Polluter Pays Principle: Sustainable Development

Author: Shobhan Sachdeva from The NorthCap University, Content Writer

The polluter pays principle is a key guideline of naturally manageable turn of events. The principle holds that the individuals who create contamination and waste should bear the expenses of control, evasion and reduction.

Polluter Pays Principle has become a mainstream expression in recent time. 'In the event that you make a wreck, it's your obligation to tidy it up'- this is the fundamental premise of this motto. It ought to be referenced that in environmental law, the 'polluter pays rule' doesn't refer to "deficiency." Instead, it favors a healing methodology which is worried about fixing ecological harm. It's a principle in global environmental law where the polluting party pays for the harm done to the natural habitat. It is viewed as a territorial custom due to the strong help it has gotten in most Organization for Economic Co-activity and Development (OECD) and European Community (EC) countries. International environmental law itself makes reference to minimal about the guideline.

In recent days, the polluter pays principle is viewed as a method of disguising pollution related expenses inside the setting of the financial objectivity of the enterprise. There is a close connection between a nation's environmental approach and its general financial strategy. Furthermore, under this principle it isn't the duty of government to meet the costs associated with either anticipation of natural harm, or in completing healing activity, because the effect of this would be to shift the financial burden of the pollution incident to the taxpayer.

Historical Evolution of polluter pays principle

The first major reference to polluter pays principle appeared in 1972 in the OECD guiding principles concerning International Economic aspects of the environmental policies. The polluter pays principle as a guiding principle across the countries became necessary because some countries face complaints by national firms about rising costs and a loss of International competitiveness following a national implementation of the polluter pays principle.

The polluter should bear the costs in order to achieve an acceptable state of the environment which is determined by the public authorities. The OECD guiding principles also state that the polluter pays principle should be accompanied by the subsidies that would create significant distortions in the international trade and investments. The range of costs to be borne by the polluter has expanded over time. In 1989, the OECD suggested extending the polluter pays principle in order to cover the costs of accident prevention and to internalise the environmental costs caused by accidents. In 2001, the OECD Joint Working Party on Agriculture and Environment stated that according to polluter pays principle the polluter should be held responsible for environmental damage caused and bear the expenses of carrying out pollution prevention measures or paying for damaging the state of the environment where the consumptive or productive activities causing the environmental damage are not covered by property rights.

During the twenty years from Stockholm to Rio “Sustainable Development" has come to be acknowledged as a feasible idea to destroy neediness and improve the nature of human life while living inside the conveying limit of the supporting eco-systems. "Sustainable Development" as characterized by the Brundtland Report signifies "development that addresses the issues of the present without bargaining the capacity of things to come ages to meet their own needs". There is no hesitation in holding "Sustainable Development' as an adjusting idea among ecology and development has been acknowledged as an aspect of the Customary International Law however its remarkable highlights still can't seem to be settled by the International Law legal advisers. A portion of the remarkable standards of "Sustainable Development", as winnowed out from Brundtland Report and other global records, are Inter-Generational Equity, use and Conservation of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection, the precautionary principle, polluter pays principle, obligation to help and coordinate, Eradication of Poverty and Financial Assistance to the developing countries. We are however, of the view that "The Precautionary Principle" and "The Polluter Pays" principle are fundamental highlights of "Sustainable Development".

Some case laws in which Polluter Pays Principle is applied;

In M.C. Mehta VS. Kamal Nath (1997) 1 SCC 388 this case is also known as Span Motel case, the court stated that “one who pollutes the environment must pay to reverse the damage

caused by his acts”. It was proved that the Motel administration changed the course of the river in order to save the Motel from the future floods. The court held that the Motel should pay compensation by way of cost for the restitution of the environment and ecology of the area. The pollution caused by various construction made by the Motel in the riverbed and the banks of river Beas has to be removed.

The principle also appied in the M.C. Mehta VS. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 965 also known as Oleum gas leak case. Shriram Food and Fertilizers, a subsidiary of Delhi Cloth Mill Limited was manufacturing caustic chlorine and oleum at a plant surrounded by thickly populated colonies. The nature of the chemical process is involved was polluting environment and was creating a nuisance for the surrounding community of the nearby peoples. To address this issue public interest litigation was filed by environmentalist and lawyer, M.C Mehta, requesting the Supreme Court for the immediate closure of the industrial complex so that no problems should be arising for the peoples.

In S. Jagannath VS. Union of India, (1997) 2 SCC 87 also known as Shrimp Farming case, the court applied the polluter pays principle and passed orders against the shrimp farming culture industry found guilty of polluting coastal areas. The court held that the shrimp culture industry was liable to compensate the affected person on the basis of this principle. The Central Government was directed by the court to constitute an authority under section 3(3) of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 to deal with the situation created by the shrimp culture industry in the coastal state and union territories. The court held that, the authority should further determine the compensation to be recovered from the polluters as cost of reversing the damaged environment.

In M.C. Mehta VS. Union of India, (1997) 2 SCC 411 case, also known as Calcutta Tanneries case, the court applied the polluter pays principle as the court involved the issue relating to the pollution caused by about 550 tanneries located in the adjoining areas in the eastern fringe of the city of the Kolkata. The court directed the state government to appoint authority/commissioner to assess the loss to the environment in the areas affected by the pollution caused by the tanneries. The said authorities should determine the compensation to be recovered from the polluter- tanneries as, cost of reversing the damaged environment.


It’s great that India that imbibes the Polluter Pays Principle in their Law of land. What's more, it additionally had really helped in forcing harms on the polluter yet at the same time the issue with this standard is that it hasn't been implemented properly. We ought to rethink the measures' laid to choose the remuneration sum. Atleast it ought to discourage the polluters from spreading contamination. This principle needs an strict interpretation from our legal executive with prompt impact and we can't manage the cost of such a postponement in its appropriate usage in creating nation, similar to India. Moreover, under this principal, the amount of compensation to be charged for the restoration of the damage caused to the environment remains to be inadequate in comparison to the loss actually caused.More effective and unambiguous provisions with regards to the implementation of the Polluter Pays Principle would be beneficial in the longer run.

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