Understanding The Environment Protection Act of India

Understanding The Environment Protection Act of India

Reason for Environmental Protection Act ( EPA ):

The importance of a comprehensive Environment Protection Act was realised during the Bhopal Gas Tragedy which necessitated the Government of India to enact comprehensive environmental legislation, including rules relating to storing, handling and use of hazardous waste. On the basis of these rules, the Indian Parliament enacted the Environment Protection Act.

The Act was enacted in 1986 with the objective of providing for the protection and improvement of the environment. It empowers the Central Government to establish authorities charged with the mandate of preventing environmental pollution in all its forms and to tackle specific environmental problems that are peculiar to different parts of the country. The Act was last amended in 1991. The Act is laid out under 4 Chapters and 26 Sections.

The Act is an “umbrella” legislation designed to provide a framework for central government coordination of the activities of various central and state authorities established under previous laws, such as the Water Act and the Air Act.

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000

Importance/ Objectives/ Purpose of the Environmental Act (Government):

  • Protecting and improving the quality of the environment
  • Preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution.
  • Planning and execution of a nationwide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution.
  • Laying down standards for the quality of the environment in its various aspects.
  • Laying down standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources whatsoever.
  • Restriction of areas in which industry, operations or processes shall not be carried out subject to contain safeguards.
  • Laying down procedures and safeguards for the prevention of accidents, which may cause environmental pollution.
  • Laying down procedures for the handling of hazardous substances.
  • Examination of such manufacturing processes materials and substances as are likely to cause environmental pollution.
  • Carrying out and sponsoring investigations and research relating to problems of environmental pollution.
  • Collection and dissemination of information on environmental pollution.
  • Preparation of manuals, codes or guides, relating to the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution.
  • Ensuring the welfare of plants & animals
  • Protect the man’s fundamental rights of freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and wellbeing.

The above information can be further understood to enumerate the Benefits/ Advantages as well.

Disadvantages/ Issues/ Problems of Environment Protection Act ( EPA ):

  • A long and tedious Approval process for Projects.
  • Addressing the impacts of past violations and non-compliance and restoration would take much longer than granting approvals.
  • Very little control over the past illegalities.
  • Decision-making body under the purview of Government can be subjected to political interference.
  • The Decision-Making takes place between the Environmental Agency and the Developer, however, direct involvement of the affected party (end consumers) through public discourse is minimal or absent in most cases.
  • Lack of credible data makes it difficult for the Environmental agency to make an informed decision. This happens because of the data being concealed or tweaked by the Developer (Large Commercial/ Residential/ Industrial Projects)/ Government agency (Dams/ Highways/ Infra Projects) in order to make the project appear positive with minimal environmental impact.

Important Legal Provisions and right to enact Environment Protection Act ( EPA ):

  • Article 21: “Right to pollution-free environment.”
  • Article 48-A: “ The state shall endeavour to protect & improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
  • Article 51-A(g): “duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”

Requirements Under Environment Protection Act ( EPA ) for Construction and Planning Activities:

  • Section 7: No person carrying on any industry, operation or process shall discharge or emit or permit to be discharged or emitted any environmental pollutant in excess of such standards as may be prescribed.
  • Section 8: No person shall handle or cause to be handled any hazardous substance except in accordance with such procedure and after complying with such safeguards as may be prescribed.

Interface with Planning – Issues and Challenges:

  • Siting criterion:
    • National park/ Sanctuary.
    • Floodplain.
    • CRZ.
  • Sewage:
    • Alteration to topography.
    • Siting STP.
  • MSW:
    • Siting.
  • Common facilities such as slaughterhouses, TSDF, green areas, pavements, Construction and Demolition waste (CDW), biomedical waste, dairy, markets.
  • Roads, flyover, bridges – air and noise pollution.
  • Water requirement and its sourcing.
  • Construction material and its sourcing.
  • DG sets, Dewatering

Government Bodies and their Roles:

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is the nodal agency for enacting of the Act.
  • MoEF also approves or Disapproves projects based on the EIA report submitted to them.
  • Pollution Control Boards at the Central and State Levels monitoring and implementation of the Laws under the Act.
  • National Green Tribunal Oversees the Environmental Aspects of a case and is the Authority for imposing fines, remedial acts and directive/ course of future action.

