The International Environmental Law Research Centre is an independent research organisation focusing on international and comparative environmental law issues, with a particular emphasis on India and East Africa. This website contains documents such as articles, working papers and briefing papers.
This short note reviews two decades of significant case law developments in the environmental impact assessment process in India. EIA was first introduced as a regulatory requirement in 1994. EIA reflects the constant struggle to balance economic development with ecological integrity in the context of a developing country. The Courts have developed a rich jurisprudence thereby considerably deepening and widening the EIA process.
The Supreme Court specifically has framed the issue of environmental protection as a public good – and therefore in terms of rights and entitlements to clean air, healthy environmental, pollution free water, etc. However entitlements to these public goods cannot be absolute – since in certain circumstances they may have to be balanced with other public goods – like opportunities for employment generation and other related economic development goals.
In environmental law, the imprimatur of the Court’s judicial philosophy is most striking in the case of T N Godavarman v Union of India. It demonstrates how institutions self- reflect on their roles, especially in a federal polity. Do the actions of the Supreme Court push the limits of judicial activism? Can they be seen as judicial adventurism? These questions are explored in this case note on Godavarman.
The principle of sustainable development has evolved to occupy centrality in environmental jurisprudence in India. The Supreme Court has reiterated its importance in the country’s environmental legal regime. However, the jurisprudence has been criticised for framing it as a zero sum game where economic development has been repeatedly used as a justification to trump environmental violations, and therefore, rendering it as only declaratory and lacking in content and sufficient teeth to shape public action.
Can a tribunal deliver justice? By posing this rhetorical question we attempt to historically contextualize the introduction of the tribunal system of adjudication in India.
The Ganges Treaty illustrates that a legally binding agreement is not the same as meaningful cooperation between the parties. The treaty favours the hydro-hegemonic state (India) and solidifies the status quo. It does not create a community of interest in the shared management of the river and has left Bangladesh with numerous concerns and unresolved issues.
The Mahakali Treaty basically aims at an integrated development of water resources in the Mahakali River and has been finalized on the basis of equal partnership. The Mahakali originates in Nepal and forms the border between the two countries for a considerable distance. The scope of the Treaty covers the Sarada Barrage, the Tanakpur Barrage and the proposed Pancheswar project. From the Sarada Barrage, the Treaty gives Nepal 28.3 cumec (1000 cusec) of water in the wet season and 4.25 cumec (150 cusec) in the dry season. This quantity is to be supplied from the Tanakpur Barrage if the Sarada Barrage turns non-functional.