People’s participation in environment conservation

It starts from ‘US’

The famous Chipko movement is a tale that every child in India knows about. It’s a story of real life heroes who were ready to compromise their lives to protect Mother Nature. A similar movement called Apikko movement was led in South India with the same pious intentions. Nature is revered in India and it forms an integral part of our religious and cultural beliefs. Sadly today that knowledge vanished in thin air and the unsustainable lifestyle, in an urge to mimic the west blindly took a heavy toll on our environment. It all started way back in 1760s when industrial revolution saw a sunrise. Since then humanity committed many mistakes, few of them even irreversible. However soon we realised the effects of global warming and climate change. Scientific evidence supported our ‘theory of doom’. Today we stand at a crossroads where we can either try to eliminate the adverse effects of climate change or leave our world without hope for the generation next.
Governments are trying to do what they do best that is, make policies, debate, invest in green projects. This lip service and paperwork cannot change the situation. It will take the force of every last human that breathes the air, quenches the thirst for water from nature or just exist. This fact is understood by children who have become eco-warriors. Few names in the Hall of Fame include Greta Thunberg from Sweden, Ridhima Pandey from India and many others. They all made a clarion call for the governments to come together as well as people to take a pledge to act sustainably.
People’s participation in environmental restoration has many success stories. Beej bachao andolan of Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, Silent valley movement and Narmada Bachao Andolan and other famous movements that saw popular participation of people.
Principle 10 of the Rio declaration recognises public participation. It states that environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. It encourages states to facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy shall be provided.
Environmental issues are closely linked to the rights of indigenous people or the tribal population. As a citizen they have right to live in a healthy environment under article 21 of the constitution of India and as indigenous people they have the right to protect and manage natural resources located on traditional indigenous lands. The latter right as mentioned in the Forest conservation act, 1980.
In India environment impact assessment (EIA) also has an important component of public participation. The provisions for environment impact assessment are given under the Environment (Protection) act 1986. It describes the process followed under EIA. Public hearing is a notable feature. There are a few drawbacks in the present EIA policy. For example, the public hearing is carried out at a very late stage. Also, a large number of projects have been excluded from the mandatory public hearing process. Few amendments are required in this respect.
The bottomline is that legal tools for public participation in environmental restoration are available albeit, there is need to strengthen them. The main actor here, is the public . An aware and enthusiastic public can bring the much needed change. It starts from ‘US’.