Important acts made for the protection of environment in India are as follows: 1. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 2. Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 3. Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 4. Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 5. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Before independence, in India, some laws were enacted for the protection of the environment. In Indian Penal Code of 1960, Articles 268, 290, 291, 426, 430, 431 and 432 were related to the environment. Similarly, Article 277 was related to water pollution and Article 278 to air pollution. In Motor Vehicle Act, 1938, there was also a provision to control pollution and Indian Forest Act was passed in 1927.
After independence, serious efforts have been made in the form of legislations for the conservation and protection of the environment. Originally, the Indian Constitution did not have explicit reference to environment protection, so there was no independent and separate provision dealing with the protection or improvement of the environment.
But, taking note of Stockholm Conference and growing awareness for environmental pollution and eco-imbalances, the Indian Parliament passed a historic amendment—42nd Constitution Amendment Act, 1976. This Act incorporated two significant Articles—Articles 48A and 51A (g)—to protect and improve the environment.
Further, it introduced certain changes in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. These changes are as follows:
Article 48A: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”
Article 511(g): “It shall be a duty of every citizen of India … to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
The environmental laws, which have been passed by central and state legislatures from time to time, are based on the recognition of clean environment as a human right or fundamental right. As it has been recognised that clean environment is the basic need for the survival of humanity and it cannot be ensured without ecological balance, thus, this right belongs to all as survival of mankind depends on clean, healthful or pollution-free environment.
Any attempt to defile damage the natural environment would amount to violation of human right to clean environment. The Stockholm Conference of 1972 also declared that man has the fundamental right to freedom of equality and adequate conditions of life in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being.
To meet these challenges to mankind, various measures, including legal measures have been adopted in India. Many laws have been passed by the Indian Parliament and the state legislatures to contain the problem of air, water, land, radiation pollution and eco-imbalances.
These laws include the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Water Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. A brief note on these laws provides a deep insight into the legislative measures taken in India regarding protection of environment.
1. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986:
The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 was passed by Indian Parliament to fulfill constitutional obligation as provided under Article 48A and also in consonance with Stockholm Declaration of 1972, wherein all governments were expected to evolve necessary laws to protect and improve the flora and fauna, non-renewable resources, wildlife and human health.
Concern over the environment has grown the world over since the sixties. The decline in environmental quality has been evidenced by increasing pollution, loss of vegetal cover and biological diversity, excessive concentrations of harmful chemicals in the ambient atmosphere and in food chains, growing risks of environmental accidents and threats to life support systems.
The world community’s resolve to protect and enhance the environmental quality found expression in the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm in June 1972. The Government of India strongly voiced the environmental concerns. While several measures have been taken for environmental protection in India, both before and after the Conference, the need for a general legislation to further implement the decisions of the Conference has become increasingly evident.
Besides, existing laws generally focus on specific types of pollution or on specific categories of hazardous substances.
Some major areas of environmental hazards are not covered. There also exist uncovered gaps in areas of major environmental hazards. There are also inadequate linkages in handling matters of industrial and environmental safety. Control mechanisms to guard against slow, insidious build up of hazardous substances, especially new chemicals, in the environment are weak.
Because of the multiplicity of regulatory agencies, there is need for an authority which can assume the lead role in studying, planning and implementing long-term requirements of environmental safety and to give direction to, and coordinate a system of speedy and adequate response to emergency situations threatening the environment.
The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is a special law that extends to the whole nation. It was passed in March 1986 and came into force on the 19 November 1986.
Seven schedules dealing with emission standards of air, noise, effluents, etc., have also been appended to it. Various rules, including the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, have also been provided with it.
They are as follows:
1. Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989.
2. Hazardous Micro-Organism Rules, 1989.
3. Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989.
4. Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning, Preparedness and Response), Rules 1996.
5. Bio-Medical Water (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998.
6. Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.
7. Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usages Rules, 1999.
8. Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.
According to Section 2(a) of the Act, environment includes:
(a) Water, air and land, and (b) the interrelationship which exists among and between (i) water, (ii) air, (iii) land, (iv) human beings, (v) living creatures, (vi) plants, (vii) micro-organisms, and (viii) property. Thus, it includes both animate and inanimate objects and their interrelationship.
Environmental pollutant means “any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to environment”.
‘Environmental pollution’ means “the presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant”.
‘Handling’, in relation to any substance, means the manufacture, processing, treatment, package, storage, transportation, use, collection, destruction, conversion, offering for sale, transfers or the like of such substance.
Power of Central Government to take measures to protect and improve environment.
It authorises the Central Government .to appoint offices with proper designations.
It empowers the Central Government to issue directions to any person/officer/authority appointed under Section 4 of the Act.
Sections 7 to 17:
These are related to prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution.
The Act also empowers the Central Government to constitute a Board of Environment Protection. In fact, this Act is a very comprehensive document on environment protection in India. The other laws on environment have also interconnection with 1986 Act.
2. Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981:
This Act was passed by the Indian Parliament in the exercise of its powers conferred under Article 253 of the Constitution. The aims and objects of the Act provide:
“Whereas decisions were taken at the United Nations Conference on Human Environment held at Stockholm in June 1972, in which India participated to take appropriate steps for the preservation of the natural resources of the earth which, among other things, include the preservation of the quality of air and control of air pollution.
And, whereas it is considered necessary to implement the decisions aforesaid in so far as they relate to the preservation of the quality of air and control of air pollution.”
The Act aims to achieve the following goals:
(i) To provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution;
(ii) For the establishment of Board with a view to carry out the above mentioned purpose;
(iii) to confer on and assign to such Board powers and functions relating to prevention, control and abatement of air pollution and other matters connected thereto; and
(iv) To lay down the standards to maintain the quality of air.
The term ‘air pollution’ means the presence in the atmosphere of any pollutant and ‘air pollutant’ means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance (including noise) present in the atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment. Thus, air pollutants include smoke, smoot, heat, fly-ash, suspended particulate matter (SPM), noise, radioactive substances, etc.
The above definition emphasises two things:
(a) high concentration of solid, liquid or gaseous substances, which (b) is injurious or likely to be injurious to human beings, flora and fauna, property or environment. Some small quantity of gases, SPM or vapour is tolerable or cannot be designated as pollutants; unless and until the concentration of such things reaches such a volume that it becomes injurious. For example, sound at low pitch is acceptable and liked, but sound at a very high pitch (known as noise) is not acceptable and becomes a health hazard.
The same is true of other gases, liquids and solid substances. A small quantity of pollutants usually does not affect human health adversely.
Such quantity or volume may be described as permissible/tolerable limit as the nature also has its self-purification mechanism. But, if the volume or the quantity of the pollutants is such which is deleterious/ injurious to the health of human beings, flora, fauna, etc., it becomes environmental pollution.
In Taj Trapezium case, the apex court observed that emission of sulphur dioxide from coke/coal-using industries was causing acid rain (the sulphur dioxide when combined with moisture forms sulphuric acid called acid rain) which had a corroding effect on the gleaming white marble of the Taj Mahal. Therefore, 292 industries were ordered either to close down or to switch to using gas.
Sections 3 to 15 of the Act provide for the constitution of a Board, qualifications of its members, terms and conditions of their service, meetings, vacation of seats and temporary association of person with the Board, etc.
The Act envisages two types of Boards—one at the central level and other in the respective states.
3. Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974:
The main aim of the Act of 1974 is to maintain or restore the wholesomeness of water and to prevent, control and abate water pollution. To achieve these objectives, the Act has provided various provisions, which are very comprehensive. In view of sub-section 2(e), read with Sections 17 and 18 of this Act, the fundamental objective of the statute is to provide clean water to citizens.
Section 2 of the Act defines certain basic terms used in the Act. While defining water pollution, it provides that:
“Pollution means such contamination of water or such alteration of physical, chemical or biological properties of water or such discharge of any sewage or trade effluent or of any other liquid, gaseous or solid substance into water (whether directly or indirectly) as may, or is likely to, create a nuisance or render such water harmful or injurious to public health or safety, or to domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural or other legitimate uses, or to the life and health of animals or plants or of aquatic organism” [Section 2(e)].
Thus, pollution means:
(a) Contamination of water, or
(b) Alteration of physical, chemical or biological properties of water, or
(c) Discharge of sewage or trade effluent, or
(d) Any other solid, liquid or gaseous substance, which may or is likely to create
(i) Nuisance, or
(ii) Render such water harmful or injurious to, public health or safety, or to domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural or other legitimate uses.
Thus, it is a very comprehensive definition and covers all changes in physical, chemical or biological properties of water. The definition also covers the rise in the temperature of water and discharge of radioactive substances in the water.
Further, the Act has used two terms in relation to water pollution stream and well. The ‘stream’ here includes (a) river, (b) watercourses (whether flowing or for the time being dry), (c) inland water (whether natural of artificial), (d) sub-terranean water (underground water), and (e) sea or tidal water.
Section 3 provides that a Board shall be appointed and constituted by the Central Government to perform the functions under the Act.
4. Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000:
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 were framed by the Central Government under provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and read with Rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986.
Rule 3 provides for ambient air quality standards in respect of noise for different areas/zones as specified in the schedule annexed to the rules, as under:
It is for State Government to categories the area into industrial, commercial, residential or silence zone and to take measures for abatement of noise, including that emanating from vehicular movements. Clause 4 provides that all development authorities, local bodies and other authorities concerned, while planning developmental activity or carrying out functions relating to town and country planning, shall take into consideration all aspects of noise pollution as a parameter of quality of life to avoid noise menace and to achieve the objective of maintaining the ambient air quality standards in respect of noise.
