Environment Protection Act


No doubt, the kind of comforts and luxury a human being can experience in today’s time was never before. The technology is a boon to the urbanites. However We are currently going through a rapid change where machinery advancements are going faster. . It has been evidenced by increasing pollution, the loss of biodiversity, loss of vegetal cover, growing risks of environmental accidents and also the harmful chemicals in the ambient atmosphere has possessed a threat to the environment. Due to its growing risks, various legislations are being propounded by the government. Articles 48A and 51A (g) of the Constitution of India, talk about the protection and improvement of the environment. Article 48A lays it down as a duty of the State whereas Article 51A (g) lays it down as a duty of the citizens. Various Acts related to a specific type of pollution have been passed such as the Air Act, 1981,Water Act, 1974, and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The most important statute is the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, as it is the general legislation for the protection of the environment and improvement of environmental resources. It provides for a framework that aids the coordination between the state and central authorities established under previous environmental laws.

Salient features of the Environment Protection Act

The most prominent features of the Act are enumerated as follows:

Under the Act, the Central Government is empowered to

  • Take requisite measures to protect and improve the environment.
  • Coordinate the actions of State governments, authorities, and officers.
  • Plan as well as execute national programs on the prevention, management, and abatement of environmental pollution.
  • Establish quality standards vis-a-vis environment including standards for discharge of pollutants.
  • Restrict areas where industries or their processes can or cannot be carried out.
  • Establish procedures and safeguards to prevent accidents conducive to environmental pollution.
  • Establish safeguards for the management of hazardous substances
  • Examine processes, substances, and materials liable to cause environmental pollution.
  • Encourage and sponsor research and innovation that relates to environmental problems.
  • Inspect premises, plants, or machinery and direct officers or authorities to take requisite measures to prevent, control, and abate environmental pollution.
  • It bars the discharge and emission of any environmental pollutant beyond the standard limits by any person carrying industrial operations.
  • Stringent penalties have been prescribed for transgressing any provisions of this Act.
  • Under the Act, the person in charge of a place is obligated to inform the appropriate authorities of any accidental discharge of pollutants exceeding the specified limits. Once informed these authorities will take requisite remedial steps to mitigate the pollution caused and the expenses for the same would be recoverable from the polluter subject to interest.
  • The officers empowered by the Central Government can take samples of air, water, soil, or any other substance from any factory or premises for analysis.
  • This Act provides for the establishment of environmental laboratories that work to protect the environment and people from contamination.
  • The jurisdiction of Civil Courts has been barred under this Act.

Objectives and Purposes of Environment Protection Act

The following can be stated as the main objectives and purposes of this Act:

  • The main objective of this Act is to “provide for the protection and improvement of the environment and all matter connected with it.”
  • Most importantly, it aims to implement the decisions reached at the UN Conference on Human Environment which was held in Stockholm in June 1972, of which India had also been a participant.
  • The previous environment-related laws were all very specific and due to the same, they left certain gaps. This Act serves the purpose of covering all those gaps left behind by previous laws by having a general and wider scope.
  • The Act aims to facilitate effective coordination between the different central and state authorities indulged in environment protection and preservation, as established by existing laws.
  • It aims to confer the Central Government with wide powers to carry out effective environment protection measures as it sees fit.
  • It aims to lay down a detailed structure that would provide more stability and clarity on the environmental laws of the country.
  • It also aims to provide deterrent punishment to those who endanger the environment, health, and safety.

Benefits of Environment Law:

  1. Protects public health: The Environment Act aims at reducing the emission of carbon dioxide into the environment. This helps maintain clean and fresh air within the atmosphere which ultimately contributes towards the better health of society.
  2. Maintain legacy for future generation: The Environment Act in India not only protects the people of the current generation; but it also provides benefits to the people of the upcoming generation. The Environment Act makes sure that the current population will serve the future generations.
  3. Preserves ecological integrity: Another benefit of the Environment Act in India is that it empowers communities and protects the environment by taking action against the polluters and strengthening the ecological balance.
  4. Proper waste management: Waste management helps protect the environment and makes sure that the process of waste management doesn’t interfere with the environment. The law instructs the industries that they must dispose of waste materials according to the set standards and procedures.

Laws Relating to Environment

understand them as given below:

  1. The Environment Act (1986): This act gives power to the Central Government to follow certain measures that set standards for the industrial units and give them instructions to improve the environment. This act covers all forms of pollution - air, water, soil and noise pollution. It also makes sure that the safe standards are practiced which prohibit the use of hazardous material.
  2. The Forest (Conservation) Act 1980: The Forest Conservation Act 1980 protects and improves the forest covers. It contributes towards safeguarding the forests and wildlife. The Article 51 (g) states that it is the duty of every citizen of India for protecting and improving the natural resources that includes rivers, lakes, forests, wildlife etc. The Act prevents deforestation that leads to land erosion and degradation of the land. The act curbs all the activities which involve converting the forests into the grazing lands, agricultural lands or residential units.
  3. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: The Wildlife Protection Act has been enacted to safeguard and protect flora and fauna in the country. The Act makes sure that no person can destroy or exploit any wildlife from the National Park that tries damaging the habitat of wild animals. Sanctuaries are open to the general public upto a certain limit. Only the public servants or his/her family members or a person who owns immovable property inside can pass through the sanctuaries.
  4. Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974: This Act aims at preventing water contamination. It focuses on enhancing and restoring the water for the establishment of boards, so that proper usage of water can be done. It focuses on establishing state water testing laboratories and develops protocol. Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 imposes harsh penalties for breaking the rules of the provisions under this Act.
  5. Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981: The Act directs the Central Board to improve the quality of air and control air pollution. It has to collect, compile and publish statistical and technical data related to air pollution. Whereas, the State Board has to advise the State Government to understand the suitability of any premises, likely to carry out industrial operations and might cause air pollution in near future.
  6. Indian Forest Act 1927: It is one of the important laws passed by the Central Government. The Act focuses on strengthening the forest laws, thereby increasing the productivity of the forest. The Indian Forest Act 1927amendment is more focused on the conservation of forests and proper utilization of its resources. It concentrates on reducing carbon emission and climate change happening due to growing deforestation and degradation policies.