General Principles in Environment Law

General Principles in Environment Law

The environment is anything or everything that we see around us. Environment can also be known as “a combination of air, water, land, and other living organisms”. The growing population and human activities have led to an imbalance in the ecosystem, which is a matter of great concern. Every country, regardless of its population, development, or region, is concerned about the protection of the environment. To obtain sustainability, two international conferences were held. The first was the Stockholm conference, 1972 which is popularly known as the “Earth summit”. The second international conference was held 20 years later in 1992 at the Sustainable Development “R10 Conference” also known as “R10 Declaration”. The principle of sustainable development was encouraged by the first international conference, i.e., the Stockholm conference in 1972. Sustainable development is fulfilling our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations for our personnel use.

Environment law is the principles, policies, and directives imposed by governing bodies to create barriers on human activities to protect the environment. These laws are strongly influenced by environmental legal principles. For decades, many judges have rendered judgments on serious environmental issues. The courts come up with legal principles and a framework of environmental rights, which have now become an essential part of Indian environmental jurisprudence.

In India, these laws have been enacted to examine air pollution, water pollution, and the protection of forests and wildlife. These laws serve as a guide for judges and decision-makers.

Principles in environmental law: –

Sustainable Development: Economic development that is conducted without depletion of the natural resource.” Sustainable Development”, i.e., there must be a balance between development and ecology. In other words, Sustainable development is an approach to economic planning that aims to encourage economic growth while maintaining the quality of the environment for our later generations. Sustainable Development was first discussed in the Stockholm declaration in 1972. The concept of sustainable development was further discussed in agenda 21 of the UN conference on environment and Development which was held in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, brazil.

Equity: Equity as defined by United Nations Environment Programme to include inter-generational equity and intragenerational equity. Inter-generational equity states that every generation holds the equal right on the resources of the earth whether it is the present generation or the other generation. Intra-generational equity states that every person of the same generation has equal rights over the earth’s resources. The main purpose behind this principle is to ensure that the present generation should not ill–treat the non -renewable resources (which cannot be gained again or used again) to strip the upcoming generation of its benefits.

Precautionary principle: Where the risk of environmental harm cannot be estimated, the precautionary principle permits protective measures to be taken without waiting until the harm takes place. This principle was drawn from the Rio declaration. As principle 15 of the Rio declaration states that “To protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely implemented by the States to the best of their capacity. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a cause for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”.

Polluter pays principle: For decades, this principle has been the dominant principle in environmental law. A person who pollutes the environment is held liable not only for compensating the victim but also for restoring environmental degradation. Once a person is held liable for his/her act, he/she may have to compensate besides the fact where there was a development process or not. Absolute liability may be regulated in such activities. For example: If a factory discharges its waste into natural water bodies or emits its unfiltered gas into the atmosphere, the factory will be held liable and will have to be compensated. 

The prevention principle: this principle requires taking preventive measures and avoids the environmental harm before it occurs as it is easier and cheaper to prevent harm then reacting to environmental harm which has already taken place. Prevention principle includes licensing, authorizing, adoption of strategies and policies, etc.

Sovereignty and responsibility principle: International environment has been evolved between two contrary principles. First principle states that the head of state has authority over natural resources. Second, the environment should not be damaged by the state. However, there is no such absolute liability on the state but a state cannot harm the environment of any other state. Areas beyond limits of national jurisdiction such as high seas are not obtained by one sovereign but these are common heritages of humans. In other words, the global property is open and no sovereign can acquire it. 

Public trust doctrine: This principle states that some resources are conserved for public use. And that resources need to be maintained for public use. The state is a trustee of all-natural resources which are for public use and enjoyment. 

The Doctrine of Public Trust imposes three kinds of Restriction on the state: –

  1. A) The property should not only be used for public purposes, but it should also be available for use by the general public.
  2. B) Property should not be sold at any price.
  3.  C) The property must be maintained for particular kinds of use like fishery, navigation, etc.
Drishti Chhattani
I am a law student pursuing BBA LL.B at ITM University, Raipur. I have a desire to serve the community and to be part of our justice system. I’d always been interested in corporate law and civil law. I love reading, writing, and researching.