1] Empowering nature with biocentric jurisprudence (GS 2 Judiciary)

Context –

  • In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court of India placed the Great Indian Bustard, a critically endangered species with only about 200 living in India today, under its protection.
  • In M.K. Ranjitsinh & Others vs Union of India & Others, the Supreme Court said that in all cases where overhead lines in power projects exist, the governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat must immediately install bird diverters while the conversion of overhead cables to underground power lines is considered.

What’s the issue?

  • Because these birds frequently collide with overhead power lines and are killed, overhead power lines have become a threat to their survival.
  • In an affidavit dated March 15, 2021, the Ministry of Power stated, “The Great Indian Bustard (“GIB”) lacks frontal vision.”
  • As a result, they are unable to detect powerlines ahead of them from a distance. Because they are large birds, they are unable to fly close enough to cross power lines. As a result, they are at risk of colliding with power lines.”
  • The Court has affirmed and emphasised the biocentric values of eco-preservation by protecting the birds. The biocentrism philosophy asserts that the natural environment has its own set of rights that are unrelated to its ability to be exploited or useful to humans.

The ‘Snail darter’ case

  • The case of the “Snail darter” in the United States is a notable example of the application of anthropocentrism in the legal world.
  • In 1973, University of Tennessee biologist David Etnier discovered a new species of fish in the Little Tennessee River known as the “Snail darter.”
  • Etnier claimed that the snail darter was an endangered species whose survival would be jeopardised if the Tellico Reservoir project’s development work continued.
  • Following this revelation, a lawsuit was filed to stop the Tellico Reservoir project from moving forward.
  • The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in Tennessee Valley Authority vs Hill that the executive could not proceed with the reservoir project because the “Snail darter” was a specifically protected species under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Endangered Species –

  • There were 4,50,000 lions in Africa about 50 years ago. There are now fewer than 20,000.
  • Orangutans are being wiped out in Borneo and Sumatra forests due to indiscriminate monoculture farming.
  • Rhinos are being hunted for their horns’ alleged medicinal value, and they are rapidly becoming extinct. About 15 to 20 species of Lemurs, which are primates, have gone extinct since humans arrived in Madagascar about 2,000 years ago.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature has compiled a list of about 37,400 species that are critically endangered, and the list is constantly growing.

Green laws –

  • The Indian Constitution declares that it applies to all of India’s territory. When such a declaration is made, it clearly refers to the humans who live within that territory, and its primary goal is to grant them rights, impose obligations, and regulate human affairs.
  • The Constitution is noticeably silent on any expressly stated, legally binding obligations we have to our fellow species and the environment that sustains us.
  • It is to the judiciary’s credit that it has fished out enduring principles of sustainable development from these still and placid waters and incorporated them, among other things, into the precepts of Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognise “Rights of Nature” in its Constitution in September 2008.
  • Bolivia has also joined the movement by enacting laws protecting the environment. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, became the first major municipality in the United States to recognise the Rights of Nature in November 2010.
  • As a first step, these laws allow members of a community to “put themselves in the shoes” of a mountain, stream, or forest ecosystem and advocate for their rights.
  • These laws, like the Constitutions of the countries to which they belong, are still evolving.

Conclusion –

  • In these times, the Supreme Court’s decision in M.K. Ranjithsinh, upholding biocentric principles of coexistence, is a breath of fresh air for environmentalists.
  • One can only hope that the respective governments follow the Court’s ruling and that the Great Indian Bustard’s fate does not follow that of the Snail Darter.

2] The Ganga’s message: On microplastics pollution (GS 3 Ecology)

Context –

  • Microplastics, a modern-day scourge, were found in the river, according to a new study by an NGO, with the highest concentrations in Varanasi and Kanpur, followed by Haridwar.
  • The data reveal an alarming presence of plastic filaments, fibres, fragments, and microbeads in two locations, with their composition pointing to both industrial and secondary broken-down plastics from everyday use articles.

Facts –

  • The discovery of significant levels of microscopic particles invisible to the naked eye in the country’s holiest river calls into question the progress of two high-priority, well-funded NDA government missions: Swachh Bharat, which deals with solid waste, and Namami Gange, which aims to clean up the river.
  • According to official data, 97 Ganga towns may be dumping 750 million litres of untreated sewage into the river every day.
  • Guru Das Agrawal, an environmental activist, died in 2018 after fasting in protest, and his letter to Mr. Modi had no effect on the situation.

Conclusion –

  • Cities have failed to implement existing rules, as well as the Solid Waste Management rules, on ending single-use plastics, waste segregation, recycling labels on packaging, extended Plastic pollution is endangering the world’s food web, and the crisis necessitates a new global treaty modelled after the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
  • India must show that it is serious about cleaning up its act at home producer responsibility for manufacturers, and material recovery, despite the Centre recently issuing a draught to tighten the Plastic Waste Management Rules.
  • Furthermore, given that recycling has its limits, the capacity of governments to manage growing plastic waste will far outstrip their ability to manage it.
  • Swachh Bharat must therefore imply not just keeping waste out of sight, as achieved through expensive dumping contracts, but also drastically reduced generation, complete segregation, and recycling.

Expected Question –

  1. Discuss the relevance of biocentric view of environment conservation in light of recent M.K. Ranjitsinh judgement of Supreme court.
  2. Critically analyse role of ‘Namami Gange’ in cleaning the river with reference to recent report of microplastics found in Ganges.


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