The overlooked Right to Clean Air

Image Source: Mongabay-India

Across the globe access to clean air is becoming a problem of disproportionate magnitude. From wealthy regions like the European Union to developing nations like India this right has been subdued for too long.

The European Court of Justice in a landmark judgment in 2014 had come down heavily on the UK government for failing to maintain the standards of clean air. It held that right to clean air is intrinsically embedded in the European Law and thus has to be provided to all the citizens.

Over 7 million lives are lost globally due to compromised air quality. The UN Human Rights Representative has also reiterated that nations have a legal obligation to ensure that citizens get clean air. In a report titled “Environmental Rule of Law: First Global Report” released in January 2019 it was found that there are serious lapses in enforcement of environmental protection laws, even though there has been an increase in the number of laws since 1972.

Even in India, the Supreme Court had a while ago pulled up the Central and State governments for their lackadaisical attitude in maintaining the air quality. The Court held that right to human life is being endangered through such hazardous quality of air and further held that it is the duty of the State to provide cleaner air to its citizens. The Court further censured and asked the States as to why compensation charges should not be levied on them to remedy those who had suffered due to the pollution. The Court held that a decrease in the life span of individual has a direct correlation with an individual’s right to life under the Constitution of India and thus by not providing clean air the states are violating the same. 

Yet multiple reports emerge everyday where we see the dipping air quality and further a blatant disregard of this inherent constitutional and human right on multiple levels.

To further read about the importance of this right and the severe impact that it has been facing kindly refer to the following links:

https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/dramatic-growth-laws-protect-environment-widespread-failure-enforce

https://www.ccacoalition.org/ru/node/3007

https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/right-breathe-clean-air

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/26/indian-states-must-provide-clean-air-and-water-or-pay-damages-supreme-court-rules?CMP=share_btn_tw