Acts Relating to Hazardous Waste Management in India!
The Central Government has passed important rules in exercise of powers conferred by the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.
These rules are as follows:
1. Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989
2. Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989
3. Hazardous Micro-Organisms Rules, 1989
4. National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995
5. National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997
6. Bio-Medical Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989
7. Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Uses Rules, 1999
8. Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000
A brief review of some of these rules is presented below:
1. Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989:
These rules aim to deal with the problem of hazardous wastes comprehensively. Although, the term ‘hazardous wastes’ has not been defined separately in the rules, but Rule 3(i) provides that ‘hazardous wastes’ means waste substances, which are generated in the processes as indicated in the schedule.
Rule 4 fixes the responsibility of the occupier and operator of the facility for proper collection, reception, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes without any adverse effect on the environment.
Rule 4A describes the duties of the occupier and operator of a facility as follows:
(a) Contain contaminants and prevent accidents and limit their consequences on humans and the environment; and
(b) Provide persons working on the site with information, training and equipment necessary to ensure their safety.
‘Proper authorisation’ by the State Pollution Control Board is really the control mechanism. As per Rule 5, this authorisation letter or permit is issued to a man who is well versed in this technique and possesses proper and adequate facilities, technical capabilities and equipment to handle hazardous wastes safely.
Further Rule 12 provides that there shall be no import and export of hazardous wastes for dumping and disposal. However, as an exception, such wastes may be permitted to be imported only as raw material for recycling or reuse. Such wastes can be used for processing and reuse as raw material only after procuring a proper permit from the State Pollution Control Board.
In such a case, the exporting country should also inform and seek permission from the Central Government, which may be granted or refused. The occupier exporting or importing hazardous wastes from or to India shall comply with the Articles of the Basel Convention to which India is a signatory. Further, the Ministry of Environment and Forests shall be the nodal agency to deal with trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes.
2. Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989:
Hazardous chemicals have been dealt with separately under these rules. Following are the requirements which a chemical industry shall be required to fulfill before it starts working or in case of an existing industry within a period of three months of coming into operation of these rules, i.e., November 27, 1989.
1. Notification of sites:
No one can undertake any industrial activity which would produce a threshold quantity or more of an additional hazardous chemical unless he submits a written detailed report about the industry in accordance with Schedule 7 of the Rules at least three months before commencing the activity (Rule 7). Rules of 1989 have provided a list of 684 such hazardous chemicals. Therefore, an industry before its commencement is required to give the above notice.
2. Safety report:
Before a chemical industry starts functioning, it has to prepare a safety report containing information specified in Schedule 8 at least three months before commencing that activity and in case of an existing industry within a period of six months after coming into operation of these rules.(Rule 10). The report should be prepared with the help of experts not associated with such industrial activity.
3. Preparation of on-site emergency plan by the occupier:
Under Rule 13, the occupier is required to prepare and keep up-to-date on-site emergency plan furnishing the details of how major accidents will be dealt with. This plan shall include the name of person responsible for safety and who can take action according to the plan. A mock drill based on the on-site emergency plan shall be conducted every six months.
4. Preparation of off-site emergency plans:
Rule 14 makes it obligatory on the authorities concerned to prepare and keep up-to-date an adequate off-site emergency plan detailing how emergencies relating to a possible major accident on that site will be dealt with. Further, such plans should be prepared by the authority before a new industry starts its activity or in case of an existing industrial activity within six month of coming into operation of these rules.
The authority concerned shall ensure the rehearsal of the off-site emergency plan at least once in a calendar year. 5. Information to the persons liable to be affected: One of the important features of the rules is to impose a mandatory duty on the occupier of the industry to take appropriate steps to inform persons outside the site who are likely to be affected by a major accident (Rule 15).
3. Bio-Medical Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989:
These rules are applicable to all those persons who generate, collect, receive, store, transport, treat, dispose, or handle bio-medical wastes in any form. Bio-medical waste has been defined as “any waste, which is generated during the diagnosis, treatment or immunisation of human beings or animals or in research activities pertaining thereto or in the production or testing of biological and including categories mentioned in Schedule I”.
