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Environmental Accountability: The Implementation of Polluter Pays Principle in India's Legal Framework

Everything which surrounds us is environment. There's always a constant pedestal between environmental preservation and development. Environmental concerns are an inevitable trade:off in progress. Global warming, climate change, ecological degradation, and resource shortages are only few of the many negative outcomes that have been attributed to pollution, a worldwide problem.

As we delve into the complex web of human industry, we face the hideous realities that exist behind the surface of development in this exposure of industrial pollution, which takes us on an emotional journey through its many effects. From the barren wasteland left behind by unregulated mining to the heartbreaking stories of towns decimated by the onslaught of industrialization, we face the urgent need to balance our ambitions for wealth with the responsibility to protect the environment. With the advent of Industrial Revolution, the environment has been subject to a multitude of dangers like carbon emissions, air pollution, combustion of fossil fuels, soil degradation, and many more. Every coin has two sides to it.

Pros and drawbacks of the Industrial Revolution are also included. On the one hand, the Industrial Revolution has brought forth numerous improvements to people's lives in the twenty:first century. However, regrettably, industrial pollution is a result of the industrial revolution. The industrial pollution is affecting the environment at heavy costs and both society and human health is paying heavy prices because of dangerous situation for present as well as future generations.

Any form of pollution that can trace its immediate source to industrial practices is known as industrial pollution. Radical improvements and adjustments have been required in the sector as nations move to a more sustainable future. Despite significant progress in reducing emissions by 2040% and energy consumption by 6%, pollution in the industry is still rising.

Reasons for Industrial Pollution

There are various factors which causes industrial pollution. Some of the causes are as follows:
  1. Unplanned Industrial Growth: The phrase "unplanned" adequately captures the entirety of the causes of industrial pollution. With the rapid expansion of factories, rules or norms, systematic foresight or regulation, and environment, everything is flouted. This unchecked proliferation often leads to environmental degradation, including pollution, habitat destruction, and resource depletion.

    Socially, it contributes to urban sprawl, overcrowding, and inadequate infrastructure, exacerbating inequalities and straining communities. Economically, unplanned growth can result in inefficiencies, overreliance on finite resources, and vulnerability to economic shocks. Addressing unplanned industrial growth necessitates comprehensive urban planning, stringent environmental regulations, and sustainable development practices. By prioritizing long:term sustainability and equitable growth, societies can mitigate the adverse impacts of unplanned industrial expansion and foster resilient, thriving communities for generations to come.
  2. Use of traditional technologies: There is still a lot of factories/industries which rely on outdated technologies. To avoid high cost and expenditure, industries continue using outdated technologies which in turn, generates ample amount of waste. Some ancient tools emit smoke in large quantity which causes air pollution. These ancient technologies are less efficient and as a result requires lot of energy to operate. The heightened consumption of resources may precipitate an escalation in the extraction, refinement, and conveyance of raw materials, thereby exacerbating environmental degradation and pollution.
  3. Improper Waste Disposal: There are several problems in disposing waste material released by industries. Sometimes industries don't have efficient waste management system and eventually every untreated or improperly treated waste is just drained off into the environment which pollutes water, degrades the soil, and causes pollution. The serious health risks associated with improper disposal of waste pose a significant threat to human well:being, particularly as we depend on nature for sustenance and livelihoods.
  4. Leaching of Resources from environment: Generally a lot of raw materials consumed by the industries are extracted from natural surroundings. For example, deforestation is done to clear up lands, using woods and timber for industrial purposes, animals end up losing their homes, rivers are drying up, etc. In case of extraction of radioactive materials, a lot of it leaks out or is discharged as radiation. Much of the pollution in the ocean comes from oil spills that happen while ships are in transit.

Effects of Industrial Pollution on environment
  1. Global warming: Global warming, an ongoing environmental phenomenon, is primarily attributed to the exponential increase in industrial pollution. The release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere has intensified the Earth's natural greenhouse effect, trapping heat and causing temperatures to rise, which in turn results in melting of glaciers, rise in sea level, hurricane, droughts, etc. Industrial activities, including burning fossil fuels for energy production, transportation, and manufacturing processes, are major contributors to this pollution.
  2. Atmospheric Deposition: Industrial processes produce fine particles of dust, soot, and other solid materials that are suspended in the air. Burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil, releases sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. These gases can react with other compounds to form secondary pollutants such as sulfuric acid and nitric acid, contributing to acid rain and smog formation and these gases like carbon monoxide can impair lung function and contribute to the development of ground-level ozone.
  3. Water Pollution: A lot of chemicals waste from factories are released into water bodies. This contaminates drinking water bodies, and leads to soil erosion. Water is used as a cooling agent in many industrial operations. By lowering oxygen levels and changing the habitat of aquatic creatures, this water can disturb aquatic ecosystems when it is released back into bodies of water at high temperatures.
  4. Loss of Biodiversity: Industrial pollutants have the ability to accumulate in organisms and infiltrate food chains, a process known as bioaccumulation and biomagnification. As a result, top predators may have greater pollution concentrations, which could eventually affect biodiversity by causing population decreases and reproductive problems. Keystone species are essential to preserving the structure and function of ecosystems, and their extinction or decline is caused by industrial contamination.
  5. Wildlife Extinction: Because mutagenic compounds are released into the environment, industrial pollution can cause genetic mutations and deformities in wildlife populations. Pollution also causes disruption in food chain and food webs, impacting the availability of food resources for wildlife.
As from the above discussion, it can be seen how industrial pollution proves to be fatal to the environment. But, one truth that can't be denied is development can't be put hold to. However, environmental preservation is of prime importance. The Indian judiciary system, with time to time, adopted various measures, prompted through international obligations, as a solution to this never-ending conflict between environment and development.

