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# Ecocide: Debate Over Criminalization and its Implications for India

## Introduction

Ecocide is increasingly recognized as a severe environmental crime that entails the destruction of ecosystems and natural habitats. Various countries, including India, are considering the incorporation of ecocide laws within their legal frameworks. This discussion provides a detailed analysis of the concept of ecocide, why it should be criminalized, its limitations, and India's stance on the matter.

## Definition of Ecocide

- **What It Is**: Originating from Greek and Latin roots, 'Ecocide' means "killing one's home" or the environment. It could range from deforestation to pollution.


  - **Example**: Use of Agent Orange by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War had severe environmental consequences, considered by some to be ecocide.


- **Legal Definitions**: There is no universally accepted legal definition, but some entities like the Stop Ecocide Foundation have prepared comprehensive definitions.

  - **Example**: The foundation proposes that ecocide constitutes "unlawful or wanton acts committed with the knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment."

## Reasons for Criminalization

- **Loophole in Existing Laws**: Current international laws do not adequately protect the environment as an end in itself.

  - **Example**: European Parliament voted to enshrine ecocide in law, recognizing the loopholes in existing international laws.


- **Climate Realities**: Increasing climate catastrophes necessitate laws that can hold culprits accountable.

  - **Example**: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that current global climate action is insufficient.

## Limitations of Defining Ecocide

- **Ambiguity**: Words like "long-term" or "widespread damage" could be interpreted differently, affecting the threshold for criminal charges.

  - **Example**: Prof. Siddiqui highlighted that terms like "long-term" are ambiguous and can create issues in implementation.


- **High Burden of Proof**: Proving 'intentional' or 'deliberate' destruction is challenging.

  - **Example**: Belarus and Moldova specify 'intentional' destruction, making it difficult to prosecute corporations effectively.

## India's Stance

- **Existing Framework**: India has several laws like the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986 and the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.

  - **Example**: The National Green Tribunal, however, cannot adjudicate matters under all these existing frameworks.


- **Conflicting Laws**: Recently passed laws, like the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill 2023, could dilute existing protections.

  - **Example**: Experts warned the new laws might lead to the loss of 20-25% of forest areas in India.


- **Challenges in Implementation**: There are issues concerning liability, compensation, and the actual use of fines collected for environmental harm.

  - **Example**: Survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster are still fighting for adequate compensation.

## Conclusion

The debate over the criminalization of ecocide is intricate and fraught with complexities, more so in countries like India, which are balancing development needs with environmental protection. The need for a unified code that simplifies and strengthens the existing legal framework is imminent.