Schedule I mentions 10 categories of bio-medical wastes, which include human anatomical waste, animal waste, microbiology and biotechnology waste, waste sharps, discarded medicines and cytotoxic drugs, solid waste, chemical waste, incineration ash, etc.
4. Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000:
It consists of nine rules and four schedules. Rule 3 (xv) defines ‘municipal solid waste’ as follows:
Municipal solid waste includes commercial and residential wastes generated in a municipal or notified area in either solid or semi-solid form including industrial hazardous wastes but excluding treated bio-medical wastes.
Rule 3 has also defined various terms used in the rules such as anaerobic digestion, bio-degradable substance, bio-methanation, disposal, land-filling, recycling, leachate segregation, vadose water, vermicomposing, etc.
Rule 4 declares that every municipal authority shall be responsible for the implementation of the rules and for any infrastructural development for collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of municipal solid wastes. The overall responsibility has to be given to the Secretary of the Department of Urban Development of a State/Union Territory and the District Collector/Deputy Commissioner in particular to implement the provisions of the rules.
The Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards have the responsibility of monitoring compliance with standards regarding groundwater, ambient air quality, leachates and compost quality including incineration standards as provided in Schedules II, III and IV of the rules of 2000.
Further, the municipal authority will apply for the setting up of waste processing and disposal facility, including landfills, to the State Pollution Control Board, which shall issue the authorisation within 45 days for a given period. Such authorisation shall be valid for one year only.
The municipal solid wastes shall be managed and handled with the compliance criteria and procedures laid down in Schedule II, which provides parameters of (i) collection of municipal solid wastes, (ii) segregation, (iii) storage, (iv) transportation, (v) processing, and (vi) disposal of municipal solid wastes, and their compliance criteria. Schedule III provides for specifications for landfill sites and Schedule IV lays down the standards for composting, treated leachates and incineration.
5. National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995:
The Act has been passed with a view to provide for ‘strict liability’ for damages arising out of any accident occurring while handling any hazardous substances, and to dispose of such cases expediously. It has also recognised the principle of ‘no-fault liability’ in accidents occurring due to hazardous substances. It also provides heads under which compensation for damage may be claimed in such accidents.
Section 3 enunciates the principle of ‘no-fault’ of the owner to pay compensation for death, injury or damage to human beings and environment. Further, the claimant shall not be required to plead and establish that the death, injury or damage was due to any wrongful act, neglect or default of any person.
The Tribunal will hear the applicant and would be guided by the principles of natural justice and shall also have the power of the civil court as provided under the Civil Procedure Code of 1908 (Section 5). Both the parties shall be heard before an injunction is issued by the Tribunal.
The Central Government shall establish the National Environment Tribunal consisting of one chairperson, vice-chairperson, judicial members and technical members; and the bench shall consist of one judicial member and one technical member each (Section 9). The chairperson either must be or has been a judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court; or has for at least two years held the office of vice-chairperson, who will also be a judicial person (Section 10).
6. National Environment Appellate Authority Act, 1997:
Recently, the Government of India has established a National Environment Appellate Authority which is chaired by a retired Supreme Court judge. It is aimed to hear appeals with respect to restriction of areas in which any industry process/operation of industry shall not be carried out, subject to safeguards provided by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. It is a type of check on the establishment of the industries and their likely fall-outs.
7. Other Acts and Rules:
Apart from above mentioned Acts directly related with environment, there are other Acts and Rules also, which are applicable in certain cases. These are:
1. Atomic Energy Act, 1962
2. Radiation (Protection) Rules, 1971
3. Insecticides Act, 1968
4. Indian Fisheries Act, 1897
5. Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
6. Mines Act, 1952
7. Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957
8. Motor Vehicles Act, 1988
In fact, many legislative measures are existing in India for the protection and conservation of environment. There is only need for proper monitoring and implementation of rules and regulations so that our environment becomes healthy and the quality of life of the people of India improves.