losses could have been mitigated if hotels and resorts were not built in ecologically fragile areas as it hinders the natural flow of rivers, but even after facing a catastrophe and having The Environment (protection) Rules, 1986 which prohibits any industry or operation to take place in ESZ the Bubaneshwar Developmental authority is encouraging projects in Daya and Kuakhai rivers marked as eco-sensitive.

It is perturbing to see that state in order to generate revenue allows tourists to visit forest on the name of Eco Tourism and national park but on the other hand villagers and tribal population are banished.

We can’t even imagine the magnitude of deforestation given the fact that Section 3(2)  of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers ( Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 says that apart from schools, hospitals, community centers, roads forest land cannot be diverted which involves more felling of more than 75 trees per hectare. No where it is enumerated in act that forest land can be occupied for ambitious developmental projects. Under the rubric of development environment is exploited in every possible manner and hence years of conservation goes in vain when there is a smooth clearance of project in economically sensitive zone.

It’s essential to understand that deforestation is not only leading to climate change but also resulting in social exclusion of the most isolated community in the world which are the ‘tribals’. Tribal’s have existed since the dawn of our civilization but today they are asked to vacate their traditional home which they have been inhabiting for centuries in exchange of a petty compensation. And this culture of segregating them from their dwelling is not only leading their extinction as a community but also devoiding forests of preserving hands.

Laws and environmental bodies were established to keep the government in check but instead they have become state’s agent which aids in fulfilling their agendas. Even on the international forum we have environment laws not as soft laws which are not binding but as hard laws which are binding in nature because there are people in Bangladesh who had leave their home due to rising sea level, which has left these homeless villagers at the mercy of urban areas which itself is overpopulated.

Passivity and obsoleteness of environment laws are the biggest reason for the massive loss we are facing today. Environmental laws should keep pace with the changing technology because each day with the up gradation in technology our need also change and which puts an extra burden on overburdened environment. Also environmental laws will not be successful only when it is properly implemented or formulated but adhered as well because after all it’s our environment!

[1] Rachel Carson, ‘Silent Spring’ Penguin.

[2]  Jacob Kashy, ‘Bullet train gets green light via flamingo haven, national park’ The Hindu <https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/bullet-train-gets-green-light-via-flamingo-haven-national-park/article26188009.ece>

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