Welcome Remarks by the Director during the Vimarsh Lecture on ‘Protecting the Environment' by Sh Adarsh Kumar Goe - 27 Jun 2024
Dear Friends,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to today’s Vimarsh talk on ‘Protecting the Environment’ by Sh Adarsh Kumar Goel. He is retired judge of the Supreme Court and a former Chairman of the National Green Tribunal. I want to thank Sh Goel for accepting our invitation to deliver this public lecture.

Sh Goel did his B.A. Hons. and LL.B. from the Panjab University, Chandigarh. He served as Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Thereafter, he was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court and subsequently sworn in as Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court. Shri Goel was elevated as Judge of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and also appointed as Chairperson of National Green Tribunal (NGT). He demitted office last year.
He has been an ardent champion of environmental protection. As chairperson of NGT, he announced several noteworthy judgments. He is eminently suited to speak about the state of environment in India, environmental governance and environmental protection.

Friends,

India has a long tradition of respecting the environment. Respect of reverence for nature in ingrained in our psyche. The Vedas talk about the sky, mountains, rivers, animals, birds and all aspects of relationship between man and nature. Man must always be respectful towards nature. Nature is superior. To be worshiped. In the Vedas, there are prayers extolling the forces of nature to be benign to us. There are prayers that human as well as animal may enjoy good health. In Yazurveda, there is obeisance’s to mother earth Namo Matre Pithvye, Namo Matre Pithvye.

पृथ्वी माता को नमन है।
माता पृथ्वी के लिए हमारा नमन है, मातृभूमि के लिए नमस्कार है

There is also an exhortation; May you all revere the earth, may you steady the earth, may you never harm the earth. ‘O’ earth, whatever I dig out of thee let that quickly grow over… may I not hit thy vital not thy heart …. May the divine water be propitious to us … let them (water) shower wellbeing on us. These are lofty ideals. Had we followed these, the environment would have been in an excellent shape.

What is the state of environment in the country today?

No doubt, there is an extensive legal and institutional framework for environmental protection in the country. The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change is the nodal agency for overseeing the implementation of India’s environment and forest policies and programmes relating to conservation of the country’s natural resources including lakes and rivers, its biodiversity, forests and wildlife, ensuring the welfare of animals and prevention and abatement of pollution. We have various Acts like the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 as amended in 1991 provides for the protection and improvement of environment. The National Green Tribunal was established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that pollution is checked and controlled.

Yet the state of environment in India can hardly be regarded as satisfactory. In 2022, the CPCB identified 311 polluted river stretches across India. 70 percent of surface water in India is unfit for consumption. According to a study published in Lancet, 1.67 million deaths or 17.8 percent of total death in India were attributed to air pollution. According to 2021 study, by the Centre of Science and environment and NITI Aayog, India generates 130,000 to 150,000 metric tons of solid waste every day, of which only 50 percent is treated and the rest is unaccounted or ends up in landfills. A 2013 report of world bank estimated the total cost of environmental degradation in India in 2009 was about 5.7 percent of GDP.

Even without this data, anyone will vouch that India’s environment is degrading. Environmental degradation has huge economic, health, psychological and societal costs. It is the fundamental duty of not just the government but also of the citizen to protect the environment. The loss of rivers, water bodies, forests, and biodiversity will have an inevitable impact on our wellbeing.

Justice Adarsh Goel has dealt with problems of environmental protection from close quarters. We look forward to hearing his views on what should be done to save and protect the environment and take India out of its pleasant environmental crises.

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