The Idea of Environment

  • The term Environment has been derived from the term ‘Environ’ which means to surround. It is equivalent to the French term ‘Environner’ and Latin term ‘in-viron’. Thus Environment means surrounding conditions, circumstances affecting people’s life.
  • Mc Graw Hill encyclopaedia of environmental science defines ‘‘Environment’’ as follows- ‘‘environment is the sum total of all conditions and influences that affect the development and life of organisms.’’ There have been many other attempts to define the term but a satisfactory definition could not be evolved.
  • For the first time in the history of Environmental Laws, the Indian Legislation, The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 has defined the term ‘‘Environment’’.
  • Section 2(a) defines the term: environment includes water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property.
  • It is a wider definition which embraces all biotic and abiotic components of the environment which together make the human life possible.
  • In 1995 in the case of Virender Gaur v. State of Haryana, the Supreme Court observed that “environmental, ecological, air and water pollution etc. should be regarded as amounting to the violation of the right of health guaranteed via interpretation of Right to life under Art.21 of the Constitution. In this case the Supreme Court declared the word ‘environment’ is of broad spectrum which brings within its ambit ‘hygienic atmosphere and ecological balance’.[1]

[1] Satish C. Shastri, Environmental Law 111-114 ( Eastern Book Company, Lucknow, 4th edn., 2012).

Ancient and Medieval Writings

  • Environmental protection is not a new concept to Indians.
  • It has been a 5000-year-old history and tradition for them.
  • The efforts for environmental protection can be traced from early Indian history to the modern age. In early days, many religious and customary norms governed environmental conservation.
  • The people gave utmost importance and reverence to every aspect of nature. They seemed to have understood the significance of environment for the sustenance of life on earth. It was the dharma of each individual in the society to protect nature. The people worshipped the objects of nature. The trees, water, land and animals gained an important position in the ancient time.
  • The five important elements of nature called the Panchaboothas were divine incarnations to them.
  • Moreover, natural resources management was given prime importance in ancient India. Conservation of water bodies and protection of forests and wildlife were considered to be important aspects of governance by the rulers and local people.
  • Punishments were prescribed for causing injury to plants. Sacred groves were the inherent feature of the ecological heritage and tradition. They were kept undisturbed since time immemorial.
  • According to evidence in Vedas and Kautilya’s Arthasasthra, different dynasties accorded top priority to environmental protection and sustainable use of its components. All of the tree parts were considered important and sacred and Kautilya fixed punishments based on the destruction of the specific part of the tree. Some of the important trees were even elevated to the position of God.
  • Manu imposed a condition on mankind to protect forests. The rivers also enjoyed a high stature in the society.
  • The Ashoka Edicts, especially the 5th Pillar Edict, states that how animals and birds were protected in those days.
  • The major drawback of this period was that India was not a single political entity and consisted of many empires and small kingdoms. The result, there was no uniform agenda for environmental protection throughout the country and the priority for environmental conservation varied from time to time, ruler to ruler.
  • The rural and tribal communities evolved unique rules to be followed by them. For instance, the customary laws prevailing in Arunachal Pradesh are so effective even today.
  • Though the customary and religious norms contributed tremendously to the conservation of environment, the right spirit was lost somewhere in between, both in thought and in deed, and a number of superstitious and unsustainable rituals crept into the religious practices that resulted in affecting the water bodies, flora and fauna in due course.
  • The values of customary and community norms diminished considerably over time as the statutory instruments started encroaching the fields.
  • In medieval period, though there have been instances of establishment of nature parks, gardens, and fruit orchards by the Mughal rulers around their palaces and along banks of rivers, they did not have any definite policy to protect the forests or wildlife. Rather they were merely considered to be a good source of revenue and pleasure.
  • The notable feature of the Mughal regime was the growth of interest in natural history. Both Babar’s account of Indian flora and fauna and Jahangir’s investigations in natural history are well known while Salim Ali, the celebrated ornithologist, drew attention to their contributions as naturalists long ago.
  • Adbul Qadir Badauni lists among sins and offences, the three sins, of cutting down a shady tree, making a profession of killing animals, and selling away human beings, as heinous. Akbar’s efforts in promoting afforestation in common property resources, management of water bodies, and his disapproval of killing animals are legendary.[1]

[1] (last visited on 30/07/2018 at 02:18 a.m.).


