Environment Protection Laws in India

Environment Protection
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India has an age-old tradition of preserving its natural resources. Nature has adorned the status of a deity in certain parts of India. In particular areas of Kerala, Devotees voluntarily held the responsibility of preserving a section of forest and often passed this responsibility to the next generations. However, a broad legal framework is an inevitable and only viable solution to ensure that the environment is taken care of. The purpose of my paper is to discuss the various legislations, formed in concern for the environment. The History of special legislation for the protection of the environment and the events that led are discussed. Further, the scope of impact and chance of effective implementation of such legislations are discussed. On a note of conclusion it is observed that being a developing country, it is important to learn from the mistakes of developed countries in the matter and initiate a sustainable form of development from the beginning.


The environment that we see around, nurtures and sustains life on earth in its fullest form. Mankind does not enjoy a separate existence without nature. Human life is deeply interconnected and dependent on the natural resources and well-being of all the other living species co-existing on the earth. Conservation of our natural resources ensures the survival of mankind and imposes a vital duty on it. Law, being a system of well-defined laws enforced by the controlling authority got an upper hand in ensuring that the environment is constantly protected and the violators are being penalized. Globally, the concept of sustainable development and environment conservation started with the Stockholm Conference in 1972. This UN Conference on Human Environment and Development is deemed as the Magna Carta of an Environment Protection and Sustainable Development. It shares a parallel Significance with the UN Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. A total of Twenty-Six Principles were laid down and countries including India set on the path to take sincere steps towards formulating laws especially for the conservation of natural resources and wildlife. The Pitamber Committee was set up with an aim to evaluate and submit a report on the state of the environment. Its report recommended and led to the establishment of National Committee on Environmental Planning and Coordination (NCEPC). Initially formed under the Department of Science and Technology, it was later elevated to a full-fledged exclusive Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in 1985. The responsibility of the ministry was to hold supreme authority in the matters of environment and advice other ministries on the same. It focused on the duly execution of Environmental programs formed and regulated under the Government of India. Few of the prescribed legislation are listed below.

• The Green Tribunal Act, 2010

• The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1981

• The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1974

• The Environment Protection Act, 1986

• The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations

• The Public Liability Insurance Act,1991

• The Biodiversity Act,2002

• The Forest ( Conservation) Act,1980

• The Indian Forest Act, 1927

• The Wildlife (Protection ) Act,1972

• The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Dwellers(Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

(1) Constitutional Perspective

Apart from the Global obligation from international commitments, the constitution of India under Part IVA (Article 51A– Fundamental Duties) casts a duty on every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and, wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. Further, the constitution of India under Part IV (Article 48A – Directives of principles of State Policies) talks about the Environment and Wildlife Protection. It sets forth that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and surroundings and to safeguard the forests and wildlife in the country to make the environment sustainable.

Article 32 of the Indian Constitution is designed for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights by the Supreme Court of India. It provides for an extraordinary procedure to safeguard the fundamental rights of the citizens. The Right to Life, also a fundamental right, specified under Article 21 of the constitution, also includes the right of enjoyment pollution-free water and air for the total enjoyment of life.

(2) Prevention and Control of Water Pollution

Water is the main element of Nature. River Valleys were the cradle of civilizations from the beginning of the world. Unattended pollution of the water bodies would eventually lead to a catastrophe. It demands to be regulated and calculated on intervals of time. Moreover, Man with the acceleration of technical development significantly molded the environment for selfish deeds of unsustainable.

On realizing the importance of environmental protection, the Parliament of India passed the Water (Prevention and Control) Act, 1974. The Act was enforced on 23rd of March, 1974. The sole purpose of the Act was to control the level of pollutants being dumped into the water bodies and to ensure water resources are preserved in wholesomeness. With the aim to carry out the objective in order, Boards for Water Pollution Control were established. At the Central level, CBPC was established while SBPCs were established at State Level. SBPCs function on instructions from the CBPC and the State Government. CBPC regulates the level of discharge of harmful chemicals and other waste effluents into the water bodies. Maximum tolerated rates were prescribed and any violators would be penalized. SBPCs inspect the sewage or trade effluents, works and, plants for the treatment of the sewage and trade effluents and watch works on purification and system for disposal of such effluents.

