In India, courts have time and again given judgements on the issue of environmental preservation, often directing the bureaucratic machinery to take initiative in tackling the problems. However, non-compliance is usually what follows. This creates a disturbance in the ecology which nonetheless remains to be conserved in its truest sense.
One of the fundamental problems encountered while managing environmental concerns at ground-zero is the lack of administrative compliance and efforts. Everytime there is a socio-environmental issue that needs to be resolved, there is an inevitable need for the authorities to facilitate the drive to conserve the ecology.
Any ecology-related issue brings plight and affectation to communities, mostly impoverished, in proximity to the environment. These problems may range from mining-related operations to deforestation and even encroachment cases. We often witness the courts coming to play in cases such as these to address the problem and issue certain directions to the authorities, to help facilitate the conservation drive and further safeguard the environment. But what is mostly seen is the non-compliance of such authorities towards these directions.
Implementing the recommendations that come with the acknowledgment of socio-environmental concerns is the most fundamental and evident action that should follow. However, because this particular step is left unattended, the third step of conservation remains a farce leading to the neglect and disregard of the communities affected by such problems. Hence, a single misstep in the circle, provides a route to the ignorance of the issue altogether. This is exactly why the role of administrative machinery is of utmost significance when it comes to environmental protection.
Let us now move on to understanding this problem through a series of events.
An NGO by the name of Support India Welfare Society in 2018, filed a PIL in the Allahabad High Court in relation to the encroachment of a pond in the village of Rajpur, Agra. Consequently, the HC directed the District Magistrate of the city to take appropriate action in accordance with law, who then directed the Nagar Nigam to remove the encroachment and restore the pond. But as it often unfolds in such cases, the documents submitted by the Welfare Society in 2018 found that the encroachment was still in place.
In 2019 the Support India Society filed another PIL with the Court, this time citing various famous Supreme Court judgements concerned with the removal of environmental encroachments.
In response, the HC ordered the Collectors of each district of the state to entrust the Additional District Magistrate(Finance & Revenue) to make a list of ponds mentioned in the revenue records of the year 1951-52 and shortlist the one’s which were under the encroachment or in respect of which the lease had been granted.
Another NGO by the name ‘Jagar’ working in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, moved a step further and set out to follow the administrative developments, if any, as a response to the 2019 HC order.
Unsurprisingly, Jagar found that none of the 75 districts in the state had created a list of ponds under encroachment or for which lease had been granted. Out of the 9 RTIs filed by the group, only one was responded to. Even there, it was found that the ADM-FR had delegated the task to the 7 tehsildars in his district, all of whom had only recorded the number of ponds in their respective tehsils, thereby ignoring the details of encroachment, lease and restoration, making the work done in this district of little consequence.
Therefore, despite the SC and HC judgments being in effect for 21 and 3 years, respectively, the authorities have not fully complied with the orders to safeguard encroached water bodies. Although the encroachment has been removed, restoration still awaits in its complete sense.
The directions remain on the cranky papers that must have been turning paler with time, while the state authorities so casually neglect the duties that the courts long ago ordered them to carry out.
This string of incidents should be sufficient to convince anyone of the danger that non-compliance poses to the environment. Unfortunately, this is just one of many instances in our society. Yet another is the challenge of maintaining menstrual hygiene among the underprivileged communities. Had there been assistance by the administrative machinery, the state of awareness around menstrual hygiene would not have been as poor and dismal as it is today.
However, the administrative callousness towards the upliftment of the underprivileged communities in the sense of providing the women with menstrual aid and awareness has been paramount.
Enactus JMI, however has set out to resolve this issue through Project Shrimati, under which women communities are employed towards manufacturing eco-friendly and sustainable sanitary pads. We believe that through initiatives like these, matters would change for the good for the environment as well as for the communities associated with it.