Clean water has been recognised as a basic human right. Clean air, however, is not. A person can survive a few days without water, only a few minutes without air.
India has seven fundamental rights – equality, freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, right to education and the right to constitutional remedies. Today, however, as we are in the midst of a global environmental crisis, we are denied clean air, which is a basic human necessity. We have an opportunity and a moral obligation to take action, now.
Clean air act
Indian needs a Clean Air Act and an autonomous new body to enforce it. It should be the equivalent of the powerful Environment Protection Agency in the United States. Currently, there are many different organisations trying to combat air pollution, with no top boss to marshal them all and achieve defined goals. We have the NCAP, EPCA, GRAP, CPCB, SPCB and who knows how many other acronomys. The one thing they do have in common is that they are failing miserably.
The Clean Air Act of 1963 is a United States Federal law, designed to control air pollution on a national level. It is one of the United States’ first and most influential modern environmental laws and one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world. London and New York once had their great smog too. Today, as we discuss the deadly smog in India, we should turn to the West, to understand their solutions to the problem.
If a state in teh US refuses to comply with the EPA’s minimum standards, the EPA can take over the environment administration of that state by law. That’s how powerful it is. Lesser powers include stopping federal funds, while major amendments in 1977 and 1990 have strengthened the Clean Air Act to include more pollutants, greater goals and greater implementation procedures.
Violating the right to life
Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides for the right to life and personal liberty, stating, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal l iberty except according to procedure established by law.” It imposes a duty on the state to protect the life and liberty of the people.