Public awareness plays an important role in the prevention of environmental degradation. Mobilising the masses into taking action when government and state policies fail is essential because of the alarming rate at which climate change and pollution are harming the world. In this article, Shweta Pathania explores the ways in which public awareness can bring a sea change… Read More »

Public awareness plays an important role in the prevention of environmental degradation. Mobilising the masses into taking action when government and state policies fail is essential because of the alarming rate at which climate change and pollution are harming the world. In this article, Shweta Pathania explores the ways in which public awareness can bring a sea change to the environment. “You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them and you help...

Public awareness plays an important role in the prevention of environmental degradation. Mobilising the masses into taking action when government and state policies fail is essential because of the alarming rate at which climate change and pollution are harming the world. In this article, Shweta Pathania explores the ways in which public awareness can bring a sea change to the environment.

“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them and you help them understand that these resources are their own, and they must protect it.” – Wangari Maathai

I. Introduction

The environment is a way of life. Environmental issues are undoubtedly growing significantly and it is essential for every individual to make contributions actively. On an individual level, we can play a vital role in environmental management.

  • Environmental Ethics in the Golden Age:

Since the Vedic times, the main motto of social life has been to live in harmony[1] with nature. The early people respected and cared for nature as they believed that even the non-living are of equal value and have the right to existence. We can understand this from the punishments provided under the Vedic era. Some of them include :

  1. Throwing of waste on public roads – ⅛ panas.[2]
  2. The killing of deer, bird and fish under state protection – 1000 panas.[3]
  • Modern Perspective:

In the enormously competitive modern-day world, man has turned out to be self-centred and selfish. His greed and desires are overshadowing his primary needs. Man has started tampering with nature in very high ambition in the race to move forward.

*Source: World Bank Data 2016.

II. The Need for Public Awareness

India ranks amongst the top 5 most polluted countries in the world (2019. The process of inhale-exhale is purely dependent on our environment. Can humans manage to survive in the absence of oxygen? The answer to the query is apparent: we cannot even imagine our lives without oxygen!

With the passage of time, we are witnessing inventions in science and technology. It must be remembered that if men continue over-exploiting natural resources, there is no time computing machine to go back into the past and repair the damage. This is not conceivable in real life so it is without a doubt indispensable to reflect on environmental concerns.

  • The Mean and Standard Deviation of Environment Knowledge and Daily Behaviours:

Environmental Issues Mean Standard Deviation Assessment
Daily behaviours 2.75 0.58 Somewhat concerned
Public behaviours 2.21 0.67 Somewhat concerned
Knowledge of the environment 3.72 0.67 Concerned
Significance of environment protection 3.64 0.57 Concerned
Importance of environment protection 3.46 1.27 Concerned

*Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication

  • Environmental Awareness and Students’ Responses:

i) Everyone should do their best to protect their environment as long as they are alive.

Mean Standard Deviation Assessment
3.45 0.51 Agree

ii) Environmental education should be a part of every school curriculum.

Mean Standard Deviation Assessment
3.71 0.48 Agree

iii) It is impossible that people must concern themselves with public environmental awareness.

Mean Standard Deviation Assessment
2.36 1.07 Disagree

*Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication

Public awareness is crucial due to the fact that our environment is deteriorating. Animal and marine species have reached the verge of dying and we human beings are the very root reason for it. The vast environmental problems cannot be solely averted with the aid of the government and until the public takes part in it (their participation is equally integral with regard to environmental protection).

Every individual needs to work jointly to assist; it is now not one man’s obligation. Individual daily actions still have a huge impact. Hence it is vital to sensitise the society about environmental problems and challenges.

Protection of the environment is an imperative obligation integrated into our constitution as mentioned in Part IV A under Fundamental Duties. For example- an individual facing discrimination of any sort on any ground has a fundamental right to get justice and immediately approach the Supreme Court.

Generally, it is observed that people have a habit of blaming and making the authorities accountable for non-performance of activities. However, when it comes to the responsibility of doing our part, we even don’t bother. No initiative is taken by most individuals to safeguard the environment.

People who belong to an uneducated background, as well as educated people, lack the awareness of environmental degradation. People are no longer conscious of environmental devastation. So how can we expect them to comprehend the norms for safeguarding the surroundings and natural resources?

