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.