Environmental Crisis: Cause and Effect of Stockholm Conference in India

Published On: 30th March, 2024

Authored By: Saswati Paul
Advocate, District Bar Association, Silchar


India, as a country with diverse ecological system and rich natural heritage recognizes the importance of environmental protection and is working on economic development and environmental sustainability. The legal framework for environmental protection in India is multidimensional which has evolved over time reflecting the Country’s commitment to sustainable development and stewardship of natural resources. The word ‘Environment’ is difficult to define. Albert Einstein once quoted, “The Environment is everything that is not me.” The term environment includes of both physical and biological environment. Physical environment includes air, space, water, land and biological environment includes human beings, plants and micro organisms, wildlife animals and other living creatures.


In India the Environment Protection Act, 1986 in Section 2 (a) defines environment as follows-“Environment includes water, air, and land and the interrelationship which exists between them on the one hand and human beings, other living creatures, plants micro organisms and property on the other.”

There are certain sine qua non requisite (an indispensable condition) for sound development of living beings like unpolluted air to breathe, uncontaminated water to drink, nutritious food to eat and hygienic condition to live in without which it is not possible for any living being to grow to their fullest extent. Human being in order to survive adapts themselves to their environment but hardly pays necessary attention for its improvement because of their inability, indifference and ignorance to improve it.

Nonetheless, the environment came to the global attention for the first time in the 1970s.

In the year 1972, from June 5-16 under the umbrella of The United Nations, a conference was held on Stockholm (Sweden), known as the Stockholm Conference on Environment and Development, 1972. It was the first World conference on Human Environment to make the environment a major issue and the theme was “Only One Earth”.

The declaration laid down that

  • Man has the fundamental right to sufficient living conditions in a healthy environment.
  • Natural resources of Earth must be protected for the benefit of present and future generations.
  • States shall take all possible steps to prevent pollution of seas.
  • States should also come together to compensate victims of environmental pollution or damage.
  • States can also seek International cooperation for the holistic improvement by making agreements and can control, prevent and reduce environmental risks.
  • Environmental policies of National and International Organizations should encourage better living conditions without affecting the environment.
  • Environmental education and protection is the need of the hour. People should learn the usages of social media to create awareness of environmental protection by spreading various updates relating to Research and Development across Nations. Govt. should initiate environmental awareness program about the existing conditions to tackle the environmental matters jointly.
  • In Today’s world, over population is one of the main reasons of depletion of natural resources. States should implement policies to control the growth of the excessive population which is likely to affect the environment without violating the basic human rights.
  • States should implement their national agenda by establishing their national bodies to control and management of environmental resources where they will be exempted to follow certain procedures which are not align to the value system of the particular State.

The Stockholm Declaration of 1972 was the first convention which took major effort to conserve and protect the environment on a global scale which has paved the way for other International conventions on the preservation of the environment such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, 1973. In the same way, the Parliament of India has also passed certain essential Acts to give effect to Stockholm Convention.

Cause and effect

Environmental Pollution is one of the most serious problems the humanity is facing today. It refers to all the ways by which people pollute their surroundings. Pollution is the outcome of urban industrial technological revolution and rapacious exploitation of natural resources, increasing industrial wastes, urban effluents and consumer goods.

Pollution has been defined by the Natural Environment Research Council, 1976, as “the release of substances and energy as waste products of human activities which result in changes, usually harmful, within the natural environment.”

Sec 2 (c) of  Environment Protection Act, 1986 (In India) says, “ environmental pollution means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance presence in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to environment.”

Presence of a polluting substance in the environment and resulting harmful changes in the quality of the natural constituents of the environment is also pollution.

Pollution is classified as –

  • Natural Pollution
  • Artificial Pollution (produced by human activity)

The sources of natural pollution are earthquakes, flood, draught and cyclone. At local level, pollution produced by human activity is more significant.

Pollution is also classified as-

  • Air Pollution

Sec 2 (a) of the Air Pollution act, 1981 (in India) defines “Air Pollution means presence of any air pollutant in the atmosphere.”

  • Water Pollution

The presence of pollutants in water specifically toxic substance in the seas, rivers, ponds, wells have affected life on Earth badly. In order to prevent pollution of water, Indian Parliament has passed Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

  • Land pollution

The major source of Land Pollution is the massive amount of solid wastes disposed by us (like plastic bags) which remain un-decayed for a long time and create numerous health hazards.

  • Food Pollution

Food Pollution begins when, in order to protect seeds in soil from termites and pests and to protect plant growth, chemicals are used. Food items also get affected during processing, storage, transportation and retailing. Therefore attention must be paid to see that it does not get polluted so as to become unfit for consumption.

  • Noise Pollution

Any disruptive sound that has an impact on human health and well-being as well as that of other organisms is simply referred to as noise pollution.

Sec 2 (a) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 passed by Indian Parliament states that noise is actually a part of Air Pollutant. Some major causes are manmade appliances when used at high volume like vehicles, industrial machines, loud speakers, wind turbines, electrical generators etc.