III. Areas where Public Awareness is Needed

  • Increasing population:

Specific issues are chained to this problem itself for example- urbanization, poverty, pollution, destruction of habitat are causing the degradation of natural assets. Currently, we are about 1.38 billion and the capacity of the earth is 10 billion, so what after exceeding this limit?

We are ingesting natural sources so speedily that the day is not far when they will be completely extinct. Our existence is primarily based on abiotic elements. If the population is mismanaged, the survival of human beings on earth will be tremendously challenging.

India’s population in 2020 is estimated to be 1.38 Billion (138 crores). According to Unique Identification Aadhaar India, updated May 2020, by mid of the year 2020, the projected population is 1,371,360,350.[4]

It is high time to implement the two-child policy strictly and make it compulsory in each state. The Economic Times reports that the government in collaboration with the authorities in Assam is currently drafting a population policy. Underneath the coverage, those with more than two children will not be eligible to get government jobs or avail other benefits including government housing in Assam.

  • Solid waste:

Usually, we do not segregate biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. Alternatively, we combine them up. People have to be informed that they can either dig a small hole or can decompose that waste beneath a flower pot which will get converted into natural manure within 2-3 weeks.

The benefits of composting are not only the reduction of the waste but also the production of compost which is a valuable soil improver. Soils treated with compost are better able to withstand droughts and are more fertile because plant nutrients are returned to the soil, which reduces the need for manufactured fertilisers. [5]

  • Polythene menace:

Polythene by no means degrades. Plastic production is expected to double in the next 20 years, according to a report issued by the World Economic Forum.

Let us understand how it is hazardous for both animal and human health:

  1. Ocean-dwelling creatures’ deaths are in particular caused by means of the stray plastic floating intake. They frequently mistake genuine meals due to plastic fragments that can lead to contamination, suffocation and a very sluggish and painful death.
  2. It can cause endocrine disruption, allergies and hypersensitivity reactions in children[6]. It is a threat to the environment as a whole.

We ought to encourage recyclable jute bags and substitute disposals via paper and other biodegradable materials instead of plastic.

  • Loss of biodiversity:

Dodo birds and white rhinos have long gone extinct. It might happen again in the coming years as many animals including African elephants, deer, crocodiles, wild boar, lions and other large cats and so forth will be nearing extinction and our future generations will get to know about them only through their textbooks.

Many projects for the protection of wild animals are initiated with the aid of our authorities but the desired outcome cannot be achieved until people stop exploiting the species through fishing and hunting.

*Source: WWF; living Planet Report 2018.

Through examples, we can understand how the idea of public awareness is spread:

  • Human Chain Formation against Single-use Plastic

Single-use plastic refers to the disposal that is intended for use and throw purposes. Examples of single-use plastic include:

  1. plastic forks and knives.
  2. plastic shopping bags.
  3. plastic coffee cup, water bottles etc.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

The very motive of this mission was to inform as well make people aware of the significance of cleanliness. Some of its slogans include:

  1. “Clean India, beautiful India.”
  2. “Don’t destroy greenery and don’t spoil scenery”.

Taking into consideration sanitation, toilets have been constructed in many villages and schools. It was one of the massive steps taken by the government under this mission.

Every year a number of students are enrolled in campaigns and public gatherings aimed at discouraging people to throw rubbish remains and unwanted material on roads and promoting the importance of hygiene and cleanliness in surroundings.

  • Harela Festival:

On 16th July every year, we go for a plantation festival acknowledged the “Harela festival”. Especially in Kumaon, this festival is celebrated with zeal and at the same time, it encouraged people to undertake a pledge to save the environment.

Since July is a monsoon season, there is adequate water and humidity existing in the surroundings which helps plants to develop fast. Usually, seeds are thrown in the forest and people sprinkle season crops.