Various international obligations like precautionary principle, public trust doctrine has been recognized by Indian legislature. One such method and technique used to reduce possible atmospheric risk is the 'Polluter Pay Principle'. This principle, in its literal sense, means the one who will pollute the environment, will pay for it as compensation. This principle was first introduced by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1972. The OECD's guiding principle stated that "the cost of pollution should be reflected in the price of the product."

It was also recognised in Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change under Principle 16 as:
National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.

Polluter Pay Principle in India

In 2010 with the enactment of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (NGT Act), a specific forum was created for addressing environmental disputes in India. The concept of this principle received a statutory recognition here. The NGT Act explicitly states this as a guiding principle while passing any order, decision or award by the NGT. The compensation and restitution that the NGT may award under this statute is defined in terms of compensation to the victims of the pollution and environmental damage, restitution of property damaged and of the environment. The application of this principle is contingent on defining pollution and identifying one or more polluters.

The term 'pollution' as defined in three major pollution related laws in India (The Environment Protection Act, 1986, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981) which prescribe certain constitutive elements' presence of 'any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to environment.

Thus, 'pollution' in law is distinct from pollution as understood in common parlance. It requires a certain level of 'concentration' of pollutants and must be 'injurious' to human beings, their property or the environment. The threshold limit of this 'concentration' of pollutants is supposed to be fixed on the basis of scientific information and analysis. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution emphasises on the basic right of every Indian inhabitant, which is right to life and personal liberty. As simple as it can be put, polluting the surroundings of a locality would take away the basic right from the inhabitant.

Pollution being the inevitable part of industrialization, community participation for protection of the environment is a duty of every citizen. Hence, the right to community participation for protection of the environment is considered to flow from Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Application of Polluter Pay Principle in India

The application of PPP is contingent on defining pollution and identifying one or more polluters. The Indian Judiciary has incorporated the Polluter Pays Principle as being a part of the Environmental Law regime is evident from the judgments passed: A. Indian Council for Enviro:Legal Action vs. Union of India 1996(3) SCC 212 In India, the 'polluter pays principle' was in this case for the first time. The Indian Council for Environmental Legal Action has filed a writ petition to address the pollution in Bichhri Village, Rajasthan, caused by chemical industries.

The defendants in this case were generating hazardous waste discharge in the area, which was not adequately treated by these plants. The pollution affected water, air, soil, and other resources. The Court decided that regardless of whether an individual takes reasonable precautions when conducting their activity, they are nevertheless responsible for compensating any third party for losses they may have caused. This applies to any activity that is hazardous or intrinsically harmful. The sheer nature of the action is the basis for the regulation. Justice Dalveer Bhandari concluded that the industrial process includes rectifying the ecological imbalance.

Thus, the industry that generated pollution should have the financial obligation for implementing pollution prevention and control measures. The government cannot bear the financial responsibility of both preventing and fixing the dent. B. Vellore Citizens' Welfare Forum vs. Union of India 1996(5) SCC 647 The Court read the Polluter Pays Principle to suggest that in addition to compensating the victims of pollution, the expense of repairing environmental deterioration is also covered by absolute culpability for harm to the environment.

As part of the "Sustainable Development" process, remediation of the damaged environment is required, and as such, the polluter bears financial responsibility for both compensating the affected parties individually and repairing the ecosystem." C. M. C. Mehta vs Union of India 1987 SC 1086 The Court ruled that an enterprise engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous industry that poses a potential threat to the health and safety of those working in the factory and those living in the surrounding areas owes an absolute and non-delegable duty to the community to ensure that no harm is caused to anyone as a result of the hazardous or inherently dangerous nature of the activity that it has undertaken.

The company is entirely obligated to recompense for such harm, regardless of any reasonable care done on his behalf. The larger and more profitable the firm, the greater the amount of compensation payable for the harm caused by an accident in the carrying out of the risky job. D. Dr. Karan Singh v. State of Himachal Pradesh 2013.

In this case the NGT directed that, the Municipal Corporation of Shimla and Solan may consider the collection of proper monetary contribution for disposal of Municipal Solid Waste depending on the kind and size of the houses on the principle of Polluter Pays and charge such amounts as it may deem fit to the households within their limits.

There are various such judgements on the application of said principle in Indian Judiciary System. The Supreme Court has given several directives and legislative rules to safeguard the environment through public interest litigation. It is continually striving to fill the gaps created by law. The Supreme Court's judicial activism led to the development of innovative environmental protection measures. Judicial activism has led to new ways to serve the country. India's courts recognize the need of protecting environmental rights, as natural resources cannot be replenished.

Although there is no regulatory requirement for the 'polluter pays principle', nonetheless, it takes more work to comply with the idea than to mandate it. This principle has partially mitigated environmental harm, but it is still insufficient due to uncertainty in identifying the real polluter. Polluters may be part of the "production chain," making it challenging to hold them accountable for pollution caused. Courts assess the extent and contribution to pollution.

Furthermore, compensation for environmental harm remains low in contrast to the real loss. Clearer procedures for implementing the said principle would be helpful in the long term. In the twenty-first century, the old paradigm of development and ecological balance is no longer valid. Yet, destroying nature in the name of progress is no longer acceptable.

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