  • For the people of India, environmental conservation is not a new concept. Historically, the protection of nature and wildlife was an ardent article of faith, reflected in the daily lives of people, enshrined in myths, folklore, religion, arts, and culture.
  • Some of the fundamental principles of ecology-the interrelationship and interdependence of all life-were conceptualized in the Indian ethos and reflected in the ancient scriptural text, the Isopanishad, over 2000 years ago.
  • It says, ‘This universe is the creation of the Supreme Power meant for the benefit of all his creation. Each individual life-form must, therefore, learn to enjoy its benefits by forming a part of the system in close relation with other species. Let not anyone species encroach upon the other’s rights.’
  • The oldest visual image of the human fascination, love, and reverence for nature in India can be found in the 10,000-year-old cave paintings at Bhimbetka in Central India depicting birds, animals, and human beings living in harmony.
  • The Indus Valley civilization provides evidence of human interest in wildlife, as seen in seals depicting images of rhino, elephant, bull, etc.
  • Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam; and others place great emphasis on the values, beliefs, and attitudes that relate to the cross-cultural universality of respect for nature and the elements that constitute the universe.
  • The concept of sinning against nature existed in various religious systems. Classical Indian myth is replete with similes of man in unison with the environment.
  • Many of the rituals which to modern society may seem meaningless and superstitious were traditional strategies to preserve the intrinsic relationship between man and nature. The worship of trees, animals, forests, rivers, and the sun, and considering the earth itself as Mother Goddess, were part of the Indian tradition.
  • One of the finest examples of traditional practices in India based on religious faith which has made a profound contribution to nature conservation has been the maintenance of certain patches of land or forests as “sacred groves’ dedicated to a deity or a village God, protected, and worshipped.
  • These are found all over India, and abundantly along the Western Ghats, the west coast, and in several parts of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
  • In Kerala there are hundreds of small jungles dedicated to snakes (Sarpakavu, Sarpa meaning snake, kavu meaning jungle). There are also Ayyappan kavus dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, the most famous of which, visited by millions of devotees every year, being the sacred hill of Sabarimala with an Ayyappan temple.
  • In spite of the depletion of forests in many parts of India, some sacred groves still remain intact as oases in deserts, conserving rich biological diversity. The maintenance of sacred groves can thus be considered to be an outstanding example of a traditional practice that has contributed to forest conservation, albeit in a small measure.
  • There are also examples of sacred ponds attached to temples in many parts of India. Some of these have been responsible for the protection of certain endangered species of turtles, crocodiles, and the rare fresh water sponge.
  • Many plants and animals have from historical times been considered sacred in India by various communities.
  • The most outstanding examples are the peepal tree (Ficus religiosa). The banyan tree (Ficus ‘bengelensiss, and Khejdi tree (Prosopis cineraria), and these have been traditionally revered and therefore never cut.
  • There are a number of other trees and plants considered sacred and grown in temple premises and are protected in other localities. More than a hundred such species of trees/plants in India are considered sacred by various communities and religious faiths. These include the sandalwood tree, beetlenut, palm, neem, coconut palm, juniper, champa, lotus, tulsi, pepper, etc. Such traditional cultural attitudes, though based on religious faith, have made significant contribution in the protection and propagation of various species of trees and plants in India.
  • Many animals are considered sacred and worshipped by several Hindu and other communities, and have thus received protection for centuries. The peafowl, sacred to lord Karttikeya is never hunted, the blue rock pigeon is considered sacred to Saint Hazrat Shah lalal and is protected in the Bengal region. Even rodents are considered sacred and are allowed to breed in the famous temple of goddess Karnimata in Rajasthan. The tiger and the cobra, though greatly feared, are afforded protection on religious grounds.
  • According to Asutosh Bhattacharya (1956): “In the pre-Aryan society of India tiger worship was in vogue from the remotest past. The seal engraved with the image of Siva, lord of beasts, that has been discovered at Mohenjodaro has also, among other four principal beasts, the figure of a tiger engraved beside Siva. Siva, the god of the ancient non-Aryan race of India, is clad in a tigerskin and it is a tigerskin which is his seat. Probably the tiger was the most primitive vehicle of Siva. Later, when cow-worship started in society, Siva was made to ride on a bullock, but a tigerskin was preserved for his wearing cloth and seat. The legitimate conclusion form the association of this particular beast with the god Siva is that the tiger-worship of primitive society has subsequently got mixed with the Saiva cult. Another proof of the special vogue of tiger-worship in regions lying outside the pale of Aryan society in Northern India is that there is a community named Baghel Rajputs in Rajputana. Perhaps they are the descendants of some primitive community of tiger-worshippers. They worship tigers and never hunt them.”
  • Snake worship has been an established cult among the Nairs of Kerala. Snake groves or kavus abounding in wild trees and creepers housing a cobra’s head carved in granite were found near the homes of many Kerala Hindus. The celebrated Padmanabaswami temple in Thiruvanthapuram has Lord Vishnu reclining on a mighty serpent. Many other animals are also worshipped as they are considered vehicles of gods and goddesses.
  • The famous Pasupati seal, for instance, shows a deity seated with a horned crown and surrounded by an elephant, a tiger, a rhino and a bull/buffalo. On the other hand, those of the first.second, third, and twenty-fourth, viz. the bull,elephant, horse and lion make their appearance on the Ashokan pillar capital at Sarnath in the third century BC.
  • All these accounts vividly show how the ancient culture and traditions of Indian society contributed to the conservation of natural ecosystems, and the plants and animals that inhabited these.
  • Indian painting, sculpture, architectural ornamentation, and the decorative arts is replete with themes from nature and wildlife reflecting love and reverence, and therefore the ethics of conservation. A wide range of images of forests, plants, and animals are to be found in Indian miniature paintings and sculpture.
  • The theme of the Hindu god Krishna’s life depicted in miniature paintings underlines an appreciation of ecological balance. He is shown persuading people to worship the mountain in order to ensure rainfall. Krishna swallowing the forest fire also signifies a concern for the protection of forests and wildlife.
  • Innumerable examples of the status given to plants and animals can also be seen in the traditional sculptural art of India. The concept of vana devatas (tree goddesses), vehicles of gods and goddesses, sacred trees, tree and animal worship.’ etc. are depicted in stone and metal sculptures independently, or as part of temples, palaces, and historical buildings.
  • In literature and scriptures too there has been considerable depiction of the appreciation and love for nature: “Mahakavi Kalidasa, a prominent poet of the ancient period (fourth century AD) visualized, a cloud as a messenger in his Meghaduta and went into raptures when describing various seasons in his Ritusamhara. Such an involvement with nature is reflected even in the visual arts which excel in their minute depiction of nature.
  • Indian literature effectively mirrors the ethos of its deep and sympathetic understanding of animals through innumerable stories. Even amongst these one could pertinently mention are the Hitopadesha, the Panchatantra or the Shuka-saptati which abound in allegorical references to the animal world.
  • The impact of the Panchatantra was so great that as early as the seventh century AD it was translated into Arabic under the title Kalila-wa-Dimna and has been very popular in the Arab and Persian world ever since. Though an interior form of life, animals have been endowed with ennobling qualities which provide lessons in morals relevant even to human beings.
  • Just as the appearance of animals in dreams or visions is considered to express energy, which has still not been differentiated or rationalized, identification of oneself with animals has been interpreted to represent integration of the unconscious with sources of life itself. Indian approach to the animal world has consistently demonstrated this appreciation throughout its evolving pattern of thought, and it is no wonder that Indian art, while reflecting the changing approach to physical representation of animal form, has retained the core of thought that it has moulded.” [Sadashiv Gorakshkar, 1988.]
  • Twenty-two centuries ago Emperor Ashoka decreed that it was a king’s duty to protect wildlife and the trees of the forests. He got edicts inscribed on rocks and iron pillars throughout his kingdom, prohibiting the destruction of forests and the killing of various species of animals. This historical evidence, surviving to this day, is the first recorded measure on conservation anywhere in the world.
  • In more recent historical times, Mughal Emperor Babur’s memoirs (Baburnama), Guru Nanak’s hymns on ‘Baramasa’ ( the seasons) depicting each month with a dominant bird image, and Emperor Jehangir’s memoirs showing his keen interest in and study of wildlife provide fine illustrations of this Indian tradition.[1]