Further, (The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess was enacted in the year 1977 to provide for the levy and collection of cess on persons operating and carrying on certain types of industrial activities.

The most disturbing part about this kind of pollution of the water bodies by disposal of industrial waste is that people who cause the problems seldom suffer the consequences of the problem. It is disposed into the neighboring areas which are often less developed. Most developing countries are fighting the depletion of drinkable water sources. With rapid Urbanization and Industrialization, this problem is getting out of hand with every passing day.

(3) A discussion on the scope of pollution control

India, one of the developing countries cannot afford to ignore the water pollution levels, rising in the country. If not kept under control for the better, it will be affected by a large burden of securing and supplying sufficient water for different purposes. A model of sustainable development needs to be adopted in the initial stage itself to curb the growing menace in the mouth itself. However, actions have been taken only after a significant amount of damage is inflicted. The Chances of recovery from reckless execution of projects and violating prescribed instructions are often bleak.

(4) Prevention and Control of Air Pollution

All developing countries face the challenge of air pollution which could lead to poor quality of air. The Air (Prevention and Pollution Control) Act, 1981 was formulated to tackle the degrading quality of air. It comprises of Fifty Sections. The Act specifically embeds the state government, the power to identify pollution areas and prescribe the kind of fuel to be used in those locations. As directed by the Act, Pollution Control Boards were set up at the Central as well as State level, also known as National Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards respectively. These Boards measure the pollution level of the atmosphere in various areas. They may establish a laboratory to carry out this function. The Board also acts as an advisory to the government as well as State Pollution Control Boards on matters of pollution control.

Noise pollution is another aspect of air pollution often neglected by the authorities as well as the residents. Even though The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 exists in the Legal framework there is a lack of effective awareness among the citizens. Most of the population has simply accepted it as a part of their regular life which makes the problem almost invisible.

(5) The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

The National Green Tribunal Act calls for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases in the matter of environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources. It also provides for relief and compensation to be provided in case of damages to the person and property in the matters connected with. Preceding the enactment of the Act, the principle of the tribunal was set up in Delhi. The tribunal has its presence in the North, South, West, East, and Central Zones of the country. Any person seeking relief and compensation for damages involving subjects in the legislations mentioned in Schedule l of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 can approach the tribunal.

(6) The Environment Protection Act, 1986

The Environment Protection Act came into existence in 1986. The Act extensively contains 26 Sections divided into four chapters. The objective of the given Act is to ensure the protection of the environment. It covers all types of pollutions namely Soil, Water, Air, and Noise pollution. The Act empowers the Central Government to curb the pollution levels by setting standards of emissions and discharge of pollutants into the atmosphere by persons operating industries or carrying out other activities.

Upon Non-Compliance of the rules and directions under the Act, the violator would be punished with imprisonment up to five years along with a fine which may be extended to One Lakh Rupees. In case of continuation of such violation, an additional fine of Five Thousand Rupees is inflicted for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the first case of conviction. Further, in case of continuation of contravention for a period of one year after the date of conviction, the offender shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to seven years.


India has enacted an impressive number of special legislation to regulate the pollution level and conserve the environment. Many initiatives like opting for an Environment-Friendly fuel and controlling the number of traffics have done their part of deal in the solution. However, it fails to cover the degree of damage which is inflicted since the starting of Industrialization. Disposal of waste into water bodies is a practice followed since the beginning of our civilization. The toxic nature and quantity of such discharge changed considerably over the years of development and can no longer be avoided. Also, depletion of drinkable water resources can lead to an even deeper problem of supply of water to the residents to meet various needs. Legislations formulated are not enough in most situations since they are hardly carried out with enough power and legitimacy. Newspaper reports on misuse of funds assigned and violation of conditions set forth are not hard to find. A Simple existence of a regulation does not ensure lower levels of pollution. The will of the citizens to intervene in the implementation of such regulations needs to be encouraged. Rewards for Recycle system is a simple yet effective example at this particular point. Non-Political appointments of officials with a positive stance must be ensured at Board for Pollution Control at Central as well as State Level.

This article has been written by Fathima Basheer. She’s currently pursuing B.Com(Hons) from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University.