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Encouraging Green Elections in India


Prelims: Polity (Constitutional Bodies)

Mains: GS Paper II Appointments to various constitutional posts, powers functions and responsibilities of various constitutional bodies etc (Election Commission of India, Need for a paradigm shift in election methods, challenges to ecofriendly methods, Indian and global examples)

Why in the News ?

  • In August 2023 during Assembly elections, the Election Commission of India (ECI) voiced its concern over the environmental risks associated with the use of non-biodegradable materials in elections
  • ECI has been urging “parties and candidates to avoid the use of plastic/polythene for preparation of election material during an election campaign, since 1999’).

Source: TH

Key Facts 🗝️

Article 324: The Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.


Need for a paradigm shift:

  • In the 2016 US presidential elections, the emissions by campaign flights by just one of the candidates alone were equivalent to the carbon footprint of 500 Americans for a year.
  • Traditional methods of conducting elections, with their reliance on paper-based materials, energy-intensive rallies, loudspeakers, PVC flex banners etc
    • They cause a significant environmental footprint and impact citizens’ health.
    • The magnitude of India’s elections, with crores of voters, and mass political rallies, amplify this impact.
  • Research conducted by Willemson and Krips from Estonia (2023)
    • The primary source of carbon emissions during elections is from transportation of voters and logistics to and from the polling booths.
    • The secondary source is from the running of the polling booths.
    • Transitioning to digital voting systems could reduce the carbon footprint by up to 40%.


  • Challenges to eco friendly methods:
    • Implementing environmentally-friendly elections will entail technological, financial and behavioral challenges.
    • Electronic and digital voting require robust infrastructure (especially in rural areas) and checks for hacking and fraud.
    • Ensuring that all voters have fair access to new technologies and the training of officials.
    • Financial challenges include substantial upfront costs for eco-friendly materials and technology
      • It would deter governments that are financially constrained.
    • Cultural inertia in valuing a voter’s physical presence at polling booths as sacrosanct is a behavioral challenge.
    • Public skepticism towards new approaches and fear of compromises to vote security.

Indian and global Examples

  • Indian States
    • Kerala:
      • During the 2019 general election, the Kerala State Election Commission urged political parties to avoid single-use plastic materials while campaigning.
      • Kerala High Court imposed a ban on flex and non-biodegradable materials in electioneering.
      • Wall graffiti and paper posters emerged as alternatives.
      • Government bodies collaborated with the district administration in Thiruvananthapuram to ensure a green election.
      • Training sessions were conducted in villages for election workers.
    • Goa:
      • In 2022, the Goa State Biodiversity Board had eco-friendly election booths for the Assembly elections, using biodegradable materials crafted by local traditional artisans.
    • Sri Lanka
      • In 2019, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party launched the world’s first carbon-sensitive environmentally friendly election campaign.
      • It measured carbon emissions from vehicles and electricity used during political campaigns
      • compensated for the emissions by planting trees in each district through public participation.
      • This offset the immediate carbon footprint of the campaign and drew awareness about the importance of forest cover.
  • Estonia:
    • It laid the foundations for digital voting as an online voting alternative.
    • It encouraged voter participation.
    • Digital voting accompanied by robust security measures is both eco- and electorate-friendly.

Way Forward

  • There is a need for eco-friendly elections, which would be a boost to environmental stewardship alongside civic participation.
    • Sri Lanka and Estonia have conducted environmentally-conscious elections.
  • This green transition must involve all stakeholders such as political parties, Election Commissions, governments, voters, the media and civil society.
  • The success of integrating top-level directives with grassroots initiatives to foster a green transition is imperative.
    • Political parties must take the lead.
  • The journey can begin by enacting legislation mandating eco-friendly electoral practices, with the ECI incorporating them in the Model Code of Conduct.
    • Campaigning through digital platforms or door-to-door campaigning (reducing energy-intensive public rallies) and encouraging the use of public transportation for election work.
  • Incentivising the replacement of plastic and paper-based materials with sustainable local alternatives for polling booths, such as natural fabrics, recycled paper and compostable plastics, will aid waste management and support local artisans.
  • The ECI can push for digital voting even though this necessitates the training and capacity building of officials.
  • To ensure equal participation of all voters in the digital electoral process
    • The government must educate and support voters and ensure equitable access to digital technology.
  • The media’s crucial role can in emphasizing the environmental impact of conventional election methods, turn the spotlight on innovative eco-friendly alternatives.
  • Embracing eco-conscious electoral practices can help India set an example for other democracies around the world.


Mains: PYQ/FAQ

Q. Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in the light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct.

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