[1] (last visited on 30/07/2018 at 02:45 a.m.).

Natural and Biological Sciences Perspectives: Modern concept

The environment is the sum total of all conditions and influences that affect the development and life of all organisms on earth. The importance of Environment and Ecology has become highly useful resources to crack different competitive examinations. The basic Concepts related to the Environment and Ecology are discussed below:

Atmosphere: The gaseous envelope surrounding the earth.

Air Pollution: Various gaseous pollutants from natural and man-made sources enter the atmosphere and have adverse effects on the normal properties of air. This leads to air pollution, which is harmful for life and environment.

Air Pollutants: Gases and particles which cause air pollution are called air pollutants.

Air Quality: It is the degree to which the air in a particular place is pollution-free.

Aquifer: A highly permeable and porous layer of sediment or rock containing water.

Anthropogenic: It is related to the study of the origin and development of human beings.

Abiotic Component: Non-living component in an ecosystem.

Afforestation: Planting of trees in an area to provide a forest cover.

Appiko Movement: Movement against the destruction of the forest.

Artificial Environment: The objects of our surroundings made by man.

Antibiotics: It is a chemical substance derivable from a mould or bacterium that can kill microorganisms and cure bacterial infections.

Autotroph: It is a biological term which is a combination of two words- auto which means self and troph means “nourishing”. Autotrophic organisms synthesize their own food from simple organic substances.

Age-structure: Percentage of men and women in the young, adult and old age group in the population.

Acid Rain: Rain water containing mixtures of acids (nitric, hydrochloric and sulphuric acid) from polluted air is known as acid rain. It damages lakes, forests and marble sculptures.

Auto Ecology: It is a study of individual organism or species in relation to environment.

Bagasse: The crushed cane after extraction of juice.

Biogeo Chemical Cycle: Pathway of circulation of elements within an ecosystem.

Biodiversity: It refers to the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.

Biogas: Gas (energy resource) originated from animal dung. It is useful fuel in rural areas.

Biological Environment: All living beings present in our surrounding are included in biological environment.

