Embracing a Green Future
4 mins read

Embracing a Green Future

Many countries are adopting large-scale tree planting programs and enacting laws mandating planting trees or plants to solve environmental problems. To begin with, mandating organized colonies, new constructions, organizations, and even citizens of our vast population who are able and able to afford such green efforts to plant trees, subject to the advice of environmental experts and others, could significantly solve environmental problems. Some obligations, if made part of the law, can be significant.

For example, on May 15, 2019, the Philippine Congress officially passed a law requiring all primary, secondary and tertiary students to plant a certain number of trees. Trees can be planted anywhere: forests, reserves, urban areas, abandoned mining sites, indigenous territories, etc. In 2021, the University of Delhi made it mandatory for students to plant at least one tree. Students were also required to submit a semi-annual report on the growth and condition of the seedling. Authorities also addressed the country’s oxygen shortage during the COVID-19 crisis. A law approved by the French parliament mandates that the roofs of new buildings in commercial areas be partially covered with solar panels or plants. In Singapore, the government began a tree-planting campaign in 1963, just after independence, with the aim of making Singapore a green city.

On February 28, 2022, India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change released the draft Building Construction Environment Management Regulations, 2022 and invited comments. One of the regulations stated that at least one tree for every 80 square metres of land must be planted on construction sites of both residential and commercial buildings, ensuring 10 per cent green cover on each plot.

The Indian laws governing forests and tree planting include the Indian Forest Act, 1927. The preamble to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (16 of 1927) states that it is an act to consolidate the law relating to forests, transit of forest produce and the duties that may be levied on timber and other forest produce. We also have the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, which is an Act of Parliament to provide for the conservation of forests and their resources. It was passed by the Parliament of India to control the ongoing deforestation of the forests of India. Then there is the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which is an act to provide for the protection and improvement of the environment and matters connected therewith. Some of the Acts also mention that decisions were taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in June 1972, in which India participated, to take appropriate steps for the protection and improvement of the human environment. In this regard, it was considered necessary to continue implementing the decisions for the protection and improvement of the environment and prevention of hazards to humans, other living creatures, plants and property. Further, we have the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, an Act of the Indian Parliament, which enables the constitution of a special tribunal for the speedy disposal of cases relating to environmental issues. This Act provides the basis for the establishment of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). There are also state laws. For example, permissions for felling of trees are issued by Tree Officers in accordance with the process laid down in Section 9 of the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994. Importantly, under Section 10, every person to whom permission is granted under the said Act to cut or remove any tree shall be required to plant such number and kind of trees in the area from which the tree is cut or removed by him under such permission as the Tree Officer may direct, provided that the Tree Officer may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, permit lesser number of trees to be planted or trees to be planted in another area or exempt any person from the obligation to plant or maintain any tree. In practice, such compliance with the obligation to replant often lags behind.

While there is no dearth of environmental laws in India, in addition to the existing laws, there needs to be mandatory laws for planting greenery or having plants in homes, balconies, terraces, workplaces and various establishments, as suggested by environmental experts and others. Of course, in the case of individuals, the laws should be made keeping in mind age, ability, affordability etc. By emphasizing on planting greenery, we can control the negative effects on the environment to some extent.

The author is a practicing advocate in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court. The views expressed are personal.