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Environmental Laws in India

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Written by: Himaja Challapalli


Introduction


Environmental law is a term used to explain regulations, statutes, national, international legislation and treaties that are framed to protect the environment from further damage. The environmental law not just covers the government legislation and the legal consequences for going against such statute, but also the regulations and standards of organizations that are designed to maintain ethical principles for operating license. The environmental harm caused by us affects individual health, resources for future generations, etc. There are many areas covered under the environmental law which has a common objective i.e., ‘the protection of the environment’.[1]


Importance and the need for Environmental Law


Many statutes and regulations are being passed for every aspect of human life such as the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, Information Technology Act, 2000, etc. to protect the rights and interests of individuals and more importantly for a peaceful existence in society. Environment and its components are essential for the existence of human life and for any living beings. Thus, it became necessary to be provided with a framework of regulations and guidelines to prevent damage and exploitation of natural resources because of the growing population and technology. It is important to maintain a balance between humanity and nature.


The Constitution of India reflects the conservation of the environment under Article 51A and clearly mentions ‘it is the duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment’ and Article 48A of the Constitution of India, 1949 which covers the Directive Principles of State Policy gives the State to protect and safeguard the resources.[2]The importance of sustainable use of natural resources is also reflected in international treaties.


Important legislations for Environment Protection


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


This act aims to prevent and control water pollution, to restore the water, and Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution were established to carry out the same. The Act establishes ‘Centre Control Pollution Board’ at the centre and the ‘State Control Pollution Board’ at the States. The Act provides the powers, functions of boards, funds, penalties and the procedure to be followed. The act bars the release of pollutants into water bodies beyond a given standard and lays down the penalties for non-compliance of the same.[3]


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


The Air act aims to prevent, control and lessen air pollution and to establish Boards at the Central and State levels to carry out the purposes. The air quality standards were established to counter the issues related to air pollution. The act seeks to tackle air pollution by restraining the use of polluting substances and fuels. The functions of the Central Board given are to advise the Central government concerning the matter and improvement of air, to co-ordinate with the State activities, to lay down the air quality standards etc. and the functions of the State Board are to plan comprehensively to prevent air pollution, to inspect air pollution control areas, industrial plant and manufacturing process.[4]


The Environment Protection Act, 1986


The Environment Protection Act provides for the protection and improvement of the environment. The Act defines ‘environment’ under Section 2(a) of the Environment Act, which includes ‘water, air, land and the inter-relationship which exists among them, human beings and other living creatures, plants and property. The Environment Act empowers the central government to take necessary measures for the protection and improvement of the quality of the environment and for the same it laid down standards for discharge of pollution by any individual or industry. The act provides guidelines for the management of wastes, regulates the industrial locations, and protection of public health and welfare.


The Environment Protection Act also provides with the punishment of imprisonment and the fine payable in case of failure of the regulations and directions provided under the Act.


The Act also establishes the framework to study, research and implement the requirements that are necessary for environmental safety and to provide responses to threatening environmental situations.[5]


The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010


The National Green Tribunal Act has been enacted for an establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the effective transfer of cases relating to ‘environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.’ The act also aims to enforce legal rights relating to the environment and to provide relief and compensation for damages.[6]


Other Rules and Acts relating to the environment


1. There are many rules provided for proper disposal of wastes so to safeguard the environment such as the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control), 2000 which provides rules for the regulation of production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances; The Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001 which provides rules and regulations for the safe disposal of batteries; The Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rule, 1998 for proper disposal of hospital waste etc.


2. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: This Act aims to ensure the ecological and environmental security of the country. It provides for the protection of birds and animals and all the matters that are connected to it such as forests.[7]


3. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980: The act aims to protect and conserve the forests.[8]


4. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002: The act aims to conserve biological diversity and to use resources sustainably.[9]


Conclusion


Environmental law consists of the safeguards to prevent environmental damage, to ensure the effective management of resources and it also provides the legal consequences in case of non-compliance. It establishes boards to control the same. In this current technological era, the usage of many gadgets is leading to increase of waste. Thus, it requires a legal framework to bring changes and law becomes important to provide regulations to control it. Environmental law is designed to ensure that individuals, industries do not cause harm to the nature. As we have seen above, it covers various issues and provides rules and regulations to reduce air pollution, maintain the quality of air and water by determining the safe level of emissions, hazardous waste management and mainly to ensure the sustainability of resources. Environmental laws are necessary to punish those who use resources and dispose of wastes beyond the prescribed limit.


It becomes very important to be aware of the environment and its protection for effective regulation of natural resources.


[1]Environmental Law: Government and Public Policy towards the Environment, Environmental science.org, available at https://www.environmentalscience.org/environmental-law (Visited on June 18, 2021). [2]Constitution of India, 1949. [3]The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (Act 6 of 1974) [4]The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (Act14 of 1981) [5]The Environment Protection Act, 1986 (Act 29 of 1986) [6]The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (Act 19 of 2010) [7]The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (Act53 of 1972) [8]The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (Act 69 of 1980) [9]The Biological Diversity Act. 2002 (Act 18 of 2003)


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