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Human Rights and Environment


Human rights are rights that all humans possess, regardless of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or another status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of speech and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone, without exception, is entitled to these rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a watershed moment in human rights history. The Declaration was drafted by representatives from all regions of the world with different legal and cultural backgrounds, and it was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and shifting weather patterns all contribute to the increasing impact of climate change on the daily lives of millions, if not billions, of people. When the environment is harmed, humans are harmed. Climate change is obstructing the fulfillment of essential, globally recognized human rights, such as the right to life, health, culture, food, self-determination, property, and development. The poorest and most vulnerable will suffer first, and possibly the most, but the crisis will eventually affect everyone.

The Realization of Human Rights and Environmental Protection

Human rights and the environment are inextricably linked; human rights cannot be exercised in the absence of a safe, clean, and healthy environment, and sustainable environmental governance cannot exist without the establishment and observance of human rights. This connection is becoming widely recognized. Each and every human being is reliant on the environment in which they live. A safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is necessary for the full exercise of a range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water, and sanitation. Without a healthy environment, we will be unable to achieve our goals. We may lack access to even the bare minimum of human dignity. Human rights protection benefits the environment.

Recognition of the connection between human rights and the environment has grown significantly in recent years. International and domestic legislation, court rulings, and academic studies on the relationship between human rights and the environment are fast expanding in quantity and scope.

The mandate on human rights and the environment, established in March 2012 and renewed in 2018, investigates human rights obligations in relation to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Additionally, it encourages best practices in the application of human rights to environmental policy making. Numerous states now include a right to a healthy environment in their constitutions and are aware of the need for environmental conservation.

Indian Laws Relating to Environment and Human Rights

The Indian Constitution's chapter on fundamental duties expressly puts a duty on every person to protect the environment. Article 51-A (g) states that it is the responsibility of every Indian citizen to safeguard and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, as well as to demonstrate compassion for all living things.

Article 47 states that the state's principal responsibility is to improve the nutrition and standard of living of its citizens, as well as public health. Public health improvement also entails the protection and enhancement of the environment, without which public health cannot be guaranteed.

According to Article 48-A of the constitution, the state shall endeavor to maintain and improve the environment, as well as to safeguard the country's forests and wildlife.

Part III of the Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights that are necessary for an individual's development. The right to the environment is also a fundamental right without which an individual's development and full potential cannot be realized. Articles 21, 14, and 19 of this section have been used to safeguard the environment.

  • Article 21 of the constitution states that no person shall be deprived of his or her life or personal liberty unless in accordance with established legal procedures.

  • Article 21 has received liberal interpretation from time to time after the decision of the Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India, (AIR 1978 SC 597).

  • Article 21 of the Constitution ensures the fundamental right to life. It includes an inherent right to an environment free of sickness and infection. The right to a healthy environment is a critical component of the right to live with dignity.


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