Functions/ Role/ Responsibilities/ Purpose of Central Pollution Control Boards:

  • To promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution.
  • To improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.
  • Advise the Central Government on any matter concerning prevention and control of water and air pollution and improvement of the quality of air.
  • Plan and cause to be executed a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control or abatement of water and air pollution.
  • Provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Boards, carry out and sponsor investigation and research relating to problems of water and air pollution, and for their prevention, control or abatement.
  • Prepare manuals, codes and guidelines relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents as well as for stack gas cleaning devices, stacks and ducts.
  • Lay down or modify (in consultation of the State Governments), the standards for streams or wells and lay down standards for the quality of air.

Functions/ Role/ Responsibilities/ Purpose of State Pollution Control Boards:

  • To advise the State Government on the matter relating to pollution and on ‘siting’ of industries.
  • To plan programmes for pollution control.
  • To collect and disseminate information.
  • To carry out inspection of polluting industries and areas.
  • To lay down effluent and emission standards.
  • To issue consent to industries and other activities for compliance of prescribed emission and effluent standards.

Laws/ Acts/ Rules under the Environmental Protection Act:

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000
  • The objective of Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989
  • The Biomedical waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998
  • The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000
  • The Indian Forest Act and Amendment, 1984
  • The Wildlife Protection Act, Rules 1973
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act and Rules, 1981
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
  • The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991
  • Wetland Rules, 2010
  • The Public Liability Insurance Act and Rules and Amendment, 1992
  • The Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001
  • The Environment (Siting for Industrial Projects) Rules, 1999
  • The Factories Act and Amendment in 1987 (Air Pollution)
  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1982
  • The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988

The 4 Chapters and 26 Sections of the Act:

  • Chapter 1: Preliminary
    • Section 1: Short Title, Extent and Commencement
    • Section 2: Definitions
  • Chapter 2: Reserved Forests
    • Section 3: Power of Central Government to take measures to protect and improve the environment
    • Section 4: Appointment of officers and their powers and functions.
    • Section 5: Power to give directions.
    • Section 6: Rules to regulate environmental pollution.
  • Chapter 3:  Prevention, Control and Abatement of Environmental Pollution
    • Section 7: Persons carrying on industry, operation, etc. not to allow emission or
    • discharge of environmental pollutants in excess of the standards.
    • Section 8: Persons handling hazardous substances to comply with procedural safeguard.
    • Section 9: Furnishing of information to authorities and agencies in certain cases.
    • Section 10: Power of entry and inspection.
    • Section 11: Power to take sample and procedure to be followed in connection therewith.
    • Section 12: Environmental Laboratories.
    • Section 13: Government analysts.
    • Section 14: Reports of Government analysts.
    • Section 15: Penalty for contravention of the provisions of the act and the rules, orders and directions
    • Section 16: Offences by companies.
    • Section 17: Offences by Government Departments.
  • Chapter 4: Miscellaneous
    • Section 18: Protection of action taken in good faith.
    • Section 19: Cognizance of offences.
    • Section 20: Information, Reports or Returns.
    • Section 21: Members, Officers and Employees of the authority constituted under section 3 to be public servants
    • Section 22: Bar of Jurisdiction.
    • Section 23: Power to delegate.
    • Section 24: Effect of other laws.
    • Section 25: Power to make rules.
    • Section 26: Rules made under this act to be laid before parliament.

Solid Waste Management (India)

Let us understand Solid Waste Management and SWM, particularly in India


Solid waste means discarded material including solid, liquid, and semi-solid resulting from domestic, industrial, commercial, Agriculture and Mining operations.

“Municipal solid waste” (MSW) is a term usually applied to a heterogeneous collection of wastes produced in urban areas, the nature of which varies from region to region. The characteristics and quantity of the solid waste generated in a region is not only a function of the living standard and lifestyle of the region’s inhabitants but also of the abundance and type of the region’s natural resources. Urban wastes can be subdivided into two major components — organic and inorganic.

The primary difference between wastes generated in Indian cities and those generated in industrialised countries is the higher organic content characteristic of the former.

Organic Waste components of urban solid waste can be classified into three broad categories:

  • Putrescible: Decomposes rapidly and unless carefully controlled, decompose with the production of objectionable odours and visual unpleasantness.
  • Fermentable: decompose rapidly, but without the unpleasant accompaniments of putrefaction.
  • Non-fermentable: Non-fermentable wastes tend to resist decomposition and, therefore, break down very slowly.

