To what extent does government regulation and new laws solve problems of pollution?
Question.

To what extent does government regulation and new laws solve problems of pollution? Discuss one example each of the success and failure of legislation to change the quality of

(a) public life

(b) private life


Solution:

Government laws play an important role in controlling the rates of pollution in a city. However, simply passing laws is not enough. They need to be properly enforced as well. It is also a fact that people tend to find ways of getting around laws. So, apart from legislations, government also needs to carry out intensive public awareness programmes aimed at educating the public about the need and ways of controlling pollution; and about how they too have a stake in environmental governance.

Example to show the success of legislation to change the quality of

Public life – The Bengal Smoke Nuisance Commission, established as per the Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act of 1905, was successful in controlling industrial smoke in colonial Calcutta.

Private life – The British government passed the Clean Air Act in 1956. This law was aimed at controlling domestic sources of smoke pollution, and to do so, it introduced the concept of smokeless zones. In these areas, smokeless fuels had to be burnt. As a result, air pollution in British cities was substantially reduced.

Example to show the failure of legislation to change the quality of

Public life – By the 1840s, British cities such as Derby, Leeds and Manchester had smoke control laws in place. However, these laws did not succeed much in controlling smoke emission. Since smoke is not easy to monitor or measure, it was easy for factory and steam engine owners to get away with small adjustments to their machinery, and this did nothing to stop smoke.

Private life – During the colonial period, a huge population depended on dung and wood as fuel in their daily life. This was an important source of air pollution in Calcutta. Though successful in controlling industrial smoke, the Bengal Smoke Nuisance Commission found it difficult to control this domestic smoke.

[Note: The following can also be a possible answer to the second part of this question.]

Example to show the success of legislation to change the quality of

Public life – The British state used public funds to provide for entertainment forms such as museums, art galleries and libraries for the working classes.

Private life – British administrative officials built houses in new suburbs for fulfilling the housing needs of the working classes.

Example to show the failure of legislation to change the quality of

Public life – The Underground railway enhanced transport, but caused the demolition of many houses, rendering their inhabitants homeless.

Private life – The availability of one-room tenements and no housing facilities for a major part of the industrial revolution time period caused the family to get divided into smaller units. There were even cases where rural people had to leave their families behind and live alone in the urban areas where they worked.
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