Currently, around 188 countries out of 197 countries are fighting tooth and nail with the
draconic pandemic called ‘Covid-19’. Globally, this pandemic has claimed almost 881,000
lives with 27 million people struggling for their lives and these data are surging with a rapid
rate. According to the zoologists, this virus has its origin in bats but deep down we all know
that we have meddled way too far in the environment and now the environment is showing its
dissent. In the last 50 years alone, the human population has doubled and the global economy
has almost quadrupled. Rapid migration from rural to urban areas and creation of new urban
centres has affected demographics, lifestyles and consumer behaviour. 1 Increase in Earth’s
temperature and humidity, which is a result of green-house gases emission, is increasing the
survival rate of various deadly microbes.
The need to save the nature was felt several years before this pandemic and the reaction of all
the states was environment laws and legislations. Environmental law is a collective term
encompassing aspects of the law that provide protection to the environment. 2 These laws help
the state in striking a balance between the needs of the people and the preservation of the
nature. In the time of commercialisation and globalisation, environmental law has become an
indispensible matter for all the states.
Now the question arises is despite such awareness and robust environmental law structure,
why are we still failing miserably in saving our environment. There could be multiple
answers to this question but this article will focus on only one of them i.e. the failure of
developing countries in implementing the environmental laws. To answer this question
effectively, understanding of environmental laws is very essential.
- Environmental Laws
The issue of environment has always held a peculiar position in the Indian history. Vedas and
Upanishads have put great emphasis on the relationship between human and nature and how
indebted humans are for all the resources. Likewise, all the religions acknowledge the
1 Science points to causes of Covid-19, UNEO https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/science-
2 Phillipe Sands (2003) Principles of International Environmental Law. 2nd Edition. Accessed 19 February,
importance of nature and provide provisions to preserve environment from degradation.
These provisions were enforced whenever a person tried to meddle with the balance of
nature. With the advent of modern technologies and inventions, these provisions became
obsolete and the need of new laws was felt. Increasing pollution and depletion of
environment was not a problem of single state but was a global concern. Therefore, all the
states came together and formed the environmental law that we are using right now. 3 Later,
conventions like “Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment” 4 , Basel Convention
1989 5 , Earth Summit 1992 6 gave concrete shape to the Environmental Law.
Now we can sum up Environmental law as “all the policies, rules, regulations and directives
issued by an authority to regulate the interference of human beings with the working of
- Why Environmental Laws are not effective in developing countries?
The environmental laws differ from country to country on the basis of its social, economic
and political factors. Each environment problem is given priority according to the customs
and tradition of the country. The importance of environment varies according to the social
setup of the countries as when a country is suffering from malnutrition, diseases, illiteracy,
internal disturbance, we cannot expect it to put environmental issue in the forefront. In the
same way, economic setup of a country also affects its approach towards the environment
degradation. As real income per capita rises, so does the propensity to allocate scarce
resources to reducing environment damage. 7 It means that the developed countries have more
capacity to allocate resources than the developing or less developed countries. Then it enters
the political sphere of a country where elements like structure, representativeness,
accessibility and prevalent ideology of the political system affect the policy making. The
primary problem with environment law is not the varying social system or economic
constraint but the wrong structural and conceptual approach of the policy makers.
3 Ahmad, Furqan. “ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW IN INDIA.” Journal of the Indian
Law Institute, vol. 43, no. 3, 2001, pp. 358–387. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43951782. Accessed 8 Sept.
4 The Stockholm Declaration of the United Nation Conference on the Human Environment was adopted on June
16 th 1992. See Report of the United Nation Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm (1972) (UN
Doc. A/Conf. 48/14 (1972)); See also, 11 ILM 1416 (1972).
5 The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
was opened for signature on 22 March 1989, and entered into force on 5 May 1992. As of October 2018, 186
states and the European Union are parties to the Convention
6 Held from June 3-14, 1992 at Rio de Janerio where more than 170 countries participated. See, “Earth Summit”
32 ILM 882 (1992).
7 Brazil Enacting Pollution Curbs, New York Times, March 11 1973.
Environmental law should not be seen as a new concept or approach but it should be
considered as a part of resource management which is integrated with effective ecosystem
3.1 Specific problems in Developing Countries
3.1.1 Increasing Population – According to the majority of people, environmental
degradation means pollution, no more no less. Whereas factors like
overpopulation, are causing similar amount of harm to our environment.
Increasing population leads to scarce resources, this in turn leads to over-
exploitation of the resources. It also puts issues like hunger and unemployment in
the forefront, overshadowing the global environmental concerns.
3.1.2 Borrowed Development Planning – Developing countries usually adopt the
policy used by industrialised countries rather than adopting the policy which
would fulfil their needs. These policies usually involve export of technologies by
developed countries and their need of raw material is given priority. This result in
development of large scale industries which would benefit the urban areas. Rural
areas are left with few resources in the field of health, education, sanitation etc.
3.1.3 Mass Migration – Due to point 3.1.2, exodus from rural to urban area takes place
in the search of job, food or any other opportunity. This increases air, water and
noise pollution to a level where the municipal services become useless in solving
3.1.4 Legal Framework – Usually the legal framework of developing countries is very
outdated or covers only a small portion of contemporary issues. Law makers are
usually not familiar with the concept of ecomanagement and hence do not see the
need for including it in their legal framework.
Inadequate integration of related sectors like agriculture, forestry and water
resources leads to scattering of resources in different buildings.
4.1 Organic Legislation – It is a type of framework whose main purpose is to make; i.
overall coherent policy, ii. Implementation procedure, iii. A central organ for policy
development and monitoring. If there is already an environmental legislation, it
should be converted into an organic one.
4.2 Sectorial Changes – Changes in all the sectors should be brought according to the
policies made under point 4.1.
4.3 Fast track implementation – Usually, new laws remain in paper only as
implementation is delayed for several years. Hence every possible step should be
taken to fasten the implementation process.
4.4 Regular check-up – Regular inputs should be received from the environmental
department so as to fill any gap shortly after it emerges.
Author- Aditi Dubey