National Workshop on Environmental Laws and Development Keynote Address

Yoginder K. Alagh, M.P.
Hon'ble Minister for Power and Science & Technology
Government of India
New Delhi

The UN Conference on Environment and Development, the Earth Summit , held at Rio de Janerio in 1992 in the context that life on earth was reaching risky environmental thresholds. In recent years the urgent need for the enactment of legislation on environmental protection and implementation of environment management plans has become evident.

Government is conscious of the direct commitment the Indian Constitution has towards environmental protection. Provision of the (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976. Article 47 lays down that the improvement of Public health is one of the primary duties of state, while Article 48 A says that the State small endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forests and wildlife of the country . According to Article 51A(g) it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, river and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures .

Article 246 of the Constitution of India deals with the subject matter of law enactment by the Parliament and by the Legislatures of Stats and environmental legislative power available under the Union list, State list and Concurrent list. Environmental laws also have certain immunities from judicial scrutiny provided by Article 31A.

There are over 200 environmental laws available in India today in addition to a number of rules, notifications and guidelines. Many provisions dealing with the environment are scatter in pieces and are found in the different enactments in the country. However, the Wild Life Act, The Water Act, The Water Cess Act, The Air Act and The Environment protections Acts between 1972 and 1986 replaced some of the earlier legislations on environment embodied under the Common Law, Municipal Acts, The Factory Acts, Indian Penal Code, and Criminal Procedure Code.

The effective implementation of these acts needs to be ascertained to restore environmental quality and further deterioratution recognising the each fact that the stock of natural assets that from the inheritance of each generation is declining in values, and that the set of commission s call for sustainable development requires development without growth in throughput in terms of energy and natural resources beyond environmental carrying capacity. This can be realised through waste minimisation, value added waste recycling, substituting non-renewable resource base with renewable resources, as also by adopting low and non- waste technologies in all sectors of socio-economic endeavours. Effective implementation is possible only when the relevant pollution parameters can be represented by legally enforceable definitions incorporating quantifiable characteristics. This is particularly essential apropos hazardous waste after endorsing the Basel Convention.

The intellectual preparation for the Environment Conference included initiatives by many groups in different countries, a number of international meetings which preceded the Rio meeting and the various national position papers. However, by far the two most interesting perspectives were from the United Nations itself and from the World Bank. The World Bank views were contained in the World Development Report 1992 on Development and the Environment 1. This was preceded by a set of reports by Herman Daly and his colleges which are fairly detailed and have been widely discussed 2 summary of UN s views in Guide to Agenda 21: A Global Partnership 3 released by the Secretariat of the UN Conference on exercise to this by the UNCED which contained some of the intellectual back up for Agenda 21 abd complementary to it was Hague Report on Sustainable Development: From Concept to Action4. The Netherlands Finance Minister Jan Pronk and the Pakistani economist Mahabul Haq currently with UNDP; released the Huge Report based on their understanding of Hague Symposium held in November, 1991. The experts at The Hague Symposium included Maurice Strong, Kaza Aichi, former Japanese Minister for Global Environment Problems, Nazi Choucri of M.I.T., Gammani Correa, Herman Daly, Taghi Farrar of Iran, Gilbert Gallopin of IASA, Kottantai of USSR, I.Sachs, Gus Speth, U.S.A., Kirit Parikh and Y.K. Alagh, India 5 attended by about 40 leading thinker from all over the world . Pronk and Haq introduced The Hague Report by saying that the Hague Report was to Rio what the FOUNEX Report was to Stockholm a seminal document and exercised a major influence on global thinking on these issue 6

Agenda 21, the Hague Report at the world Development Report are all in agreement that environmental concerns have to be introduced in the core of economic and social policy making. In fact, the major thrust has to be on the concrete policies which make individuals and groups acting as consumers and procedures to play the price for the environmental costs, incentive mechanisms with which they are rewarded for benign environmental action and sustainable outcomes on land and water conservation, introduction of eco-friendly products, energy efficiency, recycling and so on.

The world Development Report sees environmental issues in a techno economic paradigm. There is a major emphasis on supply orientation and on the role ofmarkets. It is a major emphasis on supply orientation and on the role markets. It is not that institutions are excluded but the major focus is on economic reform, on simple and direct rule based intervention in markets and that too only if absolutely necessary, and on the role of improved price signalers. The World Bank emphasizes the need to rely on the use of prices and taxes to encourage conservation. Often simple but blunt policies may be preferable 7. The methodological stance that of economics or at most neo classical economic policy stances. However, specific limitations of received economic theory are recognized, particularly with regard to the well known environmental problems, i.e. externalites, dynamics of technological change particularly for introduction of new products, and pricing of non-renewable resources.

