ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Environmental Regulation and Governance

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Environmental governance has become a popular concept in the past few decades. Since the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984, the term environmental governance has been applied by institutions, states, policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to India’s diverse areas of development and well-being. Broadly speaking, environmental governance “is the term we use to describe how we as humans exercise our authority over natural resources and natural systems.” It is about questions concerning “how we make environmental decisions, who makes them, and how they are held accountable.” It encompasses all sectors, including biodiversity conservation, sustainable and equitable use of forest, land or water and other biotic resources, pollution and hazardous waste regulation, decision-making on massive irreversible transformations of ecosystems for developmental purposes, and now the question of climate change. The term also encompasses more actors. While “regulation” refers primarily to the actions of state agencies, “governance” includes all actors: regulatory agencies, regulated entities, legislature, judiciary, media, and the public. The role of other actors, especially the judiciary, has become quite visible in the Indian context in recent times.

In response to the growing awareness about environmental issues nationally and globally, India incorporated several direct provisions for the protection of the environment in the Constitution starting 1976. It has also enacted a wide range of regulatory instruments for preserving and protecting its natural resources and entered into several international agreements to advance sustainable development programmes. At present, there are over 200 central and state statutes related either directly or indirectly to environmental protection (Divan and Rosencraz 2001). Even in the limited context of environmental “pollution” and its regulation,1 which is the focus of this review issue, the number of statutes, agencies, and the jurisprudence that have been generated is enormous. Corresponding to this plethora of laws, institutions, and practices, there is an expanding literature on the nature and process of environmental monitoring and compliance in India, the effectiveness of the multiple environmental regulatory authorities at various levels, and the implications of their functioning (or malfunctioning) for India’s environment and the human rights of the affected people. While much of the early literature focused on laws and their interpretation, researchers are now beginning to examine the functioning of the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the political arm, and social movements as well as the role of scientific and local knowledge on the one hand and values and world views on the other.

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Updated On : 27th Dec, 2021
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