What Is Precautionary Principle in Environmental Law in India
In the context of contemporary public order, this principle dates back to the 1950s under the name of “safe minimum standards of conservation”. Some important environmental problems in the 1960s, such as the DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) case, paved the way for the principle based on the idea of assimilation capacity. This idea asserts that the environment and humans can only tolerate disturbances to a certain extent, and that this amount can be calculated and controlled. In the 1970s, the Germans were probably the first country to include a precautionary approach in its laws and policies for the protection and preservation of the environment.  Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration is one of the most frequently cited sources on the precautionary principle. It states: “Where serious or irreversible damage threatens, the absence of scientific uncertainty should not be used as a reason to postpone cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” This definition represents a “weak” version of the precautionary principle. The element of “uncertainty” is at the heart of the precautionary principle, as it allows preventive measures to be taken once a risk of serious or irreversible environmental damage has been identified. If the damage is recoverable, i.e. not irreversible, the principle does not apply. Moreover, a lack of scientific certainty about the effects of an activity does not justify inaction. However, when applying the “low” version, the level of risk required for the principle to be applied (or triggered) remains an open question. In that regard, the `strong` version of the precautionary principle comes into play, which shifts the `burden of proof` onto the promoter of the activity in order to demonstrate that its activity does not present a risk of serious environmental damage.
Cass Sunstein criticized the “strong” version that reverses the petitioner`s burden of proof to the industrialist. He sees it as deeply problematic as it can hinder innovation, creativity and technological progress. Accordingly, he argues that the “strong” version of the principle should be rejected. The precautionary principle dates back to the early 1970s in the German precautionary principle, which is based on the belief that society should try to avoid environmental damage through careful advance planning. The “precautionary principle” has become a basic principle of German environmental law and cited to justify the implementation of robust measures to combat acid rain, global warming and pollution of the North Sea. The precautionary principle then flourished in international policy statements. At the national level, several countries have used the precautionary principle as a guideline for their environmental and health policies. In the United States, for example.
B the precautionary principle is not explicitly mentioned in laws or guidelines. However, some laws are precautionary in nature, and the principle underpins much of the early environmental legislation in this country (the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act). “A precautionary and anticipatory approach is needed to prevent the deterioration of the marine environment. This requires, inter alia, the adoption of precautionary measures, environmental impact assessments, clean production techniques, recycling, audits and minimisation of waste, construction and/or improvement of wastewater treatment plants, quality management criteria for the proper management of hazardous substances and a comprehensive approach to the harmful effects of air, soil and water”[xxvii]. Despite the widespread advocacy of precaution as a strategy in many (but not all) cases, there is not a single agreed statement or understanding of PP as a principle. It is also unclear whether the PP should be a desirable principle or a binding rule. If this is a desirable principle, it may be more easily vague and ambiguous, but will be of little use when it comes to making difficult decisions. If it is a binding regulatory requirement, it must be more concrete, but it will be more arbitrary. It is neither well defined nor a stable concept. On the contrary, it has become a repository of a jumble of adventurous beliefs that challenge the status quo of political power, ideology, and environmental rights [lxviii]. This definition, which focuses mainly on environmental issues, will also be extended to health issues. The second definition is based on the 1998 Wingspread Declaration on the Precautionary Principle and states: Taken together, these facts create a reality beyond any doubt, that is, there was already scientific uncertainty about the environmental impact of the dam at the time of the verdict.
Contrary to the Court`s assertions, the precautionary principle could therefore have been applied in the present case and the Court could have suspended the project pending a full environmental impact assessment. Had it done so, it could have prevented the widespread environmental degradation and human rights violations caused by the project. A few months after the Vellore decision, the Supreme Court was founded in M.C. Mehta v. The Union of India (“Taj Trapezium case”) has asked 292 industries near the Taj Mahal to impose natural gas or other alternative fuels instead of coke/coal as industrial fuel. The SC recognized that the use of coke/coal by industry was the main contributor to pollution. He says: “There is ample evidence beyond any doubt that emissions from the use of coke/coal by TTZ industries are the main polluters of ambient air.” In any event, it still shifted the burden of proof to industries to demonstrate that their activities were environmentally friendly. Like Vellore, the SC applied the precautionary principle without “scientific uncertainty.” Another example is AP Pollution Control Board II by Prof.M.V. Nayadu and Ors (“AP Pollution Control Board Case”), in which the SC addressed the question of whether a hazardous industry should be built near a drinking water reservoir […].