Polluter Pays Principle

Polluter Pays Principle

  • According to this principle, those who pollute the environment must be made to pay not just for the costs of remedial action, but also for compensating victims of environmental damage.
  • This principle is now almost universally acknowledged in environmental jurisprudence.
  • Some trace the Polluter Pays Principle’s origin to the Stockholm Declaration made at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972.


Stockholm Declaration

  • The declaration asked signatory countries to develop international laws regarding liability and compensation of the victims of pollution and other environmental damage.


Brundtland Commission

  • The Polluter Pays Principle emerged more strongly in the 1987 report of the Brundtland Commission, called Our Common Future.
  • The Brundtland Commission or the World Commission on Environment and Development was established in 1983.
  • The main purpose of the commission was to examine environmental issues resulting from rapid industrialisation.
  • For the first time sustainable development was defined and alongside the Polluter Pays Principle was emphasised.
  • The 1987 report greatly influenced the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 which for the first time explicitly enshrined the Polluter Pays Principle.
  • After Rio summit, the Polluter Pays Principle began to be applied explicitly in environmental jurisdictions.


Polluter pay principle in India

  • The courts in India have applied the Polluter Pays Principle in many cases.
  • In Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum vs. Union of India and Others (1996), the Supreme Court held that the Polluter Pays Principle was part of the environmental law of the country.
  • The Principle came onto the statute books in 2010 when the National Green Tribunal Act was enacted.
  • But there is no prescribed method yet to calculate compensation.
  • In some cases, expert committees calculate the amount while in other cases the courts calculate some discretionary amount.
  • Courts have also used it to impose penalties on polluters, as a deterrent.
Section : Environment & Ecology