In general, Environment gets defined as conditions and effects that influence human life.
It is the life support system of everyone present on the planet Earth. It is composed of living beings, surroundings, and climate.
The word environment is derived from ‘Environner,’ which means ‘to surround,’ and is such a dynamic term that may include a limited area on the one hand and the whole planet on another.
We, humans, have degraded the environment so much that now it is difficult to live in the environment we live in. We must protect it, preserve it and make it a better place to live. It is rightly said that we do not inherit the environment from our ancestors, but we have borrowed it from the next generation.
Due to this degradation of the Environment, legislation was required to protect the environment from degrading. Thus, the Environment Protection Act was enacted and was one of the broadest acts covering every aspect of environmental protection.
Importance of Environment
Offers resources for Production
The environment includes physical resources like minerals, wood, water, soil etc. which are available as a gift from nature, which can be used as raw material to produce goods.
The environment includes everything required for human life. In the absence of such ingredients, one won’t be able to survive on this earth.
Activities on earth produce waste, and such waste gets absorbed by the environment.
Enhance the quality of life
Trees, forests, deserts, mountains, oceans all help in creating a better quality of life for humans
Environmental Laws in India
The need to protect the environment and sustainable use of resources is in the Constitutional Framework of India. In it, environment protection is provided as a fundamental duty of every citizen of the country under Part IVA (Article 51 A )that states Fundamental duties and under Article 48A, under Part IV that states the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Here the duty is imposed on citizens and the states to protect and improve the environment.
Legislations enacted with the purpose of protection of the environment include:
- The Wildlife Protection Act 1972
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
- The Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
- The Environment Protection Act 1986
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
Many other legislations were enacted and are in force for the protection of the Environment.
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
The main motto of THE ACT OF 1972 is to protect the country’s wildlife and control activities like poaching, illegal trade related to wildlife. It protects the listed endangered species of flora and fauna and ecologically protected areas.
The government introduced various amendments to make the act more rigid and strengthen the show.
The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974
THE ACT Of 1974 prevents and controls water pollution or restore the wholesomeness of water in the country and is also known as the Water Act. It prohibits the discharge of pollutants into water bodies beyond prescribed limits and lays down penalties for non-compliance.
It created both Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Board that functions under Central Government and State Government, respectively. SPCB unctions both under the control of CPCB and State Government.
The Forest Conservation Act,1980
THE ACT OF 1980 was enacted to conserve the forest in the country. It strictly prohibits the use of forest land for non-forest purposes without the approval of the Central Government.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
The act is also known as the Air Act that provides provisions for the prevention, control and abetment of air pollution and establishing pollution control boards at the Central and State level.
Ambient air standards were set out to solve the problems related to air pollution.
THE ACT Of 1981 act prohibited polluting fuels and substances that cause a rise in air pollution.
It has also empowered the state and central government to declare any area or areas air pollution control after consultation with SPCB and CPCB, respectively.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986
This act provides for the safeguard and preservation of the environment. This legislation is considered umbrella legislation designed to provide a framework for coordination between CPCB and SPCB established under the Air Act and Water Act.
THE ACT OF 1986 defined the term environment very broadly, including every aspect of the environment. It is considered the most important legislation in India for environmental issues.
Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
The objective of enacting the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, was to provide damages to the victim of an accident due to any hazardous substance.
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
The BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY ACT,2002, was enacted to conserve biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and adequate biological resources.
The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
The act came into force on 18th October 2010, resulting in the repealing of acts such as the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995; The National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997.
The main objective for enacting The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, was to establish the National Green Tribunal for effective and speedy cases disposal related to Environment Protection and Conservation of forest and other natural resources.
It also includes matters related to any legal rights related to the environment and to provide relief or compensation for the damages to the person.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986
There was various legislation before 1986, but all of them were not so wide; they were related to specific issues. There was a need for legislation that was more severe and had a wide range.
Thus, The Environment Protection Act,1986, was enacted in 1986 to protect the environment. The act bestows an inclusive definition of the Environment.
The act came into force in November 1986 and contained 26 sections divided into four chapters.
Section 2(a) of the act defines the “Environment”, which according to this section, means and includes water, air and land and the interrelationship between air, water, land, human being, living creature, plant, animals etc.
Background Of The Environment Protection Act
Indian was a signatory of the UNITED NATION CONFERENCE ON HUMAN ENVIRONMENT, held in Stockholm, Sweden from 5th June 1972 to 16th June 1972 and is popularly known as the Stockholm Conference.
The conference ended up with a declaration that contained 26 principles, 109 recommendations on the environment. These 26 principles are the golden rules provided by the Stockholm Conference.
After the conference, much legislation got enacted to protect the environment. But there was a need for a broad scope of general legislation.