  • Radio Active Pollution

Radioactive radiations are dangerous as exposure to them is usually fatal to every living being. Some elements like radium, uranium, etc, emit invisible injurious effects known as radiations. The emissions of these invisible radiations are known as radioactivity and such substances are called Radio-active substance. In order to control and regulate use of atomic energy, the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 has been established in India. Since then, it has been amended twice, in 1986 and in 1987 to make it more effective.

Factors responsible for Environmental Degradation:

Environmental degradation means lowering of environmental quality at local, regional and global levels by both natural process and human activities.

Major sources of Environmental Degradation are as follows:

  • Deforestation

Deforestation cause a chain effects which adversely affect the natural environment. It gives birth to several problems through decrease in oxygen in the atmosphere by causing oxygen-carbon dioxide imbalance, accelerated rate of soil erosion etc.

  • Agricultural Development

Through the application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, increasing irrigational facilities and by making changes in biological communities, agricultural development degrades the environment.

  • Population Growth

Growth of Human population in alarming rate is responsible for increase in pollutants in the environment and it has become the root cause of degradation of the environmental quality and ecological imbalance.

  • Industrial Development

Increasing Industrial expansion is responsible for the release of enormous quantities of pollutants into the rivers and lakes and thus responsible for contaminating the water. Bhopal Gas Tragedy is an example of disastrous effects of modern industrialization.

  • Urbanization

Increasing Urbanization means increase in the concentration of human population in limited space which results in increase of buildings, roads, vehicles, number of factories, sewage water, and urban wastes etc. which cause several environmental problems.

  • Modern Productive Technology

The development of modern technology has significantly created most of the present day environmental problem. The issue of how to properly dispose of radioactive waste that is produced by nuclear reactors is the most hazardous feature of contemporary technology.

Provisions regarding Environmental protection in the Indian Constitution:

The Indian Constitution is amongst the few codified document in the world which contains specific provisions on Environmental protection. The Directive Principles of State Policy and the Fundamental Duties explicitly enunciate the National commitment to protect and improve the environment.

Following the decisions taken at the U.N. Conference on Human Environment, held at Stockholm in 1972, 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India was made in 1976 which added Article 48-A which states,

 “The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild-life of the Country.”

As a sequel Article 51-A (g) was also added which states that “it shall be the duty of each and every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including lakes, rivers, forests and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”

Article 253 states that Parliament has the power to make any law for the whole or any part of the Country for implementing any treaty, agreement, or convention with any other country. Parliament’s use of Article 253 to enact Air Act and Environment Act confirms this view.

 The fundamental rights to equality under Article 14 states power to impose reasonable restrictions particularly on Trade, Commerce and Industry for preventing environmental protection under Article 19 (g) and the right of the people to live in a healthy and safe environment under Article 21 have been applied by the Courts for protection of environment from pollution.

The Supreme Court and High Courts in India when moved by writ petitions under Article 32 and 226 have done a lot to protect the environment from damage and pollution applying Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. Thus, in India the scope of action for environmental protection is very promising.

Significant laws relating to Environmental protection in India

Apart from the Constitutional mandate, to protect and to improve the environmental conditions, there are certain significant laws, regulations and policies, passed by the Indian Parliament, available on the subject, which are as follows:

  1. The Indian Forest act, 1927 with subsequent amendments

Forests are the lungs of environment. They help in maintaining the ecological balance. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 is a comprehensive legislation relating to forest management that consolidates pre-existing laws -The Indian Forest Act, 1865 and Forest Act, 1878. The present law relating to forests is enshrined in the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

  1. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 with subsequent amendments

Wildlife is of great importance in environment. The Indian law on Wildlife, The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, was passed on requests from States. For the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife and its environment, State Govt. and Central Govt. are authorized to constitute Wildlife Board with powers of regulations to proclaim Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks.

  1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 with subsequent amendments

Water is an important factor in the life of Organisms. All over the world there is a problem of fresh water. Water pollution is becoming acute in a number of regions in India. The main objectives of the enactment of this Act are to provide prevention and control of water pollution, restoring of wholesomeness of water, to establish central and State Boards, to delegate powers to such Boards for matters connected therewith and to provide penalties for contravention of the provisions of the Act.

  1. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 with subsequent amendments

The Forest protection Act of 1980 is a significant factor in supporting variety and forest protection. The Indian parliament introduced it with the goal of preventing deforestation and protecting forests and their resources. It is also known as Forest Protection Act.

  1. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 with subsequent amendments

Air Pollution at present is considered as one of the most potent threat to the existence of all human being in the World. The objective of this Act is to provide prevention, control and abatement of Air Pollution and to provide respective Boards to deal with the matters concerned thereto.

