A number of important environmental laws have been enacted in the form of Acts for safeguarding the environmental but still we are not able to achieve the target of bringing 33% of land cover under forests and we are losing our wildlife.
The rivers have been turned into open sewers in many places and the air is badly polluted. The status of environment shows that there are drawbacks in environmental legislations and problems in their effective implementation.
Some of the important drawbacks of our Act are as Follows:
(a) Drawbacks of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1975:
The Act is fall out of Stockholm Conference held in 1972 and has locally not involved conservation measures.
1. The ownership certificates for the skin of animals like tiger, leopard etc. are permissible which very often serve as a tool for illegal trading.
2. The wildlife traders in Jammu and Kashmir easily get illegal furs and skins from other states which after making caps; belts etc. are sold or smuggled to other countries.
This is so happening because J & K has its own Wildlife Act and it does not follow the Central Wild Life Act. Moreover hunting and trading of several endangered species is prohibited in other states but is allowed in J & K thereby opening avenues for illegal trading in such animals and articles.
3. The offender of the Act is not subject to very harsh penalties. It is just up to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of Rs. 25,000 or both.
Drawbacks of the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980
This Act has inherited the exploitative and consumerist elements from the Forest laws of British period. It has just transferred the powers from the state to centre to decide the conversation of forest lands to non-forest areas.
Thus the power has been centralized at the top. The Act has failed to attract public support because it has infringed upon the human rights of the poor native people. They argue that the law is concerned in protecting the trees, birds and animals, but it is treating the poor people as marginal. Very poor community participation in the Act remains one of the major drawbacks which affect proper execution of the Act.
The forest-dwelling tribal communities have a rich knowledge about the forest resources, their importance and conservation but, their role and contribution is neither acknowledged nor honored.
Drawbacks of Pollution Related Acts
The power and authority has been given to Central government with little delegation of power to State Government. Excessive centralization very often hinders efficient execution of the provisions of the Acts in the states.
Illegal mining is taking place in forest areas. In Rajasthan alone, about 14,000 cases of illegal mining have been reported. It becomes more difficult to check such activities at the central level.
1. The provision of the penalties in the Act is very insignificant as compared to the damage caused by the big industries due to pollution. The penalty is much less than the cost of the treatment \ pollution control equipments.
2. The Act has not included the “right to information” tor the citizens. This greatly restricts the involvement or participation of general public.
3. The Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 regarded as an Umbrella Act, encompassing the earlier two Acts often seems superfluous due to overlapping areas of jurisdiction.
4. Under section 19, a person cannot directly file a petition in the court on a question of environment and has to give a notice of minimum 60 days to the central government. In case no action is taken by the latter, then alone the person can file a petition which certainly delays the remedial action.
5. Litigation particularly related to environment is very expensive, tedious and difficult since it involves expert testimony, technical knowledge of the issues and terminologies, technical understanding of the unit process, lengthy prosecutions etc.
6. The State Boards very often lack adequate funds and expertise to pursue their objectives.
7. A tendency to seek to exercise gentle pressure on the polluter and out of the court settlements usually hinders the implementation of legal measures.
8. For small units it is very expensive to install Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) or Air Pollution Control devises and sometimes they have no other option but to close the unit. The Act should make some provision for providing subsidies for installing treatment plants or common effluent treatment plants for several small units.
9. The pollution control laws are not backed by sound policy pronouncements or guiding principles.
10. The position of chairman of the boards is usually occupied by political appointee. Hence it is difficult to keep political interference at bay.
11. The policy statement of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (1992) involving public in decision making and facilitating public monitoring of environmental issues has mostly remained on paper.
Environmental policies and laws need to be aimed at democratic decentralization of power, community state partnership, administrative transparency and accountability and more stringent penalties to the offender.
There is also a need for environmental law education and capacity building in environmental issues for managers.