Human Rights Approach to Environmental Protection

8 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2014

See all articles by Puneet Pathak

Puneet Pathak

Central University of Punjab - Centre for Environmental Law

Date Written: February 17, 2014


Environmental protection and human rights are interrelated, interconnected, and mutually responsive as both of them intended to the well-being of humanity. Safe and healthy environment is the pre-condition for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights. The linkage between these two approaches has recognised in various international and regional instruments, resolutions of the UN subsidiary organization, the outcome documents of international conferences, and the judicial pronouncement of tribunals, which consider the human rights framework as an effective means to achieving the ends of environment protection. Despite the evident relationship between these two, human rights violations and environmental degradation have been treated by most organizations, governments and even academia as unrelated issues. Environmentalists have tended to focus primarily on natural resource preservation without addressing human impacts of environmental abuse. A state of natural imbalance has been developed by many human-centric activities such as the industrialization, urbanization and the large scale exploitation of natural resources damaging the environment led to many serious repercussions on a large scale including Global Warming, drought, flood, environmental Refugees and migration, health issue, Ozone Depletion. Such issues involves not only environmental factors but other factors as well i.e. political, social, economic factors which requires the integration of both approaches to tackle the issues more holistically. The result of looking these two approaches separately is that the victims of environmental degradation are unprotected by the laws and mechanisms established to address human rights abuses. Linking human rights with the environment creates a rights-based approach to environmental protection that places the people harmed by environmental degradation at its center. Articulating the fundamental rights of peoples with respect to the environment creates the opportunity to secure those rights through human rights bodies in an international forum as well as the national tribunals. In this regard, the contribution made by the Indian judiciary for the protection of environment and to provide remedies to the victim of environmental harm by applying the right based approach to environmental protection is a clear example of how the framework of human rights can contribute in the protection of environment and the very existence of the humanity. The concept of sustainable development is very well served to interlink these approaches as it comprising three interrelated dimensions: environmental, economic and social. The present study is intended to describe the interlink between environmental protection and human rights approaches by analyzing instruments, initiatives taken by environmental and human rights bodies and the judicial pronouncement of various tribunals. Further it also evaluates how far the mechanism of human rights is helpful to provide remedies to the victim of environmental degradation and to provide better protection to the global environment.

Keywords: Development, Environment, Human Rights, Sustainable Development

Suggested Citation

Pathak, Puneet, Human Rights Approach to Environmental Protection (February 17, 2014). OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 07, No. 01, pp. 17-24, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Puneet Pathak (Contact Author)

Central University of Punjab - Centre for Environmental Law ( email )

City Campus, Mansa Road
Bathinda, Punjab 151001

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