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Laws for Prevention & Control of Pollution, Protection of Environment

National Environmental Legislation

  • Our constitution, originally, did not contain any direct provision regarding the protection of natural environment.
  • However, after the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972, Indian constitution was amended to include protection of the environment as a constitutional mandate.
  • Environment related legislation came very late in 1972 with Wild Life Protection Act 1971.
  • The forty second amendment (Fundamental Duties) Clause (g) to Article 51A of the Indian constitution made it a fundamental duty to protect and improve the natural environment.
  • Clause (g) to Article 51A of the Indian constitution states “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and have compassion for living creatures.”
  • There is a directive, given to the State as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy regarding the protection and improvement of the environment.
  • Article 48A states “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”.
  • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • The Department of Environment was established in India in 1980 to ensure a healthy environment for the country. This later became the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 1985.
  • The Environment Protection Act of 1986 (EPA) came into force soon after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and is considered umbrella legislation as it fills many lacunae in the existing legislations.

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974 and Amendment, 1988

Some important provisions of this Act are given below:

  • The Act vests regulatory authority in State Pollution Control Boards to establish and enforce effluent standards for factories.
  • Central Pollution Control Board performs the same functions for Union Territories and formulate policies and coordinates activities of different State Boards.
  • The Act grants power to SPCB and CPCB to test equipment and to take the sample for the purpose of analysis.
  • Prior to its amendment in 1988, enforcement under the Act was achieved through criminal prosecutions initiated by the Boards.
  • The 1988 amendment act empowered SPCB and CPCB to close a defaulting industrial plant.

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act of 1977

  • The Water Cess Act was passed to generate financial resources to meet expenses of the Central and State Pollution Boards.
  • The Act creates economic incentives for pollution control and requires local authorities and certain designated industries to pay a cess (tax) for water effluent discharge.
  • The Central Government, after deducting the expenses of collection, pays the central and state boards such sums, as it seems necessary.
  • To encourage capital investment in pollution control, the Act gives a polluter a 70% rebate of the applicable cess upon installing effluent treatment equipment.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 and amendment, 1987

  • To implement the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in June 1972, Parliament enacted the nationwide Air Act.
  • The main objectives of this Act are to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control and abate air pollution in the country.

Important provisions of this Act are given below:

  • The Air Act’s framework is similar to that of the Water Act of 1974.
  • The Air Act expanded the authority of the central and state boards established under the Water Act, to include air pollution control.
  • States not having water pollution boards were required to set up air pollution boards.
  • Under the Air Act, all industries operating within designated air pollution control areas must obtain a “consent” (permit) from the State Boards.
  • The states are required to prescribe emission standards for industry and automobiles after consulting the central board and noting its ambient air quality standards.
  • The Act grants power to SPCB and to test equipment and to take the sample for the purpose of analysis from any chimney, fly ash or dust or any other.
  • Prior to its amendment in 1988, enforcement under the Act was achieved through criminal prosecutions initiated by the Boards.
  • The 1988 amendment act empowered SPCB and CPCB to close a defaulting industrial plant.
  • Notably, the 1987 amendment introduced a citizen’s suit provision into the Air Act and extended the Act to include noise pollution.

Environment (Protection) Act of 1986

  • In the wake of the Bhopal tragedy, the government of India enacted the Environment Act of 1986.
  • The purpose of the Act is to implement the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment of 1972.
  • The decisions relate to the protection and improvement of the human environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property.
  • The Act is an “umbrella” for legislations designed to provide a framework for Central Government, coordination of the activities of various central and state authorities established under previous Acts, such as the Water Act and the Air Act.
  • In this Act, main emphasis is given to “Environment”, defined to include water, air and land and the inter-relationships which exist among water, air and land and human beings and other living creatures, plants, micro-organisms and property.
  • Environmental pollution” is the presence of pollutant, defined as any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such a concentration as may be or may tend to be injurious to the environment.
  • Hazardous substances” include any substance or preparation, which may cause harm to human beings, other living creatures, plants, microorganisms, property or the environment.
  • Through this Act Central Government gets full power for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment.
The main provisions of this Act are given below
  • The Act empowers the centre to “take all such measures as it deems necessary”.
  • By virtue of this Act, Central Government has armed itself with considerable powers which include,
  • coordination of action by state,
  • planning and execution of nationwide programmes,
  • laying down environmental quality standards, especially those governing emission or discharge of environmental pollutants,
  • placing restriction on the location of industries and so on.
  • authority to issue direct orders, included orders to close, prohibit or regulate any industry.
  • power of entry for examination, testing of equipment and other purposes and power to analyse the sample of air, water, soil or any other substance from any place.
  • The Act explicitly prohibits discharges of environmental pollutants in excess of prescribed regulatory standards.
  • There is also a specific prohibition against handling hazardous substances except those in compliance with regulatory procedures and standards.
  • The Act provides provision for penalties. For each failure or contravention, the punishment included a prison term up to five years or fine up to Rs. 1 lakh, or both.
  • The Act imposed an additional fine of up to Rs. 5,000 for every day of continuing violation.
  • If a failure or contravention occurs for more than one year, offender may be punished with imprisonment which may be extended to seven years.
  • Section 19 provides that any person, in addition to authorized government officials, may file a complaint with a court alleging an offence under the Act.
  • This “Citizens’ Suit” provision requires that the person has to give notice of not less than 60 days of the alleged offence of pollution to the Central Government.

Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989

  • Biosafety concerns have led to the development of regulatory regime in India.
  • Aim of ‘Rules 1989’ is to protect environment, nature and health in connection with application of gene technology and micro-organisms.
  • These rules cover areas of research as well as large scale applications of GMOs and their products including experimental field trials and seed production.
  • The Rules 1989 also define the competent authorities and composition of such authorities for handling of various aspects of the Rules.

Presently there are six committees:

  1. Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RDAC): The functions are of an advisory nature. It recommends safety regulations for India in recombinant research, use and applications.
  2. Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) established under the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, to monitor the safety related aspects in respect of on-going research projects.
  3. Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC): it is the apex body constituted in the MoEF under ‘Rules 1989′, under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  4. State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC’s) have a major role in monitoring. It also has powers to inspect, investigate and take punitive action in case or violations of statutory provisions.
  5. District Level Committees (DLCs) have a major role in monitoring the safety regulations in installations engaged in the use of genetically modified organisms/hazardous microorganisms and its applications in the environment.
  6. Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBSC) is established under the institution engaged in GMO research to oversee such research and to interface with the RCGM in regulating it.
Q. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee is constituted under the
  1. Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
  2. Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999
  3. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  4. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

The Ozone Depleting Substances Rules

  • The rules are framed under the jurisdiction of Environment (Protection) Act.
  • These Rules set the deadlines for phasing out of various ODSs, besides regulating production, trade import and export of ODSs and the product containing ODS.
  • These Rules prohibit the use of CFCs in manufacturing various products beyond 1st January 2003 except in metered dose inhaler and for other medical purposes.
  • Similarly, use of halons is prohibited after 1st January 2001 except for essential use.
  • Other ODSs such as carbon tetrachloride and methylchoroform and CFC for metered dose inhalers can be used upto 1st January 2010.
  • Further, the use of methyl bromide has been allowed upto 1st January 2015.
  • Since HCFCs are used as interim substitute to replace CFC, these are allowed up to 1st January 2040.

National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)

  • National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) is a financing, planning, implementing, monitoring and coordinating authority for the Ganges River, functioning under the Ministry of Water Resources.
  • The mission of the organization is to safeguard the drainage basin which feeds water into the Ganges by protecting it from pollution or overuse.
  • In 2014, the NGRBA has been transferred from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • It was established by the Central Government of India, in 2009 under Section 3(3) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, which also declared Ganges as the ‘National River’ of India.

Composition of NGRBA

  • The Prime Minister chairs the authority.

Members belonging to the government sector are as follows:

  • Prime Minister of India
  • Minister of Environment and Forests (Union Minister)
  • Minister of Finance
  • Minister of Urban Development
  • Minister of Water Resources
  • Minister of Power
  • Minister of Sciences and Technology
  • Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal
  • Ministry of Environment and Forests (state minister)
  • Ministry of Environment and Forests, secretary.
Q. Which of the following are the key features of ‘National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)’? (2016)
  1. River basin is the unit of planning and management.
  2. It spearheads the river conservation efforts at the national level.
  3. One of the Chief Ministers of the States through which the Ganga flows becomes the Chairman of NGRBA on rotation basis.

Select the correct answer using the code given Below.

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: a) 1 and 2 only

Protecting Coastal Environment and Wetlands

Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)

  • The coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers and back waters which are influenced by tidal action are declared “Coastal Regulation Zone” (CRZ) in 1991.
  • India has created institutional mechanisms such as National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA) and State Coastal Zone Management Authority (SCZMA) for enforcement and monitoring of the CRZ Notification.
  • These authorities have been delegated powers under Section 5 of the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 to take various measures for protecting and improving the quality of the coastal environment and preventing, abating and controlling environmental pollution in coastal areas.

Classification Criteria and Regulatory Norms

  • The coastal regulation zone has been classified for the purpose of regulation of the permitted activities.
  • Ecological sensitive area and the area between High Tide Line (HTL) and Low Tide Line (LTL).
  • No new construction is permitted except for a few specified most essential activities like support activities for Atomic Energy Plants and Defense requirements, facilities required for disposal of treated effluents and other port related water front activities.
  • The area that have been developed up to or close to the shore line which includes the designated urban areas that are substantially built up.
  • Buildings permitted only on the landward side of the existing authorized structures as defined in the notification.
  • The areas that are relatively undisturbed and those which do not belong to either CRZ-I or CRZ-II which includes mainly the rural area and those not substantially built up within designated urban areas.
  • The area up to 200 meters from HTL is earmarked asNo Development Zone.
  • No construction is permitted within this zone except for repairs to the existing authorized structures.
  • Development of vacant plots between 200 and 500 meters of HTL is permitted in CRZ III for the purpose of construction of dwelling units and hotels/beach resorts subject to certain conditions.

Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) 2011

  • The activities impugning on the sea and tidal influenced water bodies will be regulated except for traditional fishing and related activities undertaken by local communities.
  • No untreated sewage, effluents, pollution from oil drilling shall be let off or dumped.

Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010

  • MoEF has notified the rules in order to ensure that there is no further degradation of wetlands.
  • The rules specify activities which are harmful to wetlands such as industrialization, construction, dumping of untreated waste and reclamation and prohibit these activities in the wetlands.
  • Other activities such as harvesting, and dredging may be carried out in the wetlands but only with prior permission from the concerned authorities.
  • Under the Rules, wetlands have been classified for better management and easier identification.
  • Central Wetland Regulatory Authority has been set up to ensure proper implementation of the Rules.
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One comment

  1. Please check the information given in this page. Genetic engineering appraisal committee is not under wildlife protection act but it is under environment protection act 1986. You have marked wrong in MCQ.

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