IV. How Public Awareness can be Achieved:

  • Incorporating environmental awareness in the education system :

  1. Environmental awareness at the primary school level to impart a basic understanding of environmental issues and problems. Environmental awareness plans have to be included from the elementary stage itself. Example: Children are usually given small tasks primarily based on the environment as they are creative and understand concepts more quickly.
  2. The relevance of real-life situations of the environment at the secondary school stage for understanding the problems of the surrounding: ‘Bharat 4’ norms, Pollution Control Board are real-life situations. We are witnessing the melting of icebergs, deforestation, pollution etc. By such actual examples, we can educate teenagers about the degree of emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, depletion of natural sources etc.
  3. Management of natural resources at the senior secondary school level to develop skills to tackle the management problems of natural resources. Encouraging students to join environmental groups such as WNF-I, BNHS etc.
  4. Environment problems and sustainable development enhancement at the university level for experimental answers to environmental issues and techniques for the conservation of natural resources. Example: the central government must stop blasting to construct roads during the monsoon season since there is a possibility of landslides.
  5. Education has to be such that every child should be asked to plant a minimum of two saplings. Example: in the Philippines, new legislation has been proposed for graduate degrees that each student must plant ten trees.
  • Environmental Focus with the aid of Adult Education:

Students at graduation level and NGOs need to spread awareness among adults and corporations who can work in the field of the environment.

  • Mass Media:

We are connected to social media via one or several different means.

Today many sorts of campaigns are run by youngsters. So why not go for healthy debates promoting environmental concerns on social networks? In this area, there are a lot of requirements that people need to focus and work upon.

  • Establishment of Eco-clubs:

Most schools and colleges have a particular society working for the betterment of the environment. On one hand, simply forming a society is not enough but on the ground level, what measures or steps are taken by us for the betterment of the habitat is crucial.

There is a need to approach and convince people to take part in weekly seminars, joining local movements imparting understanding about growing worries about the environment, organize donation camps and utilize the money in planting small saplings. Promoting and practising good civic sense including saving trees, no throwing of garbage on roads, no urinating on public places and the issues such as the 3 Rs in waste management, proper waste disposal should be encouraged.

  • Establishment of Greenbelts:

Green belts are generally found near rivers and water bodies. Greenbelt area signifies that no concrete is going to be used there.

Planting trees is not enough. Their care is the most necessary part. Joint Forest communities are given the accountability of taking care of these green belts. So such communities need to be encouraged under the supervision of the government.

V. How Impactful can Public Participation and Public Awareness in the Environmental Regulation of a Country be?

Even though we have many laws and regulations in India defending the preservation of the environment but efforts towards facilitating the requirements of environmental protection have failed due to the absence of two reasons :

1) Absence of a political will

2) Lack of public core of attention

Thus the extent of public sensitivity and seriousness in the affairs of environmental issues must be an utmost priority. Thus public participation is important both as a means to ensure environmental rule of law and as a context for environmental rule of law. [7]

VI. Case Studies

  • Spread environmental awareness like Reykjavik (Iceland):

The Reykjavik town in Iceland operates “Municipal work school” in the summertime and “Nature school” in the winter. Youngsters get information about environmental issues through these programs. Additionally, the school organizes environmental training for teachers.

Moreover, outdoor classrooms are encouraged so that college students can examine and learn while experiencing nature. Even many companies and corporations have commenced implementing environmental plans and policies to inspire people to contemplate cleanliness in their daily work and commutes.

  • Public Participation in the Permitting of a Hazardous Waste Storage Facility in Hungary:

A company operating a hazardous waste storage facility in Hungary applied for a permit to establish a permanent facility where it had previously operated under a provisional license. Pursuant to legislative requirements, the company prepared an environmental performance evaluation. The document was shared with the public for 30 days, during which members of the public were invited to comment, and following which a public hearing was held.

At the hearing, local citizens, environmental groups, authorities and others participated. They raised a number of concerns, including-:

  1. whether the siting of the facility followed local zoning regulations; and
  2. whether the company had adequately researched impacts on groundwater streams and soil filtration.

Following these concerns, the environmental agency considered the comments and addressed them in its final decision granting the permit.[8]

Similarly, we should be vigilant and inform the government about sources that lead to different kinds of pollution and degradation of our environment. If one joins an NGO and regional movements that help conservation, the politicians in a democracy reply positively to a sturdy publicly supported motion, as a result, the politicians will make green policies and strict penalties for non-compliance of environmental laws.

This can only be made possible through mass awareness.

