Need for effective laws on clean environment urged

Urban waste
Urban waste in Delhi from 400 to 600 tonnes in the late 1990s to the present 1,700 tonnes per day (representative image).

New Delhi: Emphasising the need for inexpensive and expeditious environmental justice to mitigate the effects of climate change, Justice Swatanter Kumar, former Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal also called for proper environmental impact assessments to address issues relating to climate change.

He was addressing a Conference on `Adapting Environmental Laws for Effective Climate Response' organised by the O P Jindal Global University (JGU) in association with WWF India here.

Justice Kumar asserted that climate change is not an abstract concept but a direct consequence of human activity on earth. He expressed serious concern over receding of glaciers, deforestation, toxic waste arising out of ship-breaking and non-implementation of existing laws.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Justice Kumar emphasised that we need to hand over the Earth to the next generation in a better state of health. Drawing a parallel between environment and time, he stressed the need for urgent action.

Referring to the enormous growth in the urban waste in Delhi from 400 to 600 tonnes in the late 1990s to the present 1,700 tonnes per day, Justice Kumar observed that proper collection, segregation and treatment are required. He expressed serious concern over the fact that 40 per cent of this waste is not collected properly.

Justice Swantantra Kumar also stressed the need for sensitisation of judges, bureaucracy and social awareness at all levels. Referring to the impact of increase in temperature on the agriculture sector in India on which over 70 per cent of India's population depends, he underscored the need for coordinated efforts. He also emphasised the need for alternate sources of energy.

JGU Founding Vice Chancellor Prof (Dr) C Raj Kumar, underlining the importance of law and its role in fighting climate change said: "The theme of this conference is important for the future of humankind. In many ways, we are facing an existential threat and this threat requires a collective response of humanity, and law as a social institution has always risen up to the occasion in the past."

"The hope is that understanding the need for addressing issues surrounding climate through law is a very important way by which we can build capacities to respond to huge crisis that is impending," he added.

Providing the global perspective, Justice Michael D. Wilson, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Hawaii, in his keynote address, cited the example of the climate refugees to explain how the issue of environment protection is still awaiting solution.

"One hundred and sixty million Bangladeshis have become climate refugees and had to evacuate their own home-ground. Schools stay shut in Delhi in times of extreme pollution. Tigers face threats of deforestation and climate changes too. These are few examples of the situation. To change it, carbon neutrality, energy conservation and environment protection need to be mandated," he said.

Justice Sabrina McKenna, a Judge of Supreme Court of Hawaii, too brought up case studies to explain the alarming scenario. But she sounded hopeful, saying: "Green tribunals have been a milestone in environmental justice. People can now sue for a clean and happy environment. When people are aware, active and act together and laws are there too, combating climate changes will be easier."