From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 21
Mains level : Read the attached story
Every person on the planet has the right to live in a clean, healthy environment, as declared United Nations (UN) in a historic resolution.
Access to Clean, Healthy Environment
- The resolution recognizes the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right essential for the full enjoyment of all human rights and, among others.
- It calls upon States and international organizations to adopt policies and scale up efforts to ensure a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for all.
- The landmark development demonstrates that the member states can unite in the collective fight against the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
- The declaration sheds light on almost all the rights connected to the health of our environment.
- The declaration adopted by over 160 UN member nations, including India, is not legally binding.
Why such move?
- This right was not included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
- So, this is a historic resolution that will change the very nature of international human rights law.
- The resolution will help to reduce environmental injustices and protection gaps.
- It can empower people, especially those in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous people.
Landmark resolution after 50 years
- Some 50 years ago, the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm concluded with a resolution placing environmental issues at the global forefront.
- Today, over 176 countries have adopted environmental framework laws on the basis of it.
- From a foothold in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, these rights have been integrated into constitutions, national laws and regional agreements.
- In October 2021, it was recognised by the UN Human Rights Council.
What were other such developments?
- July 28, 2010, the UN general assembly recognised the right to water and sanitation through its resolution.
- It stated that clean drinking water and sanitation “are essential to the realisation of all human rights”.
- In response to this, governments across the world have changed their laws and regulations related to water and sanitation.
Issues over this declaration
- The words’ ‘clean’, ‘healthy’ and ‘sustainable’ lack an internationally agreed definition.
- The text fails to refer to the foundational principle of equity in international environmental law.
- Nevertheless, this has given more power in the hands of environmental activists to question environmentally destructive actions and policies.
Back2Basics: Right to Clean Environment in India
- The right to life has been used in a diversified manner in India.
- It includes, inter alia, the right to survive as a species, quality of life, the right to live with dignity and the right to livelihood.
- In India, this has been expressly recognised as a constitutional right under Article 21.
- It states: ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedures established by law.’
- The Supreme Court expanded this negative right in two ways.
- Firstly, any law affecting personal liberty should be reasonable, fair and just.
- Secondly, the Court recognized several unarticulated liberties that were implied by article 21.
- It is by this second method that the Supreme Court interpreted the right to life and personal liberty to include the right to a clean environment.