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Environment Conservation and Individual Role

India is the world’s second most populated country and it is estimated that by 2027 India would become the world’s most populated country[1]. Thereby there is a dire need for protection of the environment so that the huge population can be sustained in the near future. Environmental conservation basically means and includes anything that we do to protect and conserve the natural resources of the earth so that every living thing has improved quality of life. The necessity for protection and conservation of the environment has been reflected in the constitution as well as in the international obligations that India has taken.


The preamble of the constitution defines India as a “socialistic” [2] country, which basically imposes a duty on the state to solve social problems and establish social order and there is no bigger social problem in India than the protection of the environment. Article 48(A) [3] specifies that the state should endeavour to improve, conserve and protect wildlife and forest in the country. Thereby, we can conclude that the state has the responsibility to conserve the environment, but an important question that crops up is “What is the role of an individual in conserving the environment?”.


CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS RELATING TO ROLE OF AN INDIVIDUAL

Article 21[4] defines the right to life and personal liberty and it includes the right to the pollution-free environment[5]. In the case of M.C. Mehta v. State of Orissa [6], it was held that there cannot be any right that can exist in isolation, there is always a duty that is attached to the right. So if there is any environment degradation that affects the lives of the people then it is the duty of the citizens to conserve and protect the environment.


Article 51-A(g) [7] states that every citizen of India is duty-bound to protect and improve the natural environment which includes lakes, forests, rivers and wildlife and also to have compassion for all living creatures. In the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of UP [8], the apex court held that the conservation of the environment is not only the responsibility of the state, but the citizens under Article 51-A(g) are also given the responsibility of conserving and protecting the environment.


EXAMPLES OF INDIVIDUALS MAKING A CHANGE

The role of an individual is of paramount importance for conserving the environment as the state can only formulate policies but for proper implementation, the participation of the public is the most important factor. Any change in society is very gradual and this change can only be sustained when each and every individual contributes to that change. There have been various examples where an individual has made a difference and saved the environment. In a remote village of Assam, Padma Shree awardee, Jadav “Molai” Payeng, has single-handedly planted a forest on Majuli Island. Scientists had predicted that the island would die as it had been hit by a brought, but Molai started planting trees on the island and did so for 35 years and finally, the island turned into a forest spanning over 1,360 acres[9]. Another such individual is Moirangthem Loiya from Manipur, he has converted a barren land into a 300-acre forest in the Langol hill range. 10 Loiya has been working for over 17 years for the protection of the forest and his efforts have led to the whole community helping him, thus we see how by the efforts of an individual the whole society can change and conserve the environment.


India has seen various movements where people have come together to safe and conserve the environment. The Chipko Movement was one such movement where due to the collective mobilisation of women, massive deforestation was stopped. During the movement in Chamoli district, villagers hugged trees to prevent them from being cut[11]. Another such social movement was the Narmada Bachao Andolan which was headed by the native tribals and human rights activists against the growing number of large dam projects across river Narmada. The leaders of the movement, Medha Patkar and Baba Amte were given the Right to livelihood award[12].


ROLE OF AN INDIVIDUAL IN CONSERVING ENVIRONMENT

An individual can make a huge difference in society. The role of each and every citizen of the country in conserving the environment is of paramount importance. So what can we do as individuals to conserve the environment:


1. A very simple and efficient step to conserve the environment is car-pooling, this not only reduces the emission from different vehicles but also reduces the traffic jams and the burning of fossil fuels, thereby protecting the environment.


2. Every individual has the right to file a complaint against environmental degradation or pollution to the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The NGT was formed in the year 2010 to keep a check on pollution and to ensure that we live in a healthy environment. Also, individuals can approach different forums for registering complaints, thereby each one of should be aware of the legal methods that we can use to conserve the environment.


3. By using public transport.


4. By reducing the amount of paper in our lives. 40% of the world’s commercially cut timber is used for the production of paper [13], hence by reducing the amount of paper used we can make a huge difference.


5. Recycle, reuse, and reduce: Each one of us can follow these three simple techniques and conserve the environment.


6. Every one of us can create awareness about environmental conservation and this can help us develop a society where everyone contributes towards the protection and conservation of the environment.


7. Every citizen can play a role in controlling the population and thereby reduce the burden on natural resources.


8. By cycling and walking, we can reduce carbon emissions as well as take care of our health and conserve the environment.


9. One difference that every citizen can make is to “Vote” wisely. We need to elect representatives who are passionate about conserving the environment, by doing so we will take a huge step towards environmental conservation.


10. Lastly and most importantly we should all shrive for a sustainable lifestyle and promote the idea of sustainable development, whereby we use our resources in such a way that the future generations can also meet their own needs.


CONCLUSION

Society as a whole constitutes each and every individual and the role of an individual in conservation of environment cannot be undermined. In India, environmental conservation has been a culture that is being lost in the present times. From the times of the Indus Valley Civilization, Indians have been worshipping environment and our religious texts also tell us to protect the environment. We have seen through various examples that an individual can make a huge change in conserving the environment. Indians are socially very active and we seek inspiration from each other and that is how the idea of conservation of environment spreads through the efforts of an individual.


The government can only make schemes for the protection of the environment but for making these schemes successful we all as individuals need to take this issue and work for it so that the effects of such schemes are long-lived and sustained. Every citizen should play his/her role for the conservation of environment as the air, water, land, etc around us is ours and we need to take up the responsibility of conserving it and giving it to our future generations. We need to make the right choices in terms of our lifestyle and our representatives so that we can come together and conserve the environment.


ENDNOTES

[1] In just 8 years, India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country: UN report, The Hindu Business Line, (July 1, 2.30 PM), https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/india-will-overtake-china-as-worlds-most-populous-country-in-2027-un-report/article28021947.ece.

[2] The word “socialist” was added to the preamble by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 vide (w.e.f. 3-1-1977). However, the “socialism” has always been the goal of the Indian Constitution, even prior to the amendment of 1976, as is evident from the directive principles of the state policy. See Sanjeev Coke Mfg. Co.v. Union of India, AIR 1983 S.C. 239 at 251.

[3] INDIA CONS.

[4] Id.

[5] Ratlam Municipality v. Vardhichand, AIR 1980 SC 1622.

[6] AIR 1992 Ori 225.

[7] INDIA CONS.

[8] 1985 AIR 652.

[9] This Indian man planted a tree every day for 35 years. The result is unbelievable, India Today,(July 2, 3.00 PM), https://www.indiatoday.in/lifestyle/what-s-hot/story/this-indian-man-planted-a-tree-every-day-for-35-years-the-result-is-unbelievable-1309563-2018-08-09

[10] Manipur Man Dedicates 17 Years of His Life to Grow 300-acre Forest by Himself, News 18,(July 3, 3.30 PM), https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/man-dedicates-17-years-to-plant-a-300-acre-forest-all-by-himself-in-manipur-2291073.html

[11] What is the Chipko movement?, The Indian Express,(July 3, 4.00 PM), https://indianexpress.com/article/what-is/what-is-the-chipko-movement-google-doodle-5111644/#.

[12] “Medha Patkar and Baba Amte / Narmada Bachao AndolanThe Right Livelihood Award”, www.rightlivelihoodaward.org

[13] A useful but wasteful product, The World Counts, (July 4, 3.00 PM), https://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/Environmental_Impact_of_Paper_Production.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This blog has been authored by Raghav Rahinwal who is a 3rd Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at Chanakya National Law University, Patna.


[PUBLICATION NO. TLG_BLOG_20_2404]

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