  1. Environment protection Act, 1986 with subsequent amendments

The EPA Act implements the decision made at the UN Conference, held in Stockholm 1972, on Human Environment to protect the environment and environmental conditions and to take strict actions against those who harm the environment.

  1. The National Forest Policy, 1988 with subsequent amendments

This Act’s major goal is to protect and restore the ecological balance in order to preserve environmental stability.

  1. The National Environment Tribunal act, 1995 with subsequent amendments

The Central Government of India established the National Environment Tribunal to provide strict liability for damage arising out of accidents caused from the handling of hazardous substances and to provide speedy environmental justice to reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.

  1. The Biological diversity Act, 2002 with subsequent amendments

Ensuring the preservation of biological variety, equitable resource use, and sustainable utilisation of its constituents are the goals of this legislation.

  1. The Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary movement) Rules, 2008 with subsequent amendments

The objective of this rule is to provide guidelines for identification of various sources of waste electrical and electronic equipment and prescribed procedures for handling e-waste in an environmentally sound manner.

  1. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 with subsequent amendments

The EIA Notification requires assessing and evaluating the potential environmental impacts of development projects and to present the predictions to decision makers.

  1. The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 with subsequent amendments

The National Green Tribunal is a specialized environmental tribunal with the power to adjudicate environmental matters. It provides a forum for the speedy, effective and expeditious remedy in cases relating to environmental protection, conservation of forests, and other natural resources and enforcement of any legal right relating to environment.

  1. The National Water Policy, 2012 with subsequent amendments

The National Water policy is taking cognizance of the existing situation and emphasizing the need of sustainable and efficient management of water resources and promoting community participation in recycling waste water.

  1. Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 with subsequent amendments

The Solid Waste Management Rules provide detailed guidelines for solid waste management in India. Their objective is to minimizing negative impacts of waste on human health and the environment.

  1. Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 with subsequent amendments

The primary objective of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 is to be mindful towards the growing concern of plastic pollution by conducting a community-wide plastic waste audit to assess the present plastic consumption and waste generation to increase the public understanding on the dangers of plastic pollution.

  1. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (Namami Gange) , 2014

A recurring draw for numerous foreign nations with experience in river revitalization is the Clean Ganga Mission. Large numbers of Countries have shown interest in collaborating with India for Ganga rejuvenation. Namami Gange Programme is an integrated conservation mission to accomplish the objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.

Effective, prompt, and efficient enforcement of these laws depends on everyone in society adopting a positive attitude.

Role of Judiciary in India

The Judicial Activism and PIL (Public Interest Litigation) in India have been evolved as a potent weapon to develop environmental jurisprudence. It is stated above that Article 21, 48-A, 51-A (g) have been used by the courts against various kinds of environmental issues.

The cases given below illustrate how the new scope of the judicial action has helped to protect the environment and the people from pollution:

In Shriram Foods and Fertilizer case (M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 965), the Supreme Court directed the Company to take all necessary safety measures before starting the operation as the company was using hazardous lethal chemicals and gases which were posing danger to the health and life of workmen and the people living its neighborhood.

In M.C. Mehta case, AIR 1987 SC 1086, the apex court held that the right to live in pollution free environment is a part of fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

In M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, (1996) 4 SCC 750, the Supreme Court ordered the shifting of 168 hazardous industries operating in Delhi as they were causing danger to the ecology and directed that they will be relocated lands to the National Capital Region as provided in the Master plan for Delhi. The court gives necessary specific directions for the protection of the rights and benefits of the workmen employed in these industries.

In S. Jagannath vs. Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 811, the Supreme Court directed shrimp (small fish) culture industry to stop operation in the ecological fragile coastal area as they were affecting environment and coastal ecology.

In Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action Vs. Union of India, (1996) 3 SCC 212, the Supreme Court held that if by the action of private corporate bodies a person’s fundamental right is violated, it will be the duty of the Court to intervene. In this case an Environmentalist Organization filed a writ petition under Article 32 before the Court complaining the plight of people living in the vicinity of chemical industrial plants in India and requesting for appropriate remedial measures.


To create an enduring and harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world, we need to focus on sustainability, and thus, Sustainable development, which meets the needs of the present without negotiating on the skills of upcoming generations to see their own needs or desires, has been accepted as part of the law of the land in India. Our environment is the foundation of our existence. Understanding the interconnectedness of all living things and recognizing our responsibility towards Mother Nature is essential. A collective commitment to environmental protection will help us to build more sustainable India in future.


  • An Article written by Souradh C. Valson, (Everything you need to know about Stockholm Declaration), published in blog.ipleaders.in
  • An Article written by Suhani Dhariwal, (Legal framework for environmental protection in India), published in writinglaw.com
  • An international multidisciplinary e-journal written by Ashish Verma (Law of environment in India: problems and challenges in its enforcement), published in redalyc.org
  • An Article on Environmental law, published in indianbarassociation.org
  • Collective notes on Environmental Law written by Prof. K.Tiwari, published by Central Law Agency, Allahabad.

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