The Deterrent Effect: How much evidence is there of fines acting as deterrence?

Recently certain changes have been proposed to the environmental laws in India. Out of this one of the proposed amendments is to increase the quantum of fines substantially It also raises the bar of minimum amount of fines.


Taking a hard line with violators, the environment ministry on Friday proposed stiff penalties—a minimum fine of Rs.5 crore and imprisonment of seven years—for anyone found causing substantial environmental damage.

The fine can go up to Rs.20 crore and the imprisonment can even extend to a life term in case of more serious violations

It would be interesting to hear the thoughts from around the world, on whether increasing the quantum of fines have any evidence of actually decreasing environmental non compliances! Are there any instances of this? Have other countries witnessed such a trend?

@krithikadinesh this reminds me of my article Are punitive measures the best approach to increasing registration levels in the country

You know its never about how much you punish the violator but its all about implementing the existing policies. Its all about making the citizens own their environment if they take it as their responsibility, it shall be easier to conserve the environment. Its all about empowering the locals to understand the importance of the environment or even reward initiatives of environmental conservation. That is what I believe in, ever heard of the term “laws were meant to be broken” :wink: I remember one of our Kenyan politician saying he is read to go to court, he has enough cash to go through the process.

1 Like

Interesting Article indeed!

In our last decade of campaign for justice - Environmental justice inclusive Uganda, it was never about how cruel the penalty was but the consistency with which its enforced. Take a point for the child rapists and defilers in Uganda before 2009 were given death penalty and life imprisonment if found guilty but after sustained campaigns through Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Law had to be revised to AGGRAVATED AND NORMAL DEFILEMENT. In other words, any defilement for girls above 15 years would be normal and a girl below that age is treated as aggravated and that would merit life imprisonment or death penalty. Normal defilement now attracts a charge of between 7 to 14 years in Uganda.

Drawing from that experience, the number of reported cases has now increased and the investigations have become easier for the police. Meaning Uganda is now getting few cases hidden of defilement and publicity has heightened the sensitization.

How does this relate with the Environmental Justice? Again, with the Ugandan experience, I was in Bukedea district near a big municipality of Mbale in Eastern Uganda. Many of the villages suffer from inadequate wood fuel unlike the other parts of the Teso region. The challenge was the fine originally given to charcoal burning men was hefty to a tune of US$200! or imprisonment but when the fine was adjusted to US$20 per arrested culprit the communities now cooperate with the authorities to curb the deforestation and charcoal burning in the district. Remember this is a nationally recognized law. With more sensitization, the communities now comply with environmentally acceptable technologies like Solar energy, bio-gas among others. They have now joined up with CSOs to take fight to the companies that do not comply with environmental sensitive production and against GMO crops.

The same experience may soon hit the Indian legislators. For the law alone is not enough with the hefty fines, the whether the law can be accepted by sensitized communities that works. Its also a known fact that India is the largest democracy in the World, and any law can be rejected in a democracy and legislators are forced to review their delegated authority in favour of the communities they lead.

Lets watch the space and we shall see the outcome in the next 36 months!