“The earth is what we all have in common.” —Wendell Berry.
The above quote by Wendell Berry is quite simple but holds a significant amount of force behind it. The lives of human beings are dependent on the environment, without it, humankind cannot survive. One must not ignore the fact that environmental degradation is happening at a faster rate than ever. The ignorance of such problems will ultimately bring about a downfall of humankind, and thus such problems require immediate attention.
The article highlights these problems along with the significance of the Right to Life in relation with a clean environment, the need and requirement of innovative ways to help our farmers provide us with clean and healthy vegetables while keeping the soil degradation and use of chemicals at a bare minimum, and also looks into the cases of M.C. Mehta who single-handedly fought to cure the environmental problems in India.
The importance of Sustainable Development is significant, as it not only paves the way towards a stable economic growth but helps keep the state of the world at a fairly healthy level. Environmental Degradation is one of the major shortcomings of such growth, as ultimately because of the big industries, the environment at large is affected.
The development is necessary and inevitable, but so is the protection of the land we walk on and the air we breathe. One of the main causes of Air pollution in India is due to the large population. Such a large population in return requires proper housing, which in turn requires land, or for developmental activities, one of the examples being cutting down of forest for the railway lines.
However, it is not just the human-made activities that cause pollution; sometimes it’s the natural calamities as well such as forest fire or volcanic eruption, which causes ashes to fall from the sky and is detrimental to the health and environment. However, to get a precise meaning of what environmental pollution is, it is defined as follows:
“The presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant”, whereas the term Environment Pollutant is defined as any particle, whether it is solid, liquid, or gaseous which is injurious to the environment.
Due to such a rise in the environmental pollution as a consequence of the development activities, the need for a cleaner environment awareness is needed, in this regard, the Earth Day has been celebrated every year, on April 22nd and marks as an important day to spread awareness about Environmental Problems. Billions of people, all across the world, on this day, try to make a change by doing something positive for the environment, whether it is by riding a bike to work, planting a tree, or implementation reusable bags in their day to day activities.
IMPACT OF PESTICIDE ON ENVIRONMENT
Environnement Pollution covers the different field and is generally divided into the following categories:
- Air Pollution
- Water Pollution
- Food Pollution
- Land and Soil Pollution
- Noise Pollution
- Thermal Pollution
- Nuclear or Radioactive Pollution
The Indian legislature has enacted different acts to deal with the different kinds of pollution, with the acts defining what each type of pollution is, how does the state deals with the Industries or people causing such pollution, and setting a limit for the same. The acts go in-depth regarding the procedure which any industry has to follow when dealing with an economic activity that is detrimental to the environment in its area. But what about the use of Pesticides in the Agricultural Field?
Pesticides form one of the essential chemical products which any farmer has to invest in. They serve to give way for pest mitigation in the agricultural field. There is a general myth around the use of pesticides, the whole basis of which is that the food production will be drastically low without the use of such chemicals, but this was put to rest by UN experts which brought attention to the harmful effects of the pesticides on the environment, generally relating to the soil degradation, contamination of water, and food products.
Pesticides have a significant impact on the environment from their usage, and it is in the following ways
This usually happens in two levels – Surface Water Contamination and Groundwater Contamination. The first part usually happens when the pesticide runs off from the infected plants, or the plants the said chemical is sprayed on and mixes with the water in the vicinity. Whereas, groundwater contamination is predominant since the early usage of pesticides. This happens when there is a residue that is left behind by the chemicals, and reports have shown that the residue has been found in the North-eastern parts of the country whereby, at least 90% groundwater samples and 82% surface water samples contained DDT, which is a chemical used in the pesticide.
The use of pesticides also results in the toxic compounds and chemical build up on the surface of the soil, which makes the soil infertile for more planting. Researchers have found a mixture and residue of pesticides in the soil, ranging from chlordane and endosulfan. Such overuse of the chemicals results ultimately drops the quality of the soil, as it kills all the healthy bacteria and fungi, killing the microorganisms present in the soil affects the plants, as they rely on them to transform the nitrogen into nitrates which is essential for healthy growth.
Pesticide sprays are generally the cause of Air Pollution, as the air can become a carrier for the chemicals that are sprayed, which in turn will spread them to the nearby areas or towns. One of the examples of such a case is the use of phenoxy herbicides which can be lethal to the nearby environment.
Thus, the implementation of pesticides by the farmers in their day to day agricultural activities is predominant even in India, however, there can be a better alternative to such an old practice, as the harm caused by the chemicals far exceeds the benefits of their usage.
PLANT BREEDING & PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION
The use of organic farming is considered a better alternative and forms the basis of one of the most effective solutions to the ever-growing use of pesticides. Agriculture holds one of the main sources of income for the majority of the households in India, with the country holding the 2nd rank in terms of Agricultural Output in the whole world. Thus, agriculture is pivotal for the growth of the Indian economy.
The other way to tackle the problem is by investing in better quality seeds that are more resistant to disease and pests, which the farmers generally fight using the chemicals and pesticides. The pressure on the environment will drastically be decreased with the usage of such better-quality seeds. However, breeding new plants and a better variety of seeds is a time-consuming process, and the breeders should be incentivized for the time and effort they put into the process.
The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001 aims to deal with such cases. The Act incentivizes the breeders and protects their rights, and gives them a way to get proper compensation for their time and effort they put into developing new varieties of plants. The act also goes in-depth about the process of registration, the duration, and effect of such registration, and the rights of the farmers. The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants expands on this idea and encourages breeding in all genera and species.
The end goal of any plant breeding is to create a new species that is resistant to all forms of diseases and pests, however for years the scientists and breeders have tried to achieve the goal, but such a feat is not possible with the current technology. Thus, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001 provides legal support to the whole innovative process.
The concept of the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) is taken into consideration when deciding cases related to Environmental Pollution, to minimize the damages that are done to the environment by an industry’s activities. The whole premise of PPP is set on the principles given in the 1992 Rio Declaration, whereby any industry or factory which dumps any kind of waste in the river or emits any harmful gases in the environment, thereby harming the nearby ecology, must compensate and pay for the same. Even in India, this concept has been given the utmost recognition, and thus pollution is considered to be a civil wrong and tort against the community as a whole.
The right to a clean environment is considered as a basic human right under Article 21 of the Constitution which talks about the Right to Life. Thus, the Supreme Court in the case of Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar held that:
“Right to life is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution and it includes the right of enjoyment of pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of life.”
The development of a country can be done along with the protection of the environment, both sides must be given equal importance and should co-exist together for the healthier development of a country. This view has been brought forward by the Supreme Court in the case of M.C Mehta v Union of India.
The current pandemic situation that the world is engulfed in has reduced the overall pollution level across the board. India has seen significantly low levels of air pollution as not many vehicles are being used due to the countrywide lockdown that was enforced. This can be a positive change for the environment, as the whole country can take steps towards keeping the emission level of harmful gases from the use of vehicles as low as possible, and apply new means of waste management through recycling and organic farming.
Better quality seeds need to be developed as well, and incentivized, as the requirement of food supply will be increased in the upcoming years with the increase in the population of the country. The breeders need to be given ample resources for the same and properly compensated for their time and knowledge they put in the development of such pest resistance and high yielding variety seeds.
Thus, sustainable development is what the country needs for the survival of the future generation and better utilization of the available resources of the country.
Vaibhav Jairath | JIMS School of Law
Akhil Mishra | Amity Law School
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