On the 17th of April, 2011, I had the privilege of speaking at the 40th Annual Conference of the Indian Society of International Law. The focus of this year’s conference was essentially. the issues pending for consideration before the International Law Commission. There were two days of discourse and discussion on (i) Reservation to Treaties, (ii) The Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite; and (iii) Shared Natural Resources.
I was invited to speak on shared natural resources, in particular on conservation of shared natural resources and international law. The other panelists were Dr. Ellumalai, Director, Department of Law, Indira Gandhi National Open University; Dr Phillippe Cullet, one of the most authoritative scholars of international water law; Dr. V. G. Hegde, current treasurer of ISIL; and Rammohan, fellow of the Tata Environmental Research Institute.
Dr Cullet, with extraordinary clarity, traced the development of the international law in relation to shared water resources and lauded the work of the International Law Commission in this respect. He advocated the belief that international water law, and indeed the law of shared natural resources can only develop through multilateral law making.
On my part, I focussed on how the concept of permanent and absolute sovereignty has affected the growth of international law on non-biological natural resources, whereas significant progress has been made in international environmental law, including concepts of prevention of trans-border pollution and preservation of wildlife and habitat. I also pointed out the dichotomy that exists in India vis a vis strengthening the domestic regime for environmental protection while at the same tome rejecting international obligations on environmental law.
I also put forward my belief that a regional approach to law making might be a better way to develop the international law on share natural resources. I expressed the hope that treatment of shared natural resources finds a home in the wider discourse on the Asian approach to International Law, given Asia’s historical background of preserving and protecting the environment.