India’s constitutional framework and international obligations under numerous international treaties, conventions, and regulatory authorities reflect the importance of environmental preservation and conservation, as well as the sustainable use of natural resources. Part IVA (Article 51A – Fundamental Duties) of the Indian Constitution imposes on every Indian citizen the responsibility to preserve and develop the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and animals, and to have compassion for all living things. In addition, Part IV of the Indian Constitution (Article 48A-Directive Principles of State Policies) stipulates that the state must attempt to safeguard and enhance the environment, as well as to protect the country’s forests and animals.
Even before India’s independence, a number of environmental laws were in effect. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972) provided the genuine impetus for implementing a well-developed framework. In 1972, in response to the Stockholm Conference, the Department of Science and Technology established the National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning to supervise environmental issues. This Council eventually evolved into the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
The MoEF was established in 1985 and is currently the nation’s primary administrative agency for regulating and ensuring environmental protection, as well as establishing the legislative and regulatory framework for the same. Since the 1970s, numerous environmental laws have been enacted. The MoEF, along with the pollution control boards (“CPCBs,” or Central Pollution Control Boards, and “SPCBs,” or State Pollution Control Boards), constitute the regulatory and administrative backbone of the sector.
The Environmental Law has followed a diagonal, crab-like course over the years, moving forward, backward, and sideways. As far as the legislation and decisions of the Honourable Supreme Court are concerned, the Environmental Law has progressed or regressed in the past, but thankfully, this is now a thing of the past. Both legislative and judicial corrections have been implemented. In September 1974, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974 established the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as a legislative body. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 granted the CPCB additional authority and responsibilities. The National Green Tribunal handles cases involving environmental protection, forest conservation, and other natural resources, as well as the enforcement of any legal right pertaining to the environment and the provision of relief and compensation to those who have suffered damages and loss of property, as well as anything associated with or incidental to them.
In recent years, both the legislature and the judiciary have comprehended, evolved, and innovated Sustainable Development in order to best serve the needs of society. Legislators have swiftly enacted new Environmental regulations that impede the establishment of a new business and affect the day-to-day operations of an existing business. It has frequently been observed that the authorities responsible for enforcing Environmental Law do not comprehend these new regulations and evade their responsibility; the authorities pass the buck from one department to another, resulting in harassment of entrepreneurs and businessmen in addition to monetary losses. Law Codes identifies environmental issues/permissions that are crucial to the success of corporations/organizations/businesses and provides our clients with an effective remedy. Our leading solicitors represent clients before CPCB and NGT.
Environmental protection laws in India
The Indian Council of Medical Research establishes standards for water quality, particularly for potable water. These closely resemble WHO standards. Indian Standard Codes govern the discharge of industrial effluents, and water quality criteria for coastal or marine outfalls were recently established. In addition to fundamental requirements, specialised criteria have been developed for effluent discharges from industries including iron and steel, aluminium, pulp and paper, oil refineries, petrochemicals, and thermal power plants. Legislation regarding water contamination is outlined here.
The 1974 Water (Pollution Prevention and Control) Act:
This was India’s first comprehensive endeavour to address environmental concerns. The Act prohibits the discharge of contaminants that exceed a certain limit into bodies of water and imposes penalties for noncompliance. The Act was revised in 1988 to more closely align with the EPA Act of 1986. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was created to provide guidelines for the prevention and control of water pollution. State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) operate at the state level and report to the CPCB and state government.
In accordance with the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act of 1977:
This Act establishes the imposition and collection of a cess on industrial and municipal water use. It intends to supplement the resources of federal and state agencies for the prevention and control of water pollution. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Rules were enacted in 1978 in response to this act to specify the type and location of water metres that every water consumer is required to install.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 enacted the following:
The 1981 Act established standards for ambient air quality to resolve the problems associated with air pollution. The Act establishes controls and mitigation measures for air pollution. The Act seeks to combat air pollution by limiting the use of harmful fuels and substances and by regulating equipment that contributes to air pollution. According to the Act, state bodies must approve the establishment or operation of any industrial facility in a pollution control region. In addition to testing the air in air pollution control zones, the committees will inspect pollution control equipment and manufacturing processes.
In April 1994, the CPCB issued National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for major pollutants. These are the air quality values deemed essential for preserving public health, vegetation, and property, with an adequate margin of safety.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act of 1987 was enacted to give national and state pollution control agencies the authority to respond to significant incidents. The committees were given the authority to act swiftly in response to such crises and seek reimbursement from the offenders. In the Air Act Amendment, the ability to revoke approval for noncompliance with established criteria is emphasised further.
The 1982 Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules:
It describes the procedures for conducting board meetings, the authority of the presiding officers, the decision-making process, the quorum, the method for establishing meeting records, etc. In addition, they specified how and why specialists should be consulted, as well as how much should be paid to them.
