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Developing Effective Compliance Assistance Activities and Programs for Small Businesses in India and the United States

May 2005

Citation: ELR 10341

Author: Seema M. Kakade

I. Overview

At first glance, it appears futile to compare environmental compliance in India and the United States. The United States functions on a complex set of federal, state, and local environmental laws and has a strong system of enforcement and implementation. U.S. industries employ environmental managers, develop green technology, and attempt to foster images as responsible, corporate environmental ambassadors. In contrast, most citizens question the mere existence of environmental law in India, and enforcement and implementation of most regulations is considered weak and subject to high levels of corruption. General public opinion in India believes that industry places little or no value on environmental compliance and is able to curtail pollution control regulations with modest effort.

Yet, despite the vastly differing perceptions of environmental compliance in the United States and India, both countries share a surprisingly similar system for managing and regulating pollution. Environmental law in most developing countries is a relatively recent advent, but India developed its pollution control laws in the same time period, and for virtually identical concerns, as the United States. Agricultural developments, public protest, and alarming toxic waste disasters provided the impetus for the major environmental laws in both India and the United States. Today, both countries rely on a command-and-control approach to environmental regulation that imposes legally enforceable constraints on industrial operations for a variety of forms of pollution. Compliance with command-and-control laws in the United States and India is assured through an assortment of enforcement mechanisms, including fines, closures or interruptions in business, and criminal punishment.

Seema M. Kakade is a Staff Attorney and Co-Director of the India Program at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). Ms. Kakade gratefully acknowledges funding from the GE Foundation and U.S. Agency for International Development-India for ELI's compliance assistance work in India that provided a basis for much of this Article. She would like to note that all e-mail and telephone conversations with government employees referred to as support for this Article are based upon the personal opinions of those involved and do not necessarily represent the actions or positions of the agencies.

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