Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Ecocide Laws: Protecting Nature and Addressing Limitations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ecocide

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • Mexico’s ‘Maya train’ project has generated controversy due to its scale and environmental impact.
  • The project aims to connect tourists to historic Maya sites across a 1,525 km route, with a cost of $20 billion.
  • Critics have dubbed it a “megaproject of death” for its threats to the Yucatan peninsula’s environment, Indigenous communities, and cave systems, leading to accusations of ecocide and ethnocide.

Understanding Ecocide

  • Ecocide, derived from Greek and Latin, means “killing one’s home” or “environment.”
  • It encompasses actions like port expansions damaging marine life, deforestation, illegal sand-mining, and polluting rivers.
  • Several countries, including Mexico, are considering ecocide legislation, with calls to elevate it to an international crime akin to genocide.
  • There is no universally accepted legal definition of ecocide.
  • A proposed definition states it as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge of causing substantial, severe, and either widespread or long-term environmental damage.

Historical Context

  • Biologist Arthur Galston in 1970 linked environmental destruction with genocide during the Vietnam War’s Agent Orange use.
  • British lawyer Polly Higgins advocated for ecocide as an international crime in 2010.
  • The Rome Statute of the ICC deals with four major crimes but only holds perpetrators accountable for intentional wartime environmental damage.

Importance of Ecocide as a Crime

  • Ecocide is a crime in 11 countries, with 27 others considering similar laws.
  • The European Parliament voted unanimously to include ecocide in law.
  • Ecocide laws provide a crucial legal instrument to protect the environment.
  • They can hold individuals in corporate leadership accountable and promote ethical investment practices.
  • These laws could offer justice to low- and middle-income countries disproportionately affected by climate change.

Limitations and Concerns

  • Some argue that ecocide definitions are ambiguous, setting a low threshold for implicating entities.
  • The concept might unintentionally suggest it’s acceptable to destroy the environment for human benefit.
  • Proving ecocide may be challenging, especially for transnational crimes involving corporations.
  • The ICC’s limited jurisdiction, inability to hold corporate entities liable, and uneven track record in securing convictions are concerns.

India’s Stance

  • India has recognized the legal personhood of nature in some judgments.
  • Some Indian judgments have used the term ‘ecocide,’ but it hasn’t fully materialized in law.
  • India’s legislative framework includes various environmental laws, which need consolidation and streamlining.
  • The National Green Tribunal lacks jurisdiction over certain critical environmental matters.
  • Addressing issues of liability and compensation remains a challenge, as seen in cases like the Bhopal gas disaster and CAMPA fund misuse.
  • India should align its environmental laws with the concept of ecocide.


  • Ecocide laws are crucial for protecting the environment and holding perpetrators accountable.
  • However, challenges in defining, proving, and enforcing ecocide must be addressed.
  • India needs to update its environmental laws to incorporate ecocide principles, promoting a more comprehensive approach to environmental protection.

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