The developing countries which were hesitant to join the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment in 1972 are now realising that environment cannot be sacrificed for economic growth.
The developing countries find it difficult to accommodate this new pressure on their meagre resources. India among other countries is also examining the trade-offs between economic development and environmental protection.
No doubt India has shown her awareness of the problem, yet much is to be done. Until 1974, the control of pollution was the responsibility of individual States.
A few which sensed the problem caused by various industries initiated their own laws and standards.
The Maharashtra Water Pollution Prevention Act of 1970, the West Bengal Notification Regulations of 1957, the Punjab State Tubewell Act of 1954 was the little legislation.
The Indian Motor Vehicle Act of 1939 had some provisions in it. A number of laws have been passed is States to preserve wild life, fish and fauna.
But with the exception of the Maharashtra State Water Pollution Board there was no single governmental body in charge of pollution control at the State or National level.
The first Act passed by the Indian Government to have control over water pollution was passed in 1974. The second legislation passed by the Parliament was the Air Pollution (Prevention and Control) Act of 1980.
By this time there was pressure within the government and pressure from international organisation.
The controversies like the Silent Valley and Mathura refined mobilised inside pressure. Finally on November 1, 1980 the Government of India created a permanent and independent agency Department of Environment to look after the needs of environment protection.
Except in a few cases the government has not been able to forcefully implement its commitment. Sewage is still dumped into rivers without treatment.
People are still dying without knowing that pollution is partly responsible for their deaths. In the word general public is still ignorant about the value of environmental protection.
Government officials and politicians have often blamed financial difficulties while environmental organisation has blamed corruption for the current state of affairs.
But the major reason for ineffective implementation of environmental policies seems to lie within the general public.
The net result of governmental efforts in India has been negative. It has disengaged people even farther from environment concern. Once legislation is adopted, people fell that things are being taken care of.
It also prevents interest groups from broadening their mass support. Groups tend to lose their appeal and the basic reason for their grievance once legislation is passed by the government.
Studies in political symbolism have revealed that absence of a policy the public’s eye to a far greater extent that its poor implementation.
Environment has still not become a politically profitable issue in India. It does not have a significant political price on it.
Critics of the government’s environmental policy often remarks that the government is not interested in execution of its policies once it adopted them.
But the government does not will to implement a policy unless it is politically profitability to do so. Saying that the government should do it is denying the very basic functional of democratic politics.
The environmental policy has so far led to only symbolic acts ion Indi. There is an absence of general public pressure on the government to take strong measures on environmental protection.
The environment groups that exist are very particularistic and lack a mass base. More often than not they are local adhoc in nature. The awareness among people is low.
Unless people feel individually threatened by environmental degradation, it is not likely that they will direct pressure on the government to show results. The Indian government is not the only one to be blamed.
The concern shown by it is much greater than the concern shown by other developing countries.
The process of issue-creation through public awareness is likely to go through three stages
(i) Identification of the problems i.e. the existence of the problem is identified
(ii) Realisation of the problem, i.e. the scope, intensity, causes and consequences of the problem and realised by the public; and
(iii) mobilisation of awareness, i.e. public awareness is expressed through visible and formal channels like interest groups or political parties.
At the first stage, educational and research institutions can play a very significant role while at the second, mass media can make a noticeable contributed. Once the second stage is completed, mobilisation of interest should automatically follow.
The combined efforts of government, media, environmentalists and education institutions can assure the future of environmental protection in India.