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The organic fraction of MSW is an important component, not only because it constitutes a sizable fraction of the solid waste stream in a developing country, but also because of its potentially adverse impact upon public health and environmental quality.

Common Sources of Solid Waste:

Wastes generated by Households, Construction, Commercial, Institutional, Municipal, Industrial, Agricultural activities and Open areas (Sludge, Surface Runoff and Dumping in open areas)

Reasons/ Factors affecting solid waste generation:

  • Living standard
  • Awareness of people
  • Source reduction/recycling
  • Geographic location
  • Collection Frequency
  • Per person income
  • Public attitudes
  • Size of households
  • Population density
  • Population increase

Impact/ Effect of solid waste on the environment:

  • Groundwater contamination by the leachate generated by the waste dump Surface water contamination by the run-off from the waste dump
  • Bad odour, pests, rodents and wind-blown litter in and around the waste dump Generation of inflammable gas (e.g. methane) within the waste dump
  • Bird menace above the waste dump which affects the flight of aircraft
  • Fires within the waste dump
  • Erosion and stability problems relating to slopes of the waste dump
  • Epidemics through stray animals
  • Acidity to surrounding soil and Release of greenhouse gas.

Health problems during the time of segregation of solid waste:

  • Workers and rag-pickers can be infected during picking of biodegradable and Non-biodegradable waste.
  • If biodegradable and non-biodegradables or wet and dry wastes are not put separately, it can create a bad odour.
  • Possible health hazard includes raised level of infant mortality, non-communicable disease such as hand/leg injury by sharp edge material, respirational infections, eye infection.
  • Communicable diseases such as Diarrhoea & dysentery(due to flies), skin disease.

Solid Waste Management Hierarchy:

  • Prevent the production of waste, or reduce the amount generated.
  • Reduce the toxicity or negative impacts of the waste that is generated.
  • Reuse in their current forms the materials recovered from the waste stream.
  • Recycle, compost, or recover materials for use as direct or indirect inputs to new products.
  • Recover energy by incineration, anaerobic digestion, or similar processes.
  • Reduce the volume of waste prior to disposal.
  • Dispose of residual solid waste in an environmentally sound manner, generally in landfills

A Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) system includes the following activities:

  • Setting policies.
  • Developing and enforcing regulations.
  • Planning and evaluating municipal MSWM activities by system designers, users, and other stakeholders.
  • Using waste characterization studies to adjust systems to the types of waste generated.
  • Physically handling waste and recoverable materials, including separation, collection, composting, incineration, and landfilling.
  • Marketing recovered materials to brokers or to end-users for industrial, commercial, or small-scale manufacturing purposes.
  • Establishing training programs for MSWM workers.
  • Carrying out public information and education programs.
  • Identifying financial mechanisms and cost recovery systems.
  • Establishing prices for services, and creating incentives.
  • Managing public sector administrative and operations units.
  • Incorporating private sector businesses, including informal sector collectors, processors, and entrepreneurs.

Integrated Waste Management:

It is a frame of reference for designing and implementing new waste management systems and for analysing and optimizing existing systems.

Integrated waste management is based on the concept that all aspects of a waste management system (technical and non-technical) should be analyzed together since they are in fact interrelated and developments in one area frequently affect practices or activities in another area.

Importance of an Integrated Approach:

  • Certain problems can be more easily resolved in combination with other aspects of the waste system than on their own. Also, the development of new or improved waste handling in one area can disrupt existing activities in another area unless changes are handled in a coordinated manner.
  • The integration allows for capacity or resources to be optimised and, thus, fully utilised; there are frequently economies of scale for equipment or management infrastructure that can be reached only when all of the waste in a region is managed as part of a single system.
  • An integrated approach allows for the participation of public, private, and informal sector participants, in roles appropriate for each.
  • Some waste management practices are more costly than others, and integrated approaches facilitate the identification and selection of low-cost solutions. Some waste management activities cannot bear any charges, some will always be net expenses, while others may produce an income. An integrated system can result in a range of practices that complement each other in this regard.
  • Failure to have an integrated system may mean that the revenue-producing activities are “skimmed off” and treated as profitable, while activities related to maintaining public health and safety fail to secure adequate funding and are operated at low or insufficient levels.

