Environmental law is a branch of law that is not talked about a lot, but it is one of the emerging branches in today’s world. This branch deals with a collective term encompassing aspects of the law that provide protection to the environment.
Lawyers strongly influenced by environmental legal principles, focus on the management of specific natural resources, such as forests, fisheries etc.
Most environmental laws fall into a general category of laws known as “command and control”. One of the most important and understandable environmental laws in India has to do with stubble burning.
According to it: “Any non-compliance or contravention of any rules and order of the Commission with respect to this issue, will be an offence punishable with a jail term up to five years or with a fine up to ₹1 crore, or with both.”
The three different levels of environmental law are:
Considering the stubble burning laws in India and after watching the television, what I inferred was that India needs more than laws to stamp out farm fires. With only a couple of weeks between the rice-harvesting season and the start of wheat-sowing, farmers burn the debris to clear their fields quickly for the new crop.
For them, every single day matters.
One of the major challenge caused by stubble burning is air pollution, that has turned from low to severe over the course of the past few years. Burning of crop stubbles is done in violation of bans by state governments.
The worry has to do with the smoke and ash spewed by these fires, a phenomenon that has been gradually choking the national capital even though the vehicle load has somewhat eased because of Covid-19.
Indeed, this is one situation that requires strict action for the benefit of the society because it hurts us in multiple ways. It virtually buries Delhi under a cloud of haze every year, as well as destroys beneficial soil bacteria. Huge quantities of paddy straw converted to manure and many other recycled resources, simply go to waste.
Burning crop residue is a crime under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and the Air and Pollution Control Act (1981). In 2015, the NGT (National Green Tribunal) had banned the burning of crop residue in states like Punjab and Haryana, where the practice is prevalent.
After all this, the court realized that regulatory action won’t be enough to resolve the problem because the majority of the farmers are small ones, who struggle to afford the equipment required to clear stubble from their fields.
Therefore, the court has directed that a sum of ₹100 per 100 kg to be provided, along with farm machinery free of charge, to prevent them from burning crop stubble.
However, such a measure would amount to states having to pay ₹2,000 per acre, to support such operations, besides the additional cost of providing the machines.
Therefore, Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed the hope that a new technology should be developed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and other scientific labs.
For instance, a chemical that when sprayed, will convert the leftover crop into manure; or the conversion of rice straw into bricks to use as biogas, which can substitute pollution-causing substances such as diesel etc.
To elaborate on one such solution, I would say that green fuels are hyped up since the European Union and Japan started moving towards zero-emission. What nobody sees is that India is sitting on a potential goldmine. Thousands of tons of paddy straw can be converted into compressed natural gas.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) already has the storage infrastructure for different crops and should be able to cope with this demand as well. The government is boosting its ethanol blending program, which can go a long way in trimming India’s bloated crude oil import bill.
With respect to India, it has been constantly working to improve its environmental problems as it has signed the Paris Climate Change accord.
Moving on to climate change refugees, there are people specially trained to help environmental migrants i.e., people who are forced to leave their home regions due to sudden changes such as increased drought, a rise in the sea level, disruption of seasonal weather patterns etc.
Currently the major issue these people are facing is climate-induced migration in the Pacific island cities. According to reports, it is said that many small island inhabitants need support in order to adapt to the changing climate; and help to migrate.
The Paris Agreement represents an important opportunity to access such assistance.
The Paris Agreement presents opportunities for countries near the Pacific to put adaptation on an equal basis to curb greenhouse gas emissions, thereby increasing the likelihood of Pacific Islands and being able to access resources.
The Paris Agreement also addresses various other issues and talks about a task force to develop recommendations to avert, minimise and address displacement, related to the adverse impacts of climate change. It also talks about the loss and damage associated with climate change.
Regional integration, with a stronger collaboration on climate change, could strengthen the island’s ability to adapt and facilitate migration in the future.
One more such example is the problem of climate in Syria. Researchers agree that climate change can not be ignored as a reason the once-blossoming country has become a parched, war-torn place.