VII. Benefits of Environmental Rule of Law for the Environment and the Public

Environmental rule of law protects public health as well as the environment and the sustainable use of herbal resources. For example, vegetation and fauna conservation, air pollution control and resource management. The aforementioned examples all depend on environmental rule of law.[9]

Numerous studies show that when environmental rules are enforced and high-quality environmental penalties follow, a decrease in human fitness influences from air and water pollution and accelerated ecosystem services are observed. These advantages are not possible only by the result of government action but are the end result of a collaborative effort across society to address environmental issues.

For example, the International Development Law Organization assisted in protecting environmental endowments and tourism by limiting poaching and helping to strengthen wildlife conservation and climate change adaptation laws in Kenya.

Thus the environmental rule of law plays a vital function in protecting financial pursuits of a state’s residents and future generations over the long term, both individually and collectively.[10]

VIII. Can Contribution from an Individual Bring Changes in this Scenario?

Let us look at a few examples of people who are working in this direction:

  1. Mr Daripalli Ramaiah is an Indian social worker who is the recipient of the Padma Shri award (2017) and has planted approximately ten billion trees.
  2. As the India Times mentions, Mrs Saalumarada Thimmakka, a 107 years old woman and recipient of the Padma Shri planted about 8000 trees including 100 banyan trees.
  3. Mr Afroz Shah who started a campaign and cleaned up about 20 million kilos of garbage from the Versova beach.
  4. Professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan, 72 years old, is using plastic waste to build roads. 1 lakh kilometres of roads have been constructed using plastic waste.[11]
  • People in Environment:

  1. M.S. Swaminathan founded the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai which works on the conservation of natural range.
  2. Madhav Gadgil is an ecologist in India whose interests fluctuate from considerable ecological troubles such as growing regional biodiversity registers and conserving sacred groves to search for the behaviour of mammal birds.
  3. MC Mehta has filed a number of public interest litigations for helping the motive of environmental conservation – his most conventional and extended drawn battles supported by the Supreme Court docket consist of defending the Taj Mahal, cleaning up the Ganges river, initiating authorities to put into impact environmental schooling and colleges and various other conservation issues.

So from the above examples, it is evident that each of us needs to be held accountable. Individually we can play a vital role in environment management.

#Source

IX. Conclusion

It is frequently stated that India can never change in terms of cleanliness. On the other hand, we have an excellent example of Indore in front of our eyes. Indore was named the cleanest town in India for 4th consecutive years so this is simply a misconception.[12]

The need is for politicians to take cleanliness and sanitation on priority and public participation is equally important. We human beings as biotic entities are definitely mounted on an abiotic atmosphere. In the absence of such substances, Earth would turn hostile. So it is important not only to stay aware, but one has to also raise awareness among others about the same and collectively make a contribution to the sustainability of our environment.[13]


References

[1] Dr Rajinder Verma, “Management of Natural Resources and Laws in India”, 2017

[2] Kautilya, “Arthashastra”

[3] R. Shamasastry, Kautilya’s Arthashastra Available Here

[4] India Population, Available Here

[5] Study Session 8 Solid Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling, Available Here

[6] Philip J. Landrigan and Mary M. Landrigan, Children and Environmental Toxins.

[7] Adomokai and Sheate, 2004.

[8] Environmental Rule of Law 1st Global Report.

[9] Kumar, How to Control Environmental Pollution? (30 Measures), Available Here

[10] Annie Roth, Poachers Kill More Rhinos as Coronavirus Halts Tourism to Africa, Available Here

[11] Anisha Bhatia, ‘One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure’: Meet India’s ‘Plastic Man’, Available Here

[12] Anisha Dutta, Swachh Survekshan 2020: Indore ranked cleanest city fourth time in a row, Available Here

[13] Erach Bharucha, “Environmental Studies for undergraduate courses “, Universities Press.

#Sources Referred: https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/individual-actions-and-intentions-regarding


  1. Environmental Laws – Notes, Case Laws And Study Material
  2. Environmental Protection under the Indian Constitution
Updated On 11 Nov 2020 7:05 AM GMT
Shweta Pathania

Shweta Pathania

Student, Law College Dehradun

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