A bush flowering at its best

Legal Regimes for Sustainable Development


Modern development has caused a number of environmental problems at local, regional, national and international levels. Global Climate Change, depletion of ozone layer, increasing inequality, reduction in the means of livelihood for poor, scarcity of food, increasing number of disasters, extinction of species, falling underground water table etc. are some of the major environmental problems created by modern unsustainable development. These problems are challenging the existence of human race on this planet.

In view of these dangerous conditions, efforts have been started on all levels to save the planet and to adopt strategies of sustainable development. The increasing inequality through modern unsustainable development has been specially emphasized by UNDP’s Human Development Report of the year 2007-2008.According to the Fourth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is 95 percent probability that “…. human activities have exerted a substantial net warming influences on climate since 1750 (IPCC 2007).

These activities include industrial processes, power plants, transportation, and agricultural production –the development of a global market place for goods and services – that have increased the greenhouse gas components of the planet’s atmosphere to the point of causing climate change.” Various national and global agencies including a number of non-government organizations have started many different programmes for averting the environmental crisis and ensuring sustainable development.

National legislative frameworks for environment protection and conservation

Love and care for the natural environment is deeply rooted in the culture and tradition of Indian people. Article 51-A(g) of the Indian Constitution reads- It shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.

Smt. Indira Gandhi, the Late Prime Minister of India has said –

“We must enable the earth to renew itself. We must aim to improve the material, intellectual and spiritual circumstances of peoples. And we must nurture the values which enhance human possibilities. Our ancients believed in the unity of all living things, and even of life and non-life. We must rediscover this sense of identity with and responsibility for fellow humans, other species and future generations”.

•       Legislative and Regulatory Measures

The Government of India formed the Ministry of Environment and Forest in 1985 to serve as focal point in the administrative structure of the government for planning, promoting and coordinating environmental and forestry programmes across the country.

The objective of the Ministry of Environment and Forest are supported by a set of legislative and regulatory measures that are aimed at the preservation and protection of the Environment. Besides these measures, the Government of India has also evolved a number of mechanisms like –

(i). National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development -1992

(ii). National River Policy-1988

(iii). Policy Statement on Abatement of Pollution -1992

(iv). National Environmental Policy -2006

The objectives and mechanisms of Plans and Programmes of the Ministry are regulated through Environmental Impact Assessment and Forestry Research, Education and Training, Dissemination of Environmental Information, International Cooperation and Creation of Environmental Awareness. While implementing Environmental Policies and Programmes, the Ministry is guided by the principle of Sustainable Development and Enhancement of Human Wellbeing. It also functions as a nodal agency in the country for the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP), and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and for the follow-up of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

The Ministry is also linked to issues relating to Multilateral Bodies such as the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), Global Environment Facility (GEF), and to regional bodies like Economic and Social Council for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), and South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on matters related to Environment and Sustainable Development.

•       The National Environment Policy- 2006

To harmonize the demands for Sustainable Development and Environment, the Ministry has prepared National Environment Policy-2006. The Ministry has already launched the “Eco-mark Scheme” in 1991 for the labelling of Environment Friendly Consumer Products so as to meet the Environmental Criteria along with the quality requirement of the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The National Environmental Policy-2006 observes that, “Environmental degradation is a major causal factor in enhancing and perpetuating poverty, particularly among the rural poor, when such degradation impacts soil fertility, quantity and quality of water, air quality, forests, wildlife and fisheries”.

It declares that, “The dominant theme of this policy is that while conservation of environmental resources is necessary to secure livelihoods and well-being of all, the most secure basis for conservation is to ensure that people dependent on particular resources obtain better livelihoods from the fact of conservation, than from degradation of resources.

For sustainable development it reads, “Sustainable development concerns in the sense of enhancement of human wellbeing, broadly conceived, are a recurring theme in India’s development philosophy”. And, further, “The National Environment Policy……. is intended to mainstream environmental concerns in all development activities”.

Some of the major objectives of National Environmental Policy -2006 are

•       To protect and conserve critical ecological systems and resources, and invaluable natural and man-made heritage, which are essential for life-support, livelihoods, economic growth, and a broad conception of human well-being.

•       To ensure equitable access to environmental resources and quality for all sections of society, and in particular, to ensure that poor communities, which are most dependent on environmental resources for their livelihoods, are assured secure access to these resources.

•       To ensure judicious use of environmental resources, to meet the needs and aspirations of the present and future generations.

•       To integrate environmental concerns into policies, plans, programmes, and projects for economic and social development.

•       To ensure efficient use of environmental resources in the sense of reduction in their use per unit of economic output, and to minimize adverse environmental impacts.

•       To apply the principles of good governance (transparency, rationality, accountability, reduction in time and costs, participation, and regulatory independence) to the management and regulation of use of environmental resources.

•       To ensure higher resource flows, comprising finance, technology, management skills, traditional knowledge, and social capital, for environmental conservation through mutually beneficial multistakeholder partnerships between local communities, public agencies, and the academic and research community, investors, and multilateral and bilateral development partners.

The International Problems concerning Environment and Development require International Solutions. Achieving sustainable development is an international objective. Hence, it needs joint efforts of all the nations of the world. International Agencies and Institutions are joining hands to design, develop and implement International Programmes for Sustainable Development.

The objectives of the International Environmental Programmes is the integration of issues pertaining to environment and development at local, regional, national and International levels so as to enable all the nations of the world achieve sustainable development.

On International Level United Nations, specialized Agencies of United Nations, International Political Alliance and associations etc. are playing important roles in the field of environment towards sustainable development. Here is a brief description to this effect.

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