Biome: A broad region-based ecosystem with distinct climate, soil, flora and fauna.

Biomass: Standing crop (living matter) of living organisms in terms of weight, present at any given time in the environment.

Biosphere: Composite environment consisting earth and atmosphere in which Organisms live.

Biotic Component: Living component (i.e., plants, animals, and microbes) in an ecosystem.

Bioaccumulation: Accumulation of non-biodegradable substances in the body (e.g., lead, mercury, DDT etc.) through food chain.

Carbon Cycle: Natural cycle based on exchange of carbon-dioxide among Atmosphere, Biosphere and Ocean.

Carcinogen: Chemicals promoting cancer e.g., benzo-α-pyrene, arsenic, DDT etc.

Carrying Capacity: Maximum population size that a given system can support over a given period of time.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC): Used as solvent, refrigerant, fire retardant etc. Responsible for ozone hole and greenhouse effect.

Community: Population of various species living and interacting in a given area.

Carnivorous:  Animals that feeds on other animals.

Compost: A nutrient rich soil produced by decomposition of organic matter under aerobic conditions.

Commensalism: Association of different species in which one of the organisms is benefitted but the other organism is neither benefitted nor harmed under normal condition.

Conservation: Planned management of the surroundings of man to prevent its exploitation or destruction.

Environmental dumping: It refers to the practice of transfrontier shipment of waste from one country to another.

Decibel: Unit for measurement of intensity of noise.

Deciduous: The trees that becomes leafless for a certain period of the year.

Decomposer: The organisms depend on dead remains of producer’s aril consumer for their food.

Biodegradable Pollutants: Those pollutants which can be broken down into simpler, harmless, substances in nature in due course of time.

Demography: The study of human population in all respect.

Deforestation: Destruction of forest cover. Desertification: The process leading to desert formation. Detritus: Dead organic matter mainly of fallen leaves as life litter in forest.

Detrivores: The microbes decomposing detritus.

Domestic Wastes: The materials that are discarded by human beings in their daily activities.

Drainage: The removal of surface or subsurface water from an area by natural or artificial means.

Drought: Abnormal conditions appear-in an environment due to low rainfall or absence of rainfall for a long time in a particular area.

DDT: Pesticide useful in agriculture and eradication of malaria.

Doubling Time: Period during which population doubles itself. It is about 100 years in developed countries and 40 years in India.

Dependency Ratio: Ratio of people 65+ (above 65) and 15 (under 15) to the rest of the population.

Evergreen Plant: Plants having green leaves throughout the year. Exploitation: The relationship in which one organism is benefited by the direct utilization to other.

Ecology: Study of interactions of living organisms with their biotic and abiotic environments.

Ecosystem: A biological community and its physical environment exchanging matter and energy.

Environment: Something that environs i.e., encircles all our surroundings—the natural world in which we live — the living and non-living objects around us in our day-today living.

Environmental Studies: The studies of the quality of environment and all aspects of human environment, their degradation etc. comprise environmental studies.

Eutrophication: Over nourishment of waterbodies due to excessive nitrates and phosphates received through runoff— it is harmful for the waterbodies.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): A systematic analysis of the effects of a major development project on environment.

Extinction: Loss of species on earth as natural or manmade process.

EX-situ Conservation: Conservation of endangered species away from their natural habitat.

Earthquake: The shaking and trembling of earth due to movement inside the lithosphere that could be tectonic or volcanic.

Energy: Ability to do work. Environment The physical, chemical and biotic conditions surrounding an organism (P.N. Arora et al.).

Environmental Biology: The science that deals with inter-relationship between organisms and their environment.

Fauna: Species content of animals present in an area. Fertilizers: The inorganic materials which can supply plant nutrients in available form.

Fertility Rate: The number of live birth per unit time per unit number of fertile female.

Flora: A species content of plants present in an area. Flood: Submerges of the vast area of land with water.

Fly Ash: Finely divided particles of ash produced from thermal electric plant

Food Chain: Method of transferring of food elements among environment, producers, consumers and decomposer. Fodder: Green feed of cattle.

Forest: Plant community predominantly of trees, often with an extensive undergrowth of shade tolerant shrubs and herbs usually with closed company.

Grazing: Eating away of unharvested herbs as forage by animals.

Ground Water: Water contained underneath the surface of the earth.

Growth Rate: The difference between natality and mortality in a population.

Gasohol: Mixture of gasoline and alcohol is known as gasohol, used as a fuel in Brazil for running cars and buses.

GNP (Gross National Product): An index of a country’s economic status based on consumerism i.e., commodities purchased per year, consumer durables and financial status of consumer.

Greenhouse Effect (Global Warming): Rise in temperature of the earth’s surface due to increase in the levels of greenhouse gases viz., carbon dioxide, methane etc. The latter trap heat from the earth’s surface and returns it thereby raising the earth’s surface temperature. This phenomenon is similar to trapping of heat in glass covered green house (used for growth of vegetables and flowers during winter) and hence called greenhouse effect.

