Environmental Damage and Compensation
The environment has been altered by humans for millennia, especially with the advent of agriculture over 10,000 years ago. Furthermore, as population continues to grow, there is more pressure placed on the environment to provide resources that will support human needs.
The unique nature of environmental problems today is that they are caused more by human activities than natural phenomena (Shrinkal, 2019). Economic growth and consumerism have started to show detrimental effects on nature.
Modern technologies have the capability of causing damage that is more serious in kind, greater in scale than ever before. These damages are often irreversible and they threaten the entire world.
According to EarthPulse (2020), it is estimated that more than 80% of the Earth‟s surface has been directly or indirectly impacted by human activities. Considering the global nature of climate change, one might argue that human activity is affecting the entire planet, from urban to remote wild areas.
When the well-being of mankind is at stake, it is generally understood that the decisions concerning damages to the environment can no longer be left to individuals (Pfennigstorf, 1979).
Environmental Damage Concept
The concept of environmental damage has evolved, and it is one of the aspects of development of international environmental law. The concept of environmental damage is extended courtesy of this development (Spinedi, 1991).
Environmental problems have changed over time, and so is the focus on them. Environmental damage or degradation can be considered as the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of the ecosystems and extinction of wildlife.
Environmental damages impose costs on societies that are not reflected in market prices, need to be valued to compare the benefits of environmental protection with the costs of remedial action to make better policy decisions (Reddy, 2011).
In our world today, the major cause of environmental damage has been identified to be the rapid increase in population, and human activities have been identified to have negative and harmful effects to the environment (Larsson, 2009).
Scientists have predicted that environmental quality will be lost due to irreversible damage which will affect the global landscape (Khalatbari, et. al, 2016).
However, environmental damage is a complex concept, and no definition has been unanimously accepted globally.
Unique definition of environmental damage will play an important role in environmental protection for states (Mitchel, 2009). Therefore, the importance of the definition will be based on states‟ responsibility and liability to prevent, reduce and compensate environmental damage.
Sands and Peel (2012) stated that the narrow definition of environmental damage is limited to the damage on natural resources separately. They include air, water, flora and fauna, and their interaction.
Using the extensive approach however, environmental damage includes damage to the natural environment, natural resources, landscape, cultural heritage and environmental amenity.
This definition captures not just the natural environment, but all aspects of human life, his cultural heritage as well as the sustainable use of natural resources.
In the context of international law, environmental damage means to cause damage to more than one country or territory, with serious consequences, such as nuclear contamination, contamination of soil, water or air pollution (Springer, 1977).
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Generally, damage to the environment is captured in the instruments of environmental law, including all the negative effects of man and his artefacts on the environment (Saunders, 1976). Damages that can be compensated are defined in the schemes of restitution and liability.
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