Environment & Biodiversity

Northeast India’s Ecological Importance

A recent case concerning Umiam Lake in Meghalaya demonstrates the fragile balance in Northeast India between economic progress and environmental protection.

Umiam Lake and the Environment

  • PIL on Cleanliness: The Meghalaya High Court heard a PIL on the cleanliness of Umiam Lake, emphasising the importance of preserving natural beauty in the face of development.
  • Guidelines Inadequacy: The court observed that the Meghalaya Waterbodies Guidelines did not address the critical issue of unregulated building around waterbodies.

The Ecological Importance of the North East

  • Biodiverse Region: Northeast India is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, minerals, and fresh water. It is home to important biodiversity hotspots such as the Garo-Khasi-Jaintia hills and the Brahmaputra river.
  • Despite its industrial underdevelopment, the region’s fragile environment is threatened by deforestation, floods, and existing industry.

Environmental Protection Legal Framework

  • Environmental Laws: Several environmental laws were enacted in India, mainly in the 1980s. Environmental offences are classified as “public nuisance” under articles of the Indian Penal Code.
  • District Council Autonomy: The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution guarantees autonomy to District Councils, restricting state power over issues such as land use. This absence of regulation has an impact on land preservation near bodies of water.

The Role of Public Interest Litigation and Judicial Activism

  • PILs and judicial activism under Articles 32 and 226 have resulted in significant environmental litigation, imposing penalties and guidelines.
  • The National Green Tribunal slapped substantial fines on states such as Meghalaya and Manipur for unlawful mining and inappropriate waste management.

Ecology and Sustainable Development

  • The North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS) has a “Negative List,” which excludes firms that do not meet environmental criteria from receiving incentives.
  • To achieve balanced development, the “Act Fast for Northeast” policy should include both trade and commerce as well as environmental preservation.
  • Comprehensive Legislation is Required: It is critical to have consistent and comprehensive environmental law that addresses environmental concerns at all levels of government.
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