Environmental Justice and Climate Change

The Environmental Justice Initiative (EJI) attempts to make any intervention in environmental protection more sensitive to human well-being without compromising on environmental protection and conservation strategies. EJI firmly believes that the right to a clean environment is a basic human right, and has been actively involved in fighting environmental degradation that affects the lives and livelihood of the poor.

What HRLN Does?

Through its Environmental Justice Initiative, HRLN uses the judicial system to fight environmental degradation that primarily affects the lives and livelihood of the poor and vulnerable groups and to address the ensuing human rights violations. EJI firmly believes that the right to a clean environment is a basic human right for all, and that access to natural resources is the right of communities, such as tribals, who are primarily dependent on them.

HRLN has been working on environmental justice through litigation, consultations, and campaigns to make environmental protection more sensitive to human well-being, for the effective enforcement of environmental rights, and to provide legal support to affected communities. HRLN also aims to equip communities to take part in environmental decision-making for effective enforcement of environmental rights. One of the platforms used by the organisation to highlight various environment and related human rights violations is the Independent People’s Tribunal. The IPT was formed in 1993 to conduct fair and credible investigation on matters concerning environmental and human rights violations and also to provide communities, and people’s movements a platform to seek redressal and policy change.

In the past, HRLN has worked on landmark environmental cases in state High Courts, NGT as well as the Supreme Court on tribal rights, silicosis and banning of asbestos in India, ban on use of certain pesticides, compliance with bio-medical wastes management, closure of brick kilns in agricultural areas, implementation of rainwater harvesting, compensation for children affected due to groundwater contamination, restoring the Dalit community’s right of use to a public pond, protection of forests and wetlands, banning use of polythene and plastics in the Andaman Islands, and the rehabilitation of people displaced due to dams.

Main Concerns

·      Ensuring effective implementation of environmental laws
·      Rights of marginalised and vulnerable communities to access their land, natural resources, and livelihood options
·      Violation of basic rights such as access to clean air, water, soil, food, health
·      Community’s access to justice and people’s tribunals
·      Research and analysis on changing environmental governance

HRLN Impact

The Environmental Justice Initiative has been successfully using PILs at the National Green Tribunal, state High Courts, and the Supreme Court to address environmental issues affecting people’s lives and livelihood and to ensure that environmental laws are not violated. HRLN also works directly with communities such as fisherfolks, adivasis and other forest dwellers whose lives are being hugely impacted due to various large-scale projects, as well as new laws that are in conflict with key laws safeguarding their rights.

Some of the landmark judgements include:

·      The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement (CA 8438/2016), directed the West Bengal state government to return 997 acres of land to the community in 12 weeks after declaring the 2006 land acquisition for Tata Motors as illegal and void. The apex court also allowed landowners to withdraw compensation which was deposited with either the collector or the court.

·      In another landmark judgement (37/2103 WZ), the National Green Tribunal recognised that despite the presence of six Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) in the industrial area of Dombivili, Badlapur, Ambarnath, Additional Ambarnath and Morivali in Maharashtra, the rivers Ulhas and Waldhuni were severely polluted. The NGT directed the Dombivili CEPT (Rs 30 crores), Ambarnath CEPT (Rs 15 crores), Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (Rs 15 crores), and Kulgaon-Badalpur and Ambarnath Municipal Corporation (Rs 5 crores each) to pay a total of Rs 90 crores to the Divisional Commissioner (Kokan Revenue Division) for restitution and restoration of the rivers.

·      In the matter of Jalbiradari Vs MoEF (7/2015 WZ), the NGT directed the project proponent (MMRDA) to pay Rs 25 lakhs as Environmental Compensation for causing environmental degradation due to blasting and building of wall on the banks of River Mithi in Mumbai in direct violation to relevant laws. It also directed the SEIAA to consider and direct the demolition of any part of the project in the interest of environment and ecology.
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