Greenhouse Gases: Gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour etc. which absorb earth’s infra-red radiation, return it to the earth’s surface thereby raising the temperature (global warming).

Groundwater: Water held in aquifers 50% below the earth’s surface. This is the major source (0.66%) for freshwater.

Health:It is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity and ability to lead a socially and economically productive life (WHO 1948).

Heredity:Genetically desired traits and qualities obtained from parents and ancestors. Herbivores: The animal feed on producer (i.e., green plant).

Heterotrophs:Animal and non-green plants not capable of producing food. Hydrological Cycle: The process of continuous circulation of water between atmosphere and the earth’s surface.

Heterotroph:Organism that can’t synthesize its own food and derives its nourishment by feeding on other.

Humus: A dark amorphous substance that is partially degraded and serves as a major source of nutrients to plants.

Hurricanes: Cyclonic storms with heavy rains and wind at speed exceeding 120 km/per hour.

Incineration: The process of burning solid wastes in an inclinator at high temperature.

Insecticide: Chemical used for controlling insects.

Infant Mortality: Number of infants born per 1000 who die before their first birthday.

Life Expectancy: Average number of years a new-born baby is expected to survive.

Lithosphere: Outer shell of the earth’s crust made of the mantle of rocks. It includes the soil which covers the rock’s crust in many places.

Magma: Molten rock below the earth’s surface.

Monoculture: Cultivation of a single crop of tree.

Natural Gas: Underground deposits of gases containing mainly methane and small amounts of propane and butane. It is a cleaner fuel than fossil fuel as it produces less carbon dioxide on burning.

Natural Hazards: Hazards from natural sources (earthquake, volcanic eruption etc.) which destroy or damage human lives, houses etc.

Neutron: Nuclear particle with zero charge and mass, (relative to it).

Nitrogen Cycle: Continuous exchange of nitrogen within the ecosystem: air-soil-water.

Nitrogen Fixation: Conversion of atmospheric nitrogen gas into ammonia by nitrogen-fixing bacteria/cyanobacteria.

Nuclear Fission: Splitting of nucleus (uranium/ plutonium) into two or more fragments with release of tremendous amount of energy. This is the source of nuclear power (electricity generation).

PAN (Peroxyacyl Nitrate): A toxic product of photochemical smog reactions.

Particulate Matter: Solid particles or ligand droplets suspended in air. Examples are smog particles from combustion of fossil fuels.

Photosynthesis: Synthesis of food (carbohydrates) by green plants in the presence of sunlight using carbon dioxide from air and water from soil.

Phytoplankton: Small plants like algae, bacteria found floating on the surface of water. Photovoltaic Cell: Solar cell that converts solar energy into electricity.

Population Explosion: Excessive growth of population as in developing countries, to a size that exceeds the carrying capacity.

Primary Pollutants: Gaseous and particulate pollutants discharged directly into the atmosphere by automobile exhaust emissions. The gases thus discharged are carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and hydrocarbons.

Residence Time: Length of time for which a chemical or molecule stays in the environment. For example, the residence time of CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) molecule in the stratosphere is 100 years.

Sanitary Landfill: Waste disposal site on land in which solid waste is spread with fresh layer of clay.

Secondary Pollutant: Harmful pollutants generated from primary pollutants air, for example, sulphonic acid is a secondary pollutant, produced by the primary pollutant sulphur dioxide by reaction with water vapour in air.

Sustainable Development: Improvement in quality of life over a long-term without degrading the environment or compromising the needs of future generations.

Tectonic Plates: Huge blocks of earth’s crust which slide along slowly.

Transpiration: Loss of water from plant surfaces.

Troposphere: The bottom region of the atmosphere at an altitude of 0-11 km. It contains 70 per cent of air masses which are always in motion. Here temperature decreases with increasing altitude.

Stratosphere: This region is above the troposphere at an altitude of 11-50 km above the earth’s surface. Here ozone acts as a protective shield against ultraviolet radiation from space and thus protects life on earth.

Urbanization: Increasing population in cities by migration from villages and other states. India has a huge urban population (about 300 million).

Waterlogging: Saturation of soil with irrigation water or excessive rain whereby water table rises close to surface.

Watershed: Land area from which water drains under gravity to a common drainage channel.

Wetlands: Ecosystems with stagnant water pool and having rooted vegetation.[1]

[1] (last visited on 30/07/2018 at 16:24 p.m.).

Conflicting dimensions Recent issues


  • Water, land and air contamination associated with growth are increasing exponentially.
  • Rapid investment in the manufacturing sector, that includes 17 highly polluting industries that are on the Central Pollution Control Board’s “Red List”, has fuelled this growth.
  • The share of the most polluting sectors in India’s exports has increased dramatically during the last decade suggesting that India could be emerging as a net exporter of pollution-intensive commodities.
  • These trends indicate the need for greater investment in environmental management.

