A big corporate house is engaged in manufacturing industrial chemicals on a large scale. It proposes to set upon the additional unit. Many states rejected its proposal due to its detrimental effect on the environment. But one state government acceded to the request and permitted the unit close to a city, brushing aside all opposition.
The unit was set up 10 years ago and was in full swing till recently. The pollution caused by the industrial effluents was affecting the land, water and crops in the area. It was also causing serious health problems to human beings and animals. This gave rise to a series of agitation thousands of people took part, creating a law-and-order problem necessitating stern police action. Following the public outcry, the State government ordered the closure of the factory.
The closure of the factory resulted in the unemployment of not only those workers who were engaged in the factory but also those who were working in the ancillary units. It also very badly affected those industries which depended on the chemicals manufactured by it.
As a senior officer entrusted with the responsibility of handling these issues, how are you going to address them?
This case presents the challenge of balancing environmental justice with growth and industrialisation. The competing rights of citizens have to be fulfilled by the government to honour its social contract with the citizens.
I as a senior officer entrusted with the responsibility of handling this issue will have to consider the demands and grievances of various stakeholders –
A) Living in a pollution-free environment is a fundamental right of citizens.
As Rudyard Kipling has explained in his poem “The Dawn Wind” the joy of living in a pristine environment.
“At two o’clock in the morning, if you open your window and listen,
You will hear the feet of the Wind that is going to call the sun.”
B) Degradation of land and water in the area will irreversibly destroy the ecology and also the way of life of farmers. Further, it will also threaten food security.
A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Diseases caused by pollution will be passed on from generation to generation.
C) Workers engaged in the factory and ancillary units have been denied the right to work.
D) Other factories dependent on the chemical factory will suffer because of decisions taken by the state government.
I will act under the principle of ethical governance to have empathetic, compassionate, sensitive & responsive governance –
- Law and order must immediately be restored as the factory has already been closed.
- Compensation and medical help can be given to victims of mob confusion and protest.
- Workers who are unemployed must be upgraded in skill to be absorbed elsewhere or given some credit facility for self-employment.
- New suppliers can be arranged for industries dependent on the chemicals from other parts of the country or neighbouring countries. Import tariffs can also be reduced temporarily to prevent economic shock.
- Scientific measures must be taken to restore soil and water health in the region.
- The root cause of the problem – discharge of untreated effluents, must be addressed. In this regard two steps have to be taken –
- Environmental regulation and monitoring have to be strengthened. Transparency and accountability in this regard must be ensured.
- Technology to treat factory discharge cost-effectively has to be developed.
Gandhiji once said, “I bow my head in reverence to our ancestors for their sense of the beautiful in nature and for their foresight in investing beautiful manifestations of nature with a religious significance.” Learning from him we must take a holistic view of development to ensure the rights of all citizens are protected.