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UN global assessment of environmental laws

Topic covered:

  1. Conservation related issues.


UN global assessment of environmental laws


What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Findings of the assessment, need of the hour and way ahead for India.


Context: United Nations (UN) has released in its first ever global assessment of environmental laws.


Key findings:

  1. The world fares poorly on implementation of environmental laws and regulations despite the fact that 38 times more green laws have been framed and approved in the last four decades.
  2. As many as 88 countries have adopted the constitutional right to a healthy environment and more than 350 environmental courts and tribunals exist in around 50 countries. But, failure to fully implement and enforce the environmental laws is one of the greatest challenges towards mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss.
  3. Other problems: Poor coordination across government agencies, weak institutional capacity, lack of access to information, corruption and stifled civic engagement are the key factors behind the poor effectiveness and implementation of environmental regulations.
  4. Underlining the growing resistance to environmental laws, the report also advocated on behalf of the environmental activists and whistle blowers. It said 908 people, including forest rangers, government inspectors, and local activists, were killed in 35 countries between 2002 and 2013 and 197 were killed in 2017 alone.


Indian scenario:

  • India serves as a perfect example to this issue. India’s people and the environment have been paying the price for its lethargic and poor state of environmental governance. This is reiterated by a high-level committee set up the environment ministry in 2014. Like the Water Act, which was implemented in 1974, a number of laws and regulations have been existing for more than four decades now, but are proving to be ineffective.
  • India ranked 177th out of 180 countries in the 2018 Global Environment Performance Index (EPI) rankings of the Yale University for being unable to improve its air quality, protect its biodiversity, and cut its greenhouse gas emissions. It also slipped by 36 points in 2018 from 141 in 2016.
  • India has several rules and guidelines to control air pollution, but they aren’t put to good use. Coal-based power plants continue to be the major source of air pollution in the country as more than 300 coal thermal power plants still violate emission standards.
  • Judiciary ignored: More than two-thirds of the states/union territories in the country have neither bothered to comply with the orders passed by the Supreme Court, nor complied with the directions given by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The judiciary’s order failed to even curb illegal rat hole mining and miners in Meghalaya paid the price for that.


Need of the hour:

Unless implementation and enforcement is strengthened, even rules that appear to be rigorous are destined to fail and the fundamental human right to a healthy environment will go unfulfilled. The world needs to shift its focus from development of policies and institutions to implementation and enforcement.


Sources: down to earth.