Adding New Wings to Environmental Jurisprudence – The Odd Even Way!
The residents of Delhi welcomed the state government’s pilot road rationing experiment as Delhi became congestion-free for 15 days.[i] It not only resulted in reduction in air pollution (by 10-13 %)[ii], but also reduced traffic on the roads.[iii] There was also a reduction in direct emission of pollutants from cars by 30 to 40%.[iv]As Delhi gulped on a breath of fresh air, the concept of environmental jurisprudence[v]further evolved.
Historically, in the absence of a basic effective structure concerning environmental law, the judiciary has come to the rescue of the environment by not only expanding the scope of this theory to the fundamental rights embedded in our Constitution,[vi] but by also coming hard on those who violate this right to life.[vii]Incorporation of the National Green Tribunal (NGT)in 2010 enabled effective and expeditious disposal of environmental disputes. Ever since its inception, NGT has made some landmark observations that have impacted the state governments across the country. In fact, it was an observation made by the NGT in December 2015 with regard to reduction in vehicular traffic pollution[viii],which inspired the National Capital’s ruling party to employ the odd-even rule in Delhi.[ix]
As well intentioned and brave this measure was, the Delhi government should also seek to impose wider sets of restrictions. As a suggestion we recommend extending these restrictions to two wheelers and diesel commercial vehicles as well, which form the majority of vehicles in the national capital.[x] In furtherance to this, efforts should be made to employ stringent and effective legislations and to successfully implement them. “Implementation of good legislation can ensure sustainable development without environmental degradation.”[xi] One such measure could be the ‘polluter pays principle’, which basically suggests, taxing the polluters and as such keep pollution levels under a regulated system of checks and balances. Lessons could also be learnt from our neighbors. To reduce air pollution, Beijing has cut down on its coal use by nearly 14 million tonnes in the past five years.[xii] It has also taken 1.8 million outdated vehicles off the roads.[xiii] All endeavors need to be made to further a balanced view of priorities while solving environmental concerns asin an era of competitive globalization, a state-driven policy is in all likelihood destined to make implementation of environmental jurisprudence smoother.[xiv]
Nevertheless, Delhi’s odd even scheme marks a giant leap for environmental jurisprudence in the country. As the state government prepares for bringing back a much more effective scheme in April-May,[xv] the aforementioned suggestions could enable effective solution to Delhi’s air pollution problems. It will also be interesting to see how other states employ this tried and tested mechanism, as air pollution concerns the health of the entire nation.
[i]Soumya Pillai, ‘Odd-even plan a bold move, but Delhi Needs mor: Transportation expert’ (Hindustan Times, 20 January 2016) <http://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/odd-even-scheme-was-a-bold-move-but-delhi-needs-more-institute-of-transportation-and-development-policy-itdp-ceo-clayton-lane/story-zLfeyIXaRJgcsXKywiHFtK.html> accessed 25 January 2016
[ii]Michael Greenstone, ‘Yes, Delhi, it worked’ (Indian Express, 19 January 2016) <http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/odd-even-policy-delhi-pollution-yes-delhi-it-worked/> accessed 22 January 2016
[iii]Press Trust of India, ‘Air Quality Worsened After End Of Odd-Even Scheme: Study’ (NDTV, 22 January 2016) <http://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/air-quality-worsened-after-end-of-odd-even-scheme-study-1268733> accessed 22 January 2016
[iv]IANS, ‘Odd even formula has indeed cut direct emission from cars in Delhi’ (The HANS India, 18 January 2016) <http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Environment/2016-01-18/Odd-even-formula-has-indeed-cut-direct-emission-from-cars-in-Delhi/200863> accessed 25 January 2016
[v]Environmental Jurisprudence – “includes the laws, both statutory and judicial, concerning varied aspects of environmental protection and sustainable development.” – K.K. Sunita ‘ Environmental jurisprudence in India: philosophy and practice <http://www.vpmthane.org/Publications(sample)/Indian%20Philosophy%20%20Its%20Relevance%20in%20the%2021st%20Century/K.K.%20Sunitha.pdf> accessed 22 January 2016
[vi] See: ‘Sher Singh v. State of HP’, Application No. 237/2013, decided on 06.02.2014, ‘Indian Council for Enviro- Legal Action v. Union of India & Others’, AIR 1996 SC 1446 and ‘Vellore citizens welfare forum v. Union of India & others’, decided on 28.08.1996 (Supreme Court)
[vii]See ‘M.C. Mehta v. Union of India’, (1992) 3 SCC 256
[viii]‘Vardhaman Kaushik v. Union of India &Ors.and other connected matters, wherein inter alia NGT observed, “Such reduction in traffic load of Delhi would certainly have positive impact on the ambient air quality of Delhi” Page 4<http://www.greentribunal.gov.in/Writereaddata/Downloads/21-2014(PB-I)OA2-12-2015.pdf> accessed 22 January 2016
[ix]PrachiShrivastava, ‘Odd, even and beyond: Courts carve out environmental jurisprudence’ (livemint, 12 January 2016) <http://www.livemint.com/Politics/VSIRBRjzBT6ubb2SNtMSJN/Odd-even-and-beyond-Courts-carve-out-environmental-jurispr.html> accessed 22 January 2016
[x]Samir Saran and Prashant Kumar, ‘Forget Odd and Even, Delhi Needs a Total Disruption of its Transport Model’ (The Wire, 05 January 2016) <http://thewire.in/2016/01/05/forget-odd-and-even-delhi-needs-a-total-disruption-of-its-transport-model-18580/> accessed 22 January 2016
[xi]PTI, ‘CJI for implementation of good legislation to protect environment’ (The Times of India, 1 September 2002) <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/CJI-for-implementation-of-good-legislation-to-protect-environment/articleshow/21271157.cms> accessed 25 January 2016
[xii]PTI, ‘Beijing may apply odd-even rule on cars for entire winter’ (The Economic Times, 22 January 2016) <http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/beijing-may-apply-odd-even-rule-on-cars-for-entire-winter/articleshow/50684728.cms> accessed 25 January 2016
[xv]FaizanHaidar, ‘Women may not be exempted from April round of odd-even rule GopalRai’ (The Hindustan Times, 24 January 2016) <http://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/delhi-2-more-rounds-of-odd-even-rule-likely-may-include-women-bikes/story-4jMsHYSnap5Q856S5lGDIM.html> accessed 25 January 2016