Natural Resources, Ecosystems and Biodiversity:

  • In rural areas, poverty has become intertwined with resource degradation – poor soils, depleted aquifers and degraded forests.
  • To subsist, the poor are compelled to mine and overuse these limited resources, creating a downward spiral of impoverishment and environmental degradation.
  • There is growing pressure to better protect India’s pockets of mega-biodiversity which are increasingly recognized as being of immense significance for global biodiversity, yet are increasingly threatened.
  • Greater investment in the protection of these natural assets would yield a double dividend of poverty alleviation and the improved sustainability of growth.

Coastal Zone Management:

  • India’s coastal zone is endowed with fragile ecosystems including mangroves, coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, and unique marine and terrestrial wildlife, which contribute in a significant manner to the national economy.
  • Economic activities such as rapid urban-industrialization, maritime transport, marine fishing, tourism, coastal and seabed mining, offshore oil and natural gas production, aquaculture, and the recent setting up of special economic zones have led to a significant exploitation of these resources.
  • In addition to the contribution of increased economic activity, coastal development and livelihoods are under stress due to a higher incidence of severe weather events, which have the potential to inflict irreversible damage to lives and property, for communities that are traditionally poor and vulnerable to economic shocks.

Environmental Governance:

  • The pace of infrastructure investments calls for integrated and coordinated decision-making systems.
  • This is made especially challenging by fragmented policies and multiple institutional legal and economic planning frameworks, with often conflicting objectives and approaches.

Environmental Health:

  • The health impacts from pollution are comparable to those caused by malnutrition and have a significant impact on the productivity, health and the quality of life.
  • Environmental health challenges are largely caused by poverty-related risks associated with poor access to basic services, such as safe drinking water and sanitation, and poor indoor air quality.
  • The contamination of surface waters and the spread of pathogens are promoted by the alteration of catchments and watersheds that have accompanied rapid urbanization and intensive farming.
  • Despite significant improvements in rural water supply and sanitation over the past few decades, water-related diseases still account for a large number of avoidable child deaths every year.

Climate Change:

  • India is highly vulnerable to climate change due to a combination of;
  • high levels of poverty,
  • population density,
  • high reliance on natural resources, and
  • an environment already under stress (for instance water resources).
  • By mid-century, the mean annual temperature in India is projected to increase 1.1º to 2.3 º C under the moderate climate change scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (A1B), with anticipated deterioration of agro-climatic conditions.
  • In the higher portion of that range, the loss to Indian GDP would be greater than the world average, and could be close to 5 %. Simultaneously, there is likely to be greater variability in rainfall, leading to higher risk of increased frequency and severity of droughts, floods and cyclones.
  • Reflecting the size of its economy and population, India is ranked as the sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.
  • However, by most measures, India would be classified as a low carbon economy. It has:
  • a low intensity of emissions per unit of GDP ( on par with the world average);
  • per capita emissions that are among the lowest in the world (at about 10 percent of the developed country average) and forest cover that has stabilized. However, India’s emissions are set to grow substantially due to its sustained economic growth.[1]

[1] (last visited on 30/07/2018 at 14:22 p.m.).

Environment and sustainable development

  • The concept of sustainable development has taken a concrete stage because natural resource base is continually under a state of stress and degradation.
  • The concept of sustainability lies in maintaining harmony between meeting basic human needs along with emphasis on protection and conservation of natural resources.
  • The World Commission on environment and development (1987) considered sustainable development as the ability to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet the needs.
  • In fact, any economic activity that continues without a healthy balance between the natural resources, its ecology and environment shall result in sustainable development. Hence, the earth, the ecology and environment are the three central concerns of sustainable development. Now-a-days, challenges before us are not only how to exploit our natural resources but also how to conserve and sustain our environment.
  • As a result of unprincipled use of natural resources, the component of environment is getting impaired raising threat to survival to human being.
  • Soil is impoverished, water and air are polluted and there is an increase in intensity of genetic erosion in plants and animals.
  • Even the climate is getting irreversibly altered due to global warming and green house effect.
  • The fundamental challenges in the 21st century are to find ways for sustainable development and that are environmentally sound.[1]
  • Human beings are increasingly anxious about this life-support systems and about the quality of their environment.
  • The side effects of resources used are now far more widely acknowledged than a generation ago. The state of environment and the use of environmental resources have become political issues both at local national and international levels.[2]

[1] Employment News, 29th August- 4th Sept., 1998.

[2] Supra N. 6, October 9, 1998.