Forests and Animals:
The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, as amended by the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1991:
The WPA (Wildlife Protection Act) of 1972 protects certain flora and fauna species and establishes a network of ecologically significant protected areas. The WPA permits the federal and state governments to designate any location as a wildlife refuge, national park, or restricted area. In these protected zones, all industrial activities are strictly prohibited. It establishes agencies to administer and enforce the Act, regulates the hunting of wild animals, protects designated flora, sanctuaries, national parks, and closed areas, and restricts trade or commerce in wild animals or animal products, among other provisions. The Act prohibits hunting when an animal has become a hazard to human life or property, is crippled or fatally ill, or is so handicapped or unwell that it cannot recover. The Amendment Act of 1991 tightened the near-total hunting restrictions.
The 1980 Forest (Conservation) Act:
This Act was enacted to preserve and protect forests. The Act limits the state’s ability to de-reserve forests and use forestland for non-forest purposes (the term “non-forest purpose” includes clearing forestland for cultivation of cash crops, plantation crops, horticulture, or any other purpose other than reforestation).
1986 Environmental Protection Act (EPA):
This Act provides a framework for the coordination of national and provincial agencies established by the Water (Prevention and Control) Act of 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control) Act of 1981. This Act empowers the federal government to safeguard and enhance the quality of the environment by, among other things, establishing criteria for emissions and discharges, regulating the placement of businesses, managing hazardous wastes, and protecting human health and welfare.
Periodically, the federal government issues EPA notifications for the preservation of environmentally sensitive regions and EPA-related recommendations.
Environment (Protection) Regulations, 1986:
These regulations establish the procedures for establishing emission or discharge standards for environmental contaminants. The Rules establish the parameters within which the Central Government may issue prohibition and limitation orders regarding the location and operation of industries in specific areas. The Rules define the procedures for collecting samples, issuing notices, submitting samples for analysis, and submitting laboratory reports. The Rules also specify the functions of the laboratories and the qualifications of the involved analysts.
There are numerous pieces of legislation that directly or indirectly address hazardous waste. Relevant laws include the Factories Act of 1948, the Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991, the National Environment Tribunal Act of 1995, and various notices issued under the Environmental Protection Act of 1986. Each of these is elaborately described below.
In accordance with the EPA 1986, the Ministry of the Environment has issued multiple notifications to address the problem of hazardous waste management. These consist of:
The Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989, issued a guide for the production, storage, and importation of hazardous substances as well as the management of hazardous wastes.
The Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules of 1998 were formulated along similar lines to ensure the appropriate disposal, segregation, transportation, etc. of infectious wastes.
The purpose of the Municipal Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, was to enable municipalities to dispose of municipal solid refuse in a scientific manner.
This Act provides a framework for the coordination of central and state authorities created under the Water (Prevention and Control) Act of 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control) Act of 1981. Under this Act, the federal government has the authority to protect and enhance the quality of the environment by establishing standards for emissions and discharges, regulating the location of industries, managing hazardous wastes, and safeguarding public health and safety.
Occasionally, the federal government issues notifications under the EPA for the preservation of ecologically sensitive areas or issues EPA-related guidelines.
The preceding Acts are supplemented by the Atomic Energy Act of 1982, which was passed to address radioactive refuse. The Motor Vehicles Act was enacted in 1988 to regulate vehicle traffic and assure proper packaging, labelling, and transport of hazardous wastes. Under the 1986 Act, various components of automobile pollution have also been reported to the EPA. 1990 saw the introduction of mass emission regulations, which were strengthened in 1996. In 2000, these regulations were revised once more, and for the first time, the duties of car proprietors, manufacturers, and enforcement agencies were specified. In addition, on April 29, 1999, the Supreme Court notified the city of Delhi of extremely stringent Euro I and II emission regulations. The announcement required automakers to comply with Euro I and Euro II standards by May 1999 and April 2000, respectively, for new non-commercial vehicles sold in Delhi.
The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (NGT Act) was enacted to establish a National Green Tribunal (NGT) for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources, including enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment and providing relief and compensation for damages to persons and property, as well as matters connected or incidental thereto.
The Act was approved by the President of India on June 2, 2010, and the Central Government issued Notification No. S.O. 18 October 2010, with an effective date of that date. The Act establishes an NGT to deal with all environmental legislation pertaining to air and water pollution, including the Environment Protection Act, the Forest Conservation Act, and the Biodiversity Act, as enumerated in Schedule I.
The 1991 Public Liability Insurance Act:
The acquisition of public liability insurance was mandated. The Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991 was created to compensate victims of catastrophes resulting from the handling of any hazardous chemical. The Act pertains to all manufacturers and handlers of hazardous substances.
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The National Green Tribunal was established on October 18, 2010, when the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 was passed by the Central Government. The Central Government’s stated objective was to establish a specialised forum for the efficient and expeditious resolution of cases.