Purpose of recycling of solid waste:

  • To Make Environment Clean
  • Material volume reduction
  • Toxicity reduction
  • Conservation of Materials
  • To Save Energy
  • Reduce Garbage in Landfills
  • Reduce pollution
  • Natural resources conservation

Sound practices for diverting construction and demolition debris from landfill disposal:

  • Waste prevention can be promoted through inventory control and return allowances for construction material. This ensures that unused materials will not get disposed of unnecessarily.
  • Selective demolition: This practice involves dismantling, often for recovery, of selected parts of buildings and roadways before the main demolition (wrecking) process is initiated.
  • Onsite separation systems: Using multiple smaller containers at a construction or demolition site to store sorted recyclable materials, as opposed to gross disposal of mixed materials in using a single roll-off or compactor.
  • Crushing, milling, grinding, and reuse of secondary stone, asphalt, and concrete Materials: These materials can be processed to conform to a number of standards for construction materials. Recovery and reuse of these types of materials are facilitated by the existence of approved specifications for road construction materials and by governmental procurement policies that promote or stimulate the purchase of recyclable materials.

Key steps to making progress in the field of Waste Management:

  • Responsible planning and design of an integrated MSWM system, which works to reduce the quantity of waste generated and to handle waste in a coordinated fashion. Essential to this is understanding the nature of the wastes generated.
  • Adoption of new strategies for revenue generation that move away from sole reliance on a government-owned and operated MSWM system. A balanced mix of public and private systems can lead to a waste management system that is more flexible and efficient than a wholly publicly-owned and operating system.
  • Incorporation of small-scale enterprises and the informal sector into the MSWM system.
  • Installation of a system of accountability and responsibility at the local level. Residents and businesses can be motivated to act responsibly in MSWM issues. But, most importantly, accountability entails significantly improving the training and capabilities of the managers and planners responsible for the MSWM system.

Introduction to Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)

A Construction Environmental Management Plan describes how activities undertaken during the construction phase of development will be managed to avoid or mitigate negative environmental impacts on-site and how those environmental management requirements will be implemented. 

The Construction Environmental Management Plan is a site-specific plan developed to ensure that appropriate environmental management practices are followed during the construction phase of a project. 

When undertaking an assessment of a development application or major development, the EPA or a relevant authority may request a CEMP be provided as part of that assessment or may recommend or impose a condition requiring a CEMP be prepared prior to construction commencing.

It is advisable that the CEMP be prepared by a suitably qualified and experienced consultant, particularly when the development is large scale with complex issues. 

The Construction Environmental Management Plan should include the following general information about the project:

  • A description of the site location and the receiving environment, including the location of sensitive receivers.
  • A description of the project construction works to be undertaken, including timeframes and construction hours. 
  • Identification and analysis of potential environmental impacts, including environmental hazards and risks, proposed mitigation measures, and any residual risks.
  • Identification and description of the management measures to be implemented to mitigate linked source−receptor−exposure pathways. 
  • Identification of a person or persons with responsibility for implementing the CEMP.
    ○ The responsible person may be the owner, occupier, contractor, or head contractor for the site.
    ○ The responsible person or persons should have the authority to call for the immediate cessation of works if an issue arises.
    ○ The responsible person or persons should have responsibility for managing communications and complaints.
  • Identification of appropriate reporting and verification measures.
  • Description of appropriate contingencies to be implemented, if management measures are identified as being ineffective and/or resulting in an environmental nuisance. 

Scope of Construction Environmental Management Plan

The scope of the Construction Environmental Management Plan should consider the following subject areas as applicable to the individual project, such as:

  • Air quality 
  • Water quality and drainage 
  • Noise and vibration
  • Geology and soils 
  • Landscape and visual impact 
  • Nature conservation 
  • Archeology and cultural heritage 
  • People and communities 
  • Transportation 
  • Materials. 

Construction Environmental Management Plan is needed for projects:

  • Needing EIA screening or clearance.
  • Significant industrial facilities that e.g. contain manufacturing processes.
  • Larger residential and commercial development projects.
  • Any other project deemed by Authority as presenting an environmental risk warranting a CEMP.

The purpose of a Construction Environmental Management Plan can be:

  • Provide effective, site-specific procedures and mitigation measures to monitor and control environmental impacts throughout the construction phase of the project.
  • Ensure that construction activities so far as is practical do not adversely impact amenity, traffic or the environment in the surrounding area.
  • Highlighting stakeholder requirements
  • Ensuring the development is in compliance with the current environmental legislation.
  • Outlining the Environment Management Systems as per ISO standards and other applicable standards.
  • Detailing the mitigation committed to within the Environmental Impact Report / Statement and how it is implemented at the site.