Thus, the ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION ACT,1986, was enacted.
The Environment Protection Act was enacted under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution, providing legislation to an international agreement.
Objective Of The Environment Protection Act
The main objective of the act was to protect the environment, but there were other objectives as well for the implementation of the ACT:
- To implement the decision of the Stockholm Conference, 1972
- To enact a general law as the existing laws consisted of specific hazards.
- To coordinate activities of various regulatory agencies.
- To create authorities for protection by the government.
- To provide penal provision, to safeguard the environment.
- To promote sustainable development.
Salient Features of EPA Act
- Power to central government: The act vests power on the central government to take measures that it feels necessary to protect the environment in coordination with the state government. It can plan and execute nationwide programmes that help to protect the environment.
It has the power to lay down quality standards for the environment, restrict areas and can set standards for discharge of environmental pollutants.
- Restriction on pollutant discharge: Any organisation or an individual cannot emit pollutants other than the prescribed standard.
- Compliance with procedural safeguard: no one has the power to handle or no one should handle any hazardous substance without complying with procedure and safeguards.
- Powers of entry and inspection: central government has the power to appoint any person who can enter any place for inspection for compliance of any order and for examining any equipment, industrial unit etc.
- Covers all forms of pollution: the Act covers all forms of pollution, including air, water, noise and soil pollutions.
- Prohibits the use of hazardous materials: the act prohibits hazardous substances without prior permission of the central government.
Drawbacks Of Environment Protection Act
- Complete Centralisation: The act has provided broad powers to the central government and has no power to the state government.
- No public participation: the act does not include public participation to protect the environment.
- Protection of forest: it omits protection of forest from its ambit.
Important Sections Of the Environment Protection Act
Section 2 of the act provides a various definition that includes; Environment, Environment Pollutant, Handling, Environmental Pollution; Hazardous Substance; and Occupier.
General Power of the Central Government (Section 3 to Section 6)
Section 3 lays down the Power of the Central Government to take measures to protect and improve the environment.
According to this Section, the Central government can take steps to protect and improve the quality of the environment.
Such measures can be as follows:
- Lay down the standards for the quality of the environment.
- Power to Restrict the areas for industries.
- Lay down the safety measures and procedures to prevent accidents and specify remedies in case an accident occurs.
- Responsibility to carry research and provide funds for research on environmental pollution
- Establish laboratories.
- Collect information related to environmental pollution.
This section provides the power of the central government to appoint officers and provide their powers and functions.
The central government gets the power to give directions
This section states the rules to deal with environmental pollution.
Section 7 to 17 provides laws regarding prevention, control and abatement of the environment.
Section 10 vests power on central government to appoint a person to enter any place at the reasonable time of the day to
- Perform the duties entrusted upon him
- Examine any equipment, industrial record or register or documents of industries.
This section gives the power to take samples and procedures to get followed in connection to that.
It allows the Central Government to establish labs or declare existing labs as environmental laws.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 also provides the procedure to be followed, the jurisdiction of the NGT and the cognizance of offences.
Environmental Issues in India
Deforestation means cutting down trees on a huge basis. In India, deforestation is one of the significant issues.
It happens due to increased industries, population, demand for wood, river valley projects and many more.
It refers to the production and consumption of resources that challenge the purity of air, water and pollute the environment. It is a severe problem for society. Pollution is increasing daily due to an increase in industries, deforestation, excess use of CFCs etc.
India is not just facing issues related to one single form of pollution; the Quality of air is decreasing, especially the Capital city, Delhi, faces a severe issue of Air Pollution. To curb it, the government has to implement an Odd-Even policy for vehicles. But this is not a step that can help in reducing the issue.
The Air quality index shows how bad the condition of various Indian states is.
The same is the situation with water and all other natural resources.
Loss of wildlife
Deforestation leads to excessive exploitation of the forest, which destroys the natural habitat of wildlife, leading to the unnatural death of wild animals and plants.
Increase in the number of vehicles
An increase in the number of vehicles has caused a rise in pollution.
Today, vehicles are not merely a need for society but a status symbol too. Every family member needs their vehicle; they keep using them unnecessarily; even if they have to go to the same office, they will use a different vehicle. And such an increase in the number of vehicles on roads causes huge pollution.
An increase in urbanisation has caused pressure on housing and civil amenities, thus, increasing the demand for land, which resulted in the exploitation of natural resources.
Role of an Individual in Prevention of Pollution
It is the responsibility of every human being on the earth to prevent pollution on the planet. We humans are the ones who create chaos that result in pollution.
It is rightly said that we do not inherit the environment from our ancestors, but we have borrowed it from the next generation. So it becomes our duty to keep it safe and in living condition, thus, making it a better place to live for them.
