Environmental laws in India’
The need for protection and conservation of environment and sustainable use of natural
resources is reflected in the constitutional framework of India and also in the international
commitments of India. The Constitution under Part IVA (Art 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 (Art 48A-Directive Principles of State Policies) stipulates
that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard
the forests and wildlife of the country.
Several environment protection legislations existed even before Independence of India.
However, the true thrust for putting in force a well-developed framework came only after
the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972). After the Stockholm
Conference, the National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning was set up in 1972
within the Department of Science and Technology to establish a regulatory body to look
after the environment-related issues. This Council later evolved into a full-fledged Ministry
of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
MoEF was established in 1985, which today is the apex administrative body in the country
for regulating and ensuring environmental protection and lays down the legal and
regulatory framework for the same. Since the 1970s, a number of environment legislations
have been put in place. The MoEF and the pollution control boards ("CPCB", ie, Central
Pollution Control Board and "SPCBs", ie, State Pollution Control Boards) together form the
regulatory and administrative core of the sector.
Some of the important legislations for environment protection are as follows:
The National 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, etc.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 (the "Environment Act") provides for the protection
and improvement of environment. The Environment Protection Act establishes the
framework for studying, planning and implementing long-term requirements of
environmental safety and laying down a system of speedy and adequate response to
situations threatening the environment. It is an umbrella legislation designed to provide a
framework for the coordination of central and state authorities established under the
Water Act, 1974 and the Air Act. The term "environment" is understood in a very wide term
under s 2(a) of the Environment Act. It includes water, air and land as well as the
interrelationship which exists between water, air and land, and human beings, other living
creatures, plants, micro-organisms and property.
Under the Environment Act, the Central Government is empowered to take
measures necessary to protect and improve the quality of environment by setting
standards for emissions and discharges of pollution in the atmosphere by any
person carrying on an industry or activity; regulating the location of industries;
management of hazardous wastes, and protection of public health and welfare.
From time to time, the Central Government issues notifications under the
Environment Act for the protection of ecologically-sensitive areas or issues
guidelines for matters under the Environment Act.