A Safe and Healthy Environment is a Human Right


While fully endorsing the perception that a safe and healthy environment is a human right, one nagging thought preys on the mind and refuses to go away. Why is it that human beings while being fully aware of this fact simply refuse to care for the environment, if not for us, at least for future generations to come? If only everyone is aware of the harmful benefits of some of their actions, the world would undoubtedly be a much better place to live in. If each one considered leaving behind a clean footprint as part of their basic duties, it would be acknowledging that it is a part of human right to stay safe.

There is a general misplaced perception that human rights are mainly about physical and mental torture inflicted by one on another. Nothing can be further from the truth because the air that we breathe in or the water that we drink is not the sole preserve of anybody on earth and nobody has a right to destroy its purity. Having these is a right. It is a natural resource and element that has to be shared equally by all and it is the responsibility of each one of us to protect its sanctity as seriously and meticulously as we would protect something that we really own.

Because of the harmful effects of pollution and contamination of the environment that is a fall out of the industrial age, there are strict laws in place in most countries around the world. For example, tree removal and tree pruning in Melbourne can be carried out only after obtaining the statutory permission even if the tree is on your property. Of course trimming of overgrown trees that are a hazard to the surroundings is exempted from this category. Any construction activity of large development projects in most countries around the globe needs sanction from the environment authorities apart from routine permissions. If factories are set up, they must have water treatment plants in the scheme before they can even lay a brick. All safeguards are in place but implementation is slack – that is the problem with caring for the environment.

What then are the areas that have contributed to the environmental mess that we are in?

  • Pollution – In the past, companies simply manufactured their cars and sold them without a thought to what harm could actually happen in future. As tonnes of carbon residue from burning of fuel in the engines got let off in the atmosphere, there was a gradual reduction in the quality of air that we breathed in. With the rampant addition of vehicles, mainly the huge and heavy fuel guzzling monsters in the transport sector, the environment has become so polluted that the effects are already starting to be felt. Global warming is one such example which is resulting in melting of polar caps.
  • Ground water contamination – Draining of chemical laced water directly into the ground is affecting the safety of the ground water levels. Water treatment plants are effective but cannot cope with the inflows. Simple conventional toxic laundry water that is drained out from washing machines does incalculable harm. This has resulted in many species of bacteria becoming extinct from the soil, beneficial bacteria that helped preserve nutrients in the soil for better agricultural output.

Given this frightening scenario, it is time that preserving the purity of our eco system is taken to be a human right.