1) In Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of india[1], the Supreme Court has elaborately discussed the concept of ‘sustainable development’ which has been accepted as a part of the law of the land. However, the ‘precautionary principle’ and ‘polluter pays’ principle are essential features of sustainable development.[2]

2) R.L. & E. Kendra case[3] (popularly known as Doon valley Case), was the first case of its kind in the country involving issues relating to environment and ecological balance which Dehradun brought into sharp focus the conflict between development and conservation and the court emphasized the need for reconciling the two in the larger interest of the country, mining which denuded the Mussoorie Hills of trees and forests cover and accelerated soil erosion resulting in landslides and blockage of underground water which fed many rivers and springs in the river valley. The court appointed an expert committee to advise the bench on. the technical issues and on the basis of the report of the committee, the court ordered the closure of number of limestone quarries.

The Court was also conscious of the consequences of the order which rendered workers unemployed after closure of the limestone quarries and caused hardship to the lessees. The Court observed that “this would undoubtedly cause hardship to them, but it is a price that has to be paid for protecting and safeguarding the right of the people to live in healthy environment with minimal disturbance of ecological balance and without avoidable hazard to them and to their cattle, homes and agricultural land and undue affection of air, water and environment.”

The Supreme Court allowed a mine to operate until the expiry of lease as exceptional case on undertaking by the lessee that land taken on lease would be subjected to afforesation by him. Consequently, when it was brought to the notice of the Court that he had made breach of the undertaking and mining was done in most unscientific and uncontrolled manner causing damage to the area and environment, the Court directed the lessee to area and environment, the Court directed the lessee to pay rupees three lakhs to the fund of the monitoring committee which had been constituted earlier by the Court to supervise the afforestation programme to be undertaken by the lessee. It is submitted that the order of the Court is based on the principle of “polluter pays” which is one of the essential principle of sustainable development.

3) In Kinkri Devi case,[4] a public interest litigation was filed in which it was alleged that the unscientific and uncontrolled quarrying of the limestone has caused damage to the Shivalik Hills and was imposing danger to the ecology, environment and inhabitants of the area. The Himachal Pradesh High Court relied on Doon Valley case and pointed out that if a just balance is not struck between development and environment by proper tapping of natural resources, there will be violation of articles 14, 21, 48-A and 51A(g) of the Constitution. The Court rightly observed that natural resources have got to be tapped for the purpose of social development but the tapping has to be done with care so that ecology and environment may not be affected in any serious way. The natural resources are permanent assets of mankind and are not intended to be exhausted in one generation. If the industrial growth sought to be achieved by reckless mining resulting in loss of life, loss of property, loss of amenities like water supply and creation of ecological imbalance there may ultimately be no real economic growth and no real prosperity. The Court issued an interim direction to the State Government to set up a Committee to examine the issue of proper granting of mining lease and the necessity of granting leases keeping in view the protection of environment. It is submitted that is this case also the concern ofthe Hon’ble High Court for “sustainable development” is self evident.[5]

4) In M.C. Mehta case[6] a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed seeking direction from the Court to stop the mining activities in the vicinity of touring resorts of Badkal lake and Suraj Kund in Haryana. The Haryana Pollution Control Board recommended that mining activities within a radius of 5kms from the tourist resorts should be stopped. Similar recommendations were also made by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI). Having regard to the opinion of two expert bodies, the Court held that mining activities in the vicinity of tourist resorts were bound, to cause severe impact on the local ecology and therefore, mining activities should be stopped within 3kms of such tourist resorts.


5) M.C. Mehta case[7] (popularly known as Taj Mahal case), is yet another case in which the judgement of the Court is based on the principle of sustainable development and where the Court applied the “Precautionary Principle”. In this case a public interest litigation was filed alleging that due to environmental pollution there is degradation of Taj Mahal a monument of international repute. According to the opinion of the expert committees, the use of coke/coal by industries situated within the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) were emitting pollution and causing damage to the Taj as also to the people living in the area. It was held that the Taj, apart from being a cultural heritage, is also an industry by itself and, therefore, pollution must be stopped while the development of the industry must go on and it must be encouraged. The Court followed the path of sustainable development and applied the “precautionary principle” by holding that the environmental measures must anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation. Thus, it directed that all the industries operating in TTZ must use natural gas as a substitute for coke/coal, as an industrial fuel. The industries which are not in a position to obtain the natural gas connections for any reason, they must stop functioning with the aid of coke/coal in the TTZ and they may relocate themselves as per directions of the Court. The shifting industries the relocation in the new industrial estates were to be given the incentives.[8]

[1] AIR 1996 SC 2715.

[2] I. A. Khan, Environmental Law 253-254 (Central Law Agency, Allahabad, 2nd edn., 2002,).

[3] R.L & E. Kendra, Dehradun v. State of U.P., AIR (1985) SC 1259

[4] Kinkri Devi v. State AIR (1988) H.P. 4

[5] 9last visited on 30/07/2018 at 14:54 p.m.).

[6] M.C. v. Union ofIndia (1997)3 SC 715. (1996)8 SC 462; 9last visited on 30/07/2018 at 14:56 p.m.).


[7] M. C. Mehta v. Union ofIndia Kholamuhana Primary Fishermen Co-op. Society v. State, AIR (1994) Oris. 191.