Rule 4: Responsibility as to enforcement of noise pollution control measures:
(1) The noise level in any area/zone shall not exceed the ambient air quality standards in respect of noise as specified in the schedule.
(2) The authority shall be responsible for the enforcement of noise pollution, control measures and the due compliance with the ambient air quality standards in respect of noise.
Rule 5: Restrictions on the use of loudspeaker/public address systems:
(1) A loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from the authority.
(2) A loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used at night (between 10.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m.) except in closed premises for communication within, e.g., auditorium, conference rooms, community halls and banquet halls.
Rule 6: Consequences of any violation in silence zone/area: Whoever, in any place covered under the silence zone/area, commits any of the following offences shall be liable for penalty under the provisions of the Act:
(i) Whoever plays any music or uses any sound amplifiers,
(ii) Whoever beats a drum or tom-tom or blows a horn either musical or pressure, or
(iii) Whoever exhibits any mimetic, musical or other performances of a nature to attract crowds.
Rule 7: Complaints to be made to the authority:
(1) A person may, if the noise level exceeds the ambient noise standards by lOdB (A) or more given in the corresponding columns against any area/zone, make a complaint to the authority.
(2) The authority shall act on the complaint and take action against the violator in accordance with the provision of these rules and any other law in force.
Rule 8: Power to prohibit, etc., continuance of music, sound or noise:
(1) If the authority is satisfied from the report of an officer in charge of a police station or other information received by him that it is necessary to do so in order to prevent annoyance, disturbance, discomfort or injury or risk of annoyance, disturbance, discomfort or injury to the public or to any person who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, he may, by a written order, issue such directions as he may consider necessary to any person for preventing, prohibiting, controlling or regulating.
(a) The incidence or continuance in or upon any premises of
(i) Any vocal or instrumental music,
(ii) Sounds caused by playing, beating, clashing, blowing or use in any manner whatsoever of any instrument including loudspeaker, public address systems, appliance or apparatus or contrivance which capable of producing or reproducing sound, or
(b) The carrying on in or upon, any premises of any trade, avocation or operation or process resulting in or attended with noise.
(2) The authority empowered under sub-rule (1) may, either on its own motion, or on the application of any person aggrieved by an order made under sub-rule (1), either rescind, modify or alter any such order.
5. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972:
In 1972, the Indian Parliament passed a comprehensive national law—The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972—with the sole aim of protecting wildlife. It not only prohibits hunting but also created protected areas and controls trade in wildlife products. To achieve these objectives, it has created a separate and independent authority to protect and improve wildlife. The Act is applicable in all states except Jammu & Kashmir.
The first and foremost purpose of this Act is to protect the habitats of wild animals. As a sequel to it, various national parks and game sanctuaries have been established to ensure greater protection to wildlife. Some special provisions also aim to preserve endangered species like Project Tiger, Gir Lion Sanctuary, Himalayan Musk Deer Project, etc.
Wildlife, according to the 1972 Act, includes any animals, bees, butterflies, crustaceans, fish and moths, and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat. This definition is wider in its connotation. The term ‘wild animal’ has also been defined as any animal found wild in nature and includes any animal specified in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V.
Schedule I includes list of mammals (1 to 41-B), amphibians and reptiles (1 to 17-A), birds (1 to 18), crustaceans and insects. It has been clarified that ‘animal’ includes amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles and their young, and in the case of birds and reptiles, their eggs.
Hunting of wild animals has been prohibited altogether. But, the Chief Wildlife Warden has been authorised to grant permission to hunt animals under certain circumstances.
These are as follows:
1. if he is satisfied that any wild animal specified in Schedule I has become (i) dangerous to human life; or (ii) is disabled; or (iii) diseased as to be beyond recovery; or
2. When the Chief Wildlife Warden, or the authorised officer, is satisfied that any wild animal, specified in Schedule II, III, or IV, has become dangerous to human life or to property, or is so disabled or diseased so as to be beyond recovery.
The killing in good faith of any wild animal ‘in defence’ of oneself or of any other person is not an offence.
The Act has also specified provisions to protect specified plants of sanctuaries, national parks, forests or areas specified by notification. All the specified plants, or part or derivation thereof, have been declared to be the property of the state governments, and if they are a part of a sanctuary or national park, they shall be the property of the central government. Therefore, a person must have a licence from the Chief Wildlife Warden, or other authorised officer, to Commence or carry on business or occupation as a dealer in specified plants.
The Act also prohibits to (a) willfully pick, uproot, damage, destroy, acquire or collect, or (b) possess, sell, offer for sale or transfer by way of gift or otherwise, or transport any specified plant, whether dead or alive or part or derivative. But, this provision is not applicable to the member of a Scheduled Tribe.
Similarly, cultivation, dealing in, possession of specified plants without a licence has also been declared to be a punishable act. Further, no person shall purchase, receive or acquire any specified plant, or part or derivative otherwise than from a licensed dealer.