Crimes against the environment should have a tough punishment
Environmental crime has become a serious and growing problem internationally. Such crimes have taken various different forms. Generally, pollution can be described as the introduction of any substance capable of causing harm to living organisms and man into the environment. Wildlife crime, on the other hand, can be defined as exploitation of the wild flora and fauna. The following are some of the environmental crimes in contravention of international and national laws (Marry 115).
Illicit trade in hazardous waste and dumping.
Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing
Trade in stolen timber and logging in violation of national laws
Illegal trade of wildlife in endangered species.
Compared to other crimes, environmental crimes are distinct due to their potentially large scale impacts on the community, habitats and wildlife. Environmental crimes also lead to serious long-term effects on the future generations and the environment at large, effects that go beyond the loss of amenity and simple visual blight. For instance, depletion of the ozone layer due to the emission of ozone-depleting substances into the atmosphere can result into long-term drought hence the mass death of the wildlife.
Environmental crimes are not border-restricted. They can affect nation’s security, economy and even its existence. For example, Most African countries rely on tourism as a source of income, and killing of wildlife animals like Elephants and rhinos which are one of the main animals attracting tourist to such country may hinder the country’s economy. A country’s security can also be affected in that most poaching activities are carried out by criminal groups hence an increase in poaching cases would mean a rise in a number of illegal gun possession in a country hence the need for active regulations and laws to mitigate such cases.
With reference to the United Nations’ report, there has been an increasing evidence of the connection between environmental crimes and other crimes such as terrorism, murder, money laundering and corruption (14). The same routes used by criminals to smuggle charcoal and wildlife are used to smuggle people, drugs and weapons. According to the United Nations’ report, between 20,000 and 25,000 elephants from Africa are killed yearly. Approximately $165 million to $185 million realized from the sale of these elephant’s Ivory go to Asia. The report also indicates that approximately $63 million to $192 million is realized from the trade of rhinoceros horns a rise attributed to increasing in poaching from 2007 to 2013 of 50 to 1000 rhinos. Moreover, there has also been a rapid increase in timber trading with an estimation of $30 and $100 billion annually thus representing 30% of the worldwide timber trade.
Timber exports from Somali alone range between $360 to $384 million annually with approximately $56 supporting Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group based in Somalia (INTERPOL). Therefore, as exemplified in the statistics, Environmental crimes need serious punishment to deter offenders or mitigate future occurrences of such crimes.
Another reason why environmental crime should be punished seriously is because a number of them are committed or supported by big companies. Most cases of environmental pollution like emission of dangerous substance into the atmosphere are deliberately committed by commercial bodies. For instance, large manufacturing companies such as oil companies deposit oil residues into water or even releasing dangerous gases into the atmosphere which results in health effects on the inhabitants or even interfering with their livelihood. The introduction of oil into water may result into the death of fish thus cutting off the source of income for fishermen leaving in the region. In conclusion, tightening laws against offenders of such crimes like raising the maxima might result in the desired effect of properly punishing the offenders.
United Nations Environmental Assembly: Report on Environmental Crimes. 2014
INTERPOL: Environmental Compliance and Enforcement committee. Environmental Crimes. 2012.
Mary Clifford & Terry D. Edwards Environmental Crime. 2011