[8] 9last visited on 30/07/2018 at 15:04 p.m.).

National and International Perspectives

  • International environmental law is nothing more, or less, than the application of international law to environmental problems.
  • The UN Declaration on Human Environment in 1972 and The Charter for Nature has introduced a biologist and ecological view of world order based on harmony with nature and harmony between States.
  • International law for 21st century has a vital role to play. It has to promote unity in diversity of global life and world order.
  • Environmental laws are the standards that governments establish to manage natural resources and environmental quality.
  • The broad categories of “natural resources” and “environmental quality” include such areas as air and water pollution, forests and wildlife, hazardous waste, agricultural practices, wetlands, and land use planning.
  • In the United States, some of the more widely known environmental laws are the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The body of environmental law includes not only the text of these laws but also the regulations that implement and the judicial decisions that interpret this legislation. In general, the standards set forth in environmental laws can apply to either private parties or the government.
  • The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, for example, are frequently used to regulate the polluting activities of private enterprises. These laws mandate certain pollution-reducing technology or limit the levels of pollution for power plants and factories.
  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) applies only to the actions of the U.S. government. NEPA requires that the federal government undertake a comprehensive environmental impact assessment before it can proceed with projects that are likely to harm the environment.
  • The study of environmental law is a study of interaction between law and science.
  • Rapid changes in national and global environments have occurred in recent years as a result of developments in modern science and technology.
  • As a result mankind has, through the United Nations and other legal institutions, drawn new global environmental laws to safeguard and protect environments and the ecology of earth.
  • Ecology is defined as a relationship of living organism and their adaptations to the environments. Thus today international law is predominantly environmental law as it shapes relationship of all living organism, including human beings who are all one species, called Homo sapiens

Population and Development

  • Population and development are correlated.
  • It is stated that the size of population, rate of growth and population composition, and its geographical distribution are important factors in determining the requirements of infrastructure, such as education, housing, health services, food supply, etc.
  • Productive health capacity is also deter­mined by the size and growth rate of population.
  • Thus, to make development plans for the present as well as for the future, there is a need to understand the structure and growth of population.[1]
  • Human beings evolved under conditions of high morality due to famines, accidents, illnesses, infections and war and therefore the relatively high fertility rates were essential for species survival.
  • The twentieth century witnessed an unpredicted rapid improvement in health care technologies and access to health care all over the world resulting in a steep fall in the mortality and steep increase in longevity.
  • As a result global population has undergone a rapid increase in a hundred years and has reached almost 6 billion.
  • From economic development point of view, human resources are very important.
  • They are the needs and means of economic development.
  • On one hand they provide factor services to the production sector and on the other hand being consumers, constitute the end purpose of economic development.
  • India ranks next to China in the world in regard to size of population and in respect of area its arnk is seventh.
  • According to UN population fund estimates, out of an annual increase of 76 million in world population, India alone constitutes for as much as 16 million, making a sizeable contribution of 21 percent.
  • Population growth can play a conflicting role in the economic development of the country.
  • An increase in population means an increase in supply of the basic factor i.e., labour.
  • It also leads to expansion of markets as larger population means more demand for various consumer goods.
  • This stimulates business activity and increase the level of employment.
  • Increase in population also has a positive effect on technological development.
  • Larger population means larger pool of talents from which to draw people for working in various areas.
  • However, rapid population growth may act as an obstacle to economic development.
  • If the high rate of population growth generates a large size of the population more than the rate of increase in economic development, it may act as a barrier to economic development.
  • Increasing demand of consumer goods may lead to shortage and scarcity of consumer goods.
  • Increasing population puts pressure on the available resources, particularly land.
  • This results in a decrease in the amount of land per person, reducing agricultural productivity. It also leads to lower output per worker and lower per capita income and unemployment.[2]
  • Malthus proposed his theory in the book “Essay on the Principle of Population”. He tried to find out the reason for diminishing returns in most of the countries and he said that Population growth is the major reason. His theory goes in as follows:-
  • Population increases by compounding
  • Food Production doesn’t get compounded
  • The new population will not get sufficient amount of food
  • Some adverse event(Starvation, crisis etc) causes decline in the population. Then this leads to food production and population coming back to the equilibrium.
  • There are generally three different types of views on how population effects the economic development of a nation.
  • One, opposing the positive impact on economic development.
  • Two, supporting the negative effect of economic development.
  • Three, they believe that there is no relation between economic development and population growth.
  • Malthusian Population Trap is the main example for the theories which support negative impact.[3]
  • Population growth can act both as a stimulus and an impediment to economic development as it depends upon where, when and how it takes place.

[1] (last visited on 29/07/2018 at 12:41 p.m.).

[2] Surbhi Arora, Economics For Law Students 338-339 (Central Law Publications, Allahabad,2nd edn., Reprint, 2014).

[3] (last visited on 29/07/2018 at 13:12 p.m.).