UN studies endorsed the need for market reform and liberalization, particularly trade reform and the removal of oligarchic controls. The environmental problem, however, is also squarely placed within the context of uneven global development and the need to remove poverty and hasten growth in poor countries. The question of a sustainable style of consumption which can be maintained given available real resources is seen as fundamental. The problem is seen as requiring intervention at different levels, global, regional, national and local, in addition to improved supply and the management of markets. The approach is that of received theory of economic policy 8. In this approach policy interventions at different levels or sectors can determine the realization of desired objectives, given the structure of the problem. In fact there is development programmes and distinction between the implementation aspects of environmental problems and local and national aspects as faulty and as such squarely places the problem of the design of development in focus, instead only of the application of simple rules for the solution of partial problems.

India is a signatory to several other international Agreements, prominent amongst these being the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the convention on Wetlands, Convention on Climatic Changes, The Convention for Conservation of Biological Resources, and the Montreal Protocol. India has thus recognized the fact that environment and development issues are global in scale and systemic in nature, and it is prudent on our part to manage those changes that are shaping our common future.

Sectorial policies, especially in resources related sectors such as agriculture, energy, industries and human settlement, which are often formulated with sectoral interests in mind, should appropriately internalize environmental concerns.

On land and Water and the problems of ecologically fragile areas, Agenda 21 seeks comprehensive approach and asks for the implementation of sustainabledevelopment investment plans and strategies at the national level through international co-operation. The Technical Annexe to the Hague Meeting Plonk-Mahabubul Haq paper is by I. Sachs and Commends the Indian agorclimatic approach to land and water development cost in the following words:

"Alagh (1991) gives many examples of watershed development projects with a short-pay-back period. The techniques for such projects are well known and impact at community level would be very favorable. Yet they need public funding for the front-up costs. Alagh argues in favour of an agro-systems in order to overcome the shortcoming of a favoured crop/ region approach 9.

The World Bank also commends the watershed development approach, although their cost estimates are much higher than the front up cost of the Indian case. The World Bank estimates of such cost are US$20,000 per hectare10. Indian estimates are however around Rs.4000 per hectare for land and water development costs for agroforestry purposes and sround Rs.9000 per hectare for such costs for agricultural land for crop purposes at 1987 prices11. They also argue for policy reforms for land and capital markets in rural areas and a vigourous policy of internationalization of the agricultural economy of poor countries.

On industrial technology, Agenda 21 and the Hague meeting more directly argue for the induction of energy efficient technologies, in the development process, particularly in the third world. The United Nations are note commends the kind of proposal made by Rajiv Gandhi at the Non-aligned Summit in Yugoslavia in 1989 to have an international mechanism which makes environmental friendly technology available to the third world. The technical annes to the Hague Meeting commends this proposal as follows:

"The proposal made by the Indian Prime Minister at the summit of Non-aligned countries in Belgrade in September 1989 desserves a careful examination. It called for setting uo a one per thousand tax on the Gross World Product for a fund of sustainable Development that the would finance the research, development and production of environmentally friendly technologies to all those automatic financing with the treatment of science and technology as part of the common heritage of mankind

In this area the World bank s approach is to rely on market based incentive and the need to avoid those regulations which cannot be implemented.

The investment requirement estimates of a sizeable programme by the UnitedNations at $125 billion are higher than World Bank estimate of $75 billion. Both, however, argue that these requirements are in addition to the current level of interational aid. The United nations discussion is more innovative and Hague Report talks of funding mechanisms like emission taxes and entitlements and the like. No wonder the final Rio Declaration literally lifts paragraphs from the Hague Report.

It is useful to look at the India s contribution to such global debates. The press in India has generally been concentrating on the North s contribution, but since these are matter of great importance to the country, on account of its debate would be useful. The beginnings of a debate in the UNCED Conference were there if one juxtaposes the writing of say Darryl de Monte with those of Swaminathan A. Ayyer, both interestingly writing provocatively in the same newspaper. One of my earlist memory was going through the very interesting documentation produced by the Late Pitambar Pant for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi s famous speech at the Stockholm Conference, when I joined the planning commission in 1994 in its PPD. India was one of the major contributors to the concept that poverty removal and therefore development and environmental eoncerns go togather. Poverty is the greatest pollutor . Rio was just the begining of the debate and it was good to hear that India is also now getting its act togather.

It is reported that India s participation in the World Social Summit at Copenhagen was more influencial in particular the contributions on employment and poverty eradication. This would have emarged partly with a more vigorous participation by policy co-ordinating groups lke the planning Commission and the Prime Minister s Office.

Market failure, which result from the failure to allocate resources in the best interest of society, is often due to the non-translation into private cost of the social costs arissing out of environmental degradation from the economic actvities. Such failure can be easily prevented by installing legally based property rights protecting the damaged party as well by introducing liability/ accountability regualtions enforceable upon the polluters.

The workshop recommendations, I am sure will provide

1    World Bank, 1992
2    Pronk and Haq, 1992
3    U.N. UNCED, 1991
4    U.N.D.P., 1992
5    Ibid.,p.2
6    Ibid.,p.2
7    Wold Bank, 1992
8.   Tinbergen,1958
9    I. Sachs, UNFED, 1991, reprinted in nature and resources, Vol. 28, No. 1, 1992
10   World Bank, 1992, ch. 2
11   Alagh, 1991,p.109

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