We are not expected to do a lot for the betterment of the environment. A small measure by each of us to protect against pollution will protect the environment from pollution.
Every individual can take certain precautions to protect against environmental pollution, and they are:
- Using eco-friendly products.
- Avoiding the use of private vehicles instead use public transport.
- Avoid using products that use Chloro-fluoro carbons as these gases destroy the ozone layer, thus causing harm to the earth.
- Take a bow to plant at least one tree every year.
- Don’t use single-use plastic, instead use jute bags, leaves of trees instead of plastic disposable cups and plates.
- Instead of using non-renewable sources, use renewable sources of energy.
These are just a few suggestions. There is a lot one can do to prevent environmental pollution.
Environmental Policy in India
In India, it is of utmost importance to protect the environment as it is degrading day by day, and fortunately, it has become the priority of the Government.
Few initiatives taken by the Government of India to protect the Environment are:
Nagar Van Udyan Scheme
This scheme was launched with the vision to develop at least one city forest having a municipal corporation for creating a healthy environment and clean, green and sustainable India.
This scheme aims to create almost 200 city forests and educate people about conserving plants and biodiversity.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan
The hon’ble prime minister Mr Narendra Modi in 2014 initiated the programme to eradicate waste from the country and make people aware of cleanliness and its benefits. The main objective behind this scheme was to promote clean India and recover resources for utilization by recycling and creating employment through this process.
Project Tiger got adopted in 1973 to protect tiger’s in India as the number of tigers decreased. Under this project, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate have assisted the tiger states in conserving the tiger by protecting and restoring the habitat and relocating the people from the tiger’s habitat.
National Wetland Conservation Programme
The Government of India launched this scheme to prevent further wetland degradation and undertake measures to conserve wetland.
Green Skill Development Programme
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate in year 2017 launched the scheme to protect and conserve green nature and create awareness among youth to develop skills and gain experience.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate implemented other schemes to conserve the environment and develop the ecosystem. Such schemes are:
- National River Conservation Programme
- Conservation of Natural Resource and Ecosystem
- Green India Mission
- National Afforestation Programme
- National Coastal Management Programme
- National Mission on Himalayan Studies under Climate Change Programme
Case Laws Involving Environment Protection Act
M.C. Mehta V. Union of India & Ors. (Oleum Gas Leak Case)
In this case, the concept of Public Liability was discussed, and the Supreme Court of India laid down the principle of absolute liability. It was held that permission for carrying out any hazardous industry close to human habitation cannot be given. Thus, the industry got relocated.
Vellore citizen welfare forum v. Union of India & Ors
In this case, the Supreme Court interpreted the polluter pay principle, which means that the absolute liability for causing harm to the environment does not extend only to compensate the victims but also extends to the cost of restoring the environmental degradation.
Tarun Bharat Singh v. Union Of India
In this case, the supreme court banned mining activities in Sariska wildlife sanctuary as they were against the notification issued by the Central Government under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act,1986
M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (GroundWater Depletion case)
In this case, the depletion of groundwater levels at various parts of the country was questioned, and there was no authority to check the groundwater level. This SC directed the Central Government to make the Groundwater board keep a check on groundwater level under the authority provided by the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
India is a country with vast resources present and where exploitation takes place at a very large scale, and this is proved by the report that shows the environmental performance of 180 countries. Among 180 countries, India stands at 168th position, India’s Environment Performance is not good.
The environment needs to get preserved for the betterment of society, and conservation of natural resources is equally important. Laws in India need to be more severe to save the environment.
Environment Protection Act is one such act which is also known as an Umbrella legislation that covers almost every aspect related to the environment. Still, it needs to make changes as per the requirement of society nowadays.
It is necessary to spread awareness for preserving the environment and make people understand how important it is to use resources wisely. And it is also required to shift from non-renewable sources to renewable sources of energy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Define Environmental Pollution as defined by the Environment protection act?
Section 2 of Environment Protection Act,1986 means “the presence in the environment of any pollutant.”
Who can make a complaint under the Environment protection act?
The complaint can be filed by
- Central Government or any authority assigned by the government
- A person given notice of sixty days of the offence and has mentioned his intention to file a complaint to the central government
What is the primary purpose of implementing the Environment Protection Act?
The primary purpose of enacting the Environment Protection Act was to implement the United Nations Conference on Human Rights decision.
What are the salient features of the Environment Protection Act?
The salient feature of the Environment Protection Act:
- To plan and execute a nationwide programme for the prevention and control of environmental pollution.
- To lay down standards for the quality of the environment in various aspects and the emission and discharge of environmental pollutants.