Environmental crimes are relatively a new area of criminology that is showing an alarming rise in the number of cases in recent years. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, environmental crimes are increasing at a considerable pace which requires a multitudinous approach to combat them.
Environmental crimes consists of a broad list of activities including:
- illegal trading in wildlife,
- illicit trade of hazardous wastes,
- unregulated and unreported fishing,
- illegal logging and trade in timber,
- smuggling of ozone-depleting substances, and
- extraction of marine resources.
Reasons for the rise in environmental crimes:
• Often these crimes are perceived as victimless and incidental, so the law enforcement agencies tend to give them low priority.
• Large differences in laws between different countries and sometimes between states in the same country make things complicate and make it difficult to nab environmental criminals.
• With improved awareness in recent times there is an increase in reporting the crimes to the concerned authorities.
• There is an involvement of organized criminal groups in these crimes and these criminal groups can act across the borders is further fuelling its expansion. Ex: Extremist groups in northeast India are trading in wildlife products.
• Huge market for wildlife products among our neighboring countries. For example, there is a huge demand for rhino horns in China, Myanmar, and similar such demands in CMLV countries.
• Poor conviction rate and assured financial gains are one of the main reasons for further emboldening of criminals.
• Complexity in tackling these criminal groups requires a multinational and multi-sectoral approach which is difficult to sustain for very long.
• With increased digital penetration, cyberspace is also facilitating trade in endangered species of plants and animals.
Following are the possible solutions:
• Firstly, there should be a clear cut definition for environmental crimes.
• A separate Eco crime courts should be set up at the International and regional level for speedy trials and delivery of justice.
• An Eco crime police should also be set up at national and international levels.
• Strengthening of international networks for effective law enforcement. For example, Recently conceived SOUTH ASIAN WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT NETWORK is a major step in the right direction.
• Sensitisation of lawyers, judges, pollution control boards, NGOs, senior officials, legislators about the emerging threats of environmental crimes.
• Providing legal aid to victims of environmental crimes and eco-restoration at the cost of polluters at national and international levels.