Law and Acts Regarding Protection of Environment in India!
India is a country where all the components of environment have been considered as life support systems right from ancient times and their protection has been of paramount importance. The air, water, land, vegetation, soil, rivers, mountain, trees, animals, etc., have been considered as sacred in one form or the other.
There was a general public opinion to protect all these as a part of religious activity. Although at that time there was no problem of environment because of limited population and simple pattern of life, gradually, especially during the last century, with the growth of population, industrialisation, and urbanisation as well as growth in other economic activities, environmental problems have developed, therefore, a planning strategy is necessary.
For the protection of environment and also to control pollution, several efforts have been undertaken, both by government and NGOs. Even before independence, some laws have been enacted for the protection of the environment. In Indian Penal Code of 1860, Articles 268,290, 291, 426, 430, 431 and 432 are related with the environment. Similarly, Article 277 was related with water pollution and Article 278 with air pollution.
In Motor Vehicle Act, 1938, there was a provision to control pollution and Indian Forest Act was passed in 1927. After independence, serious efforts have been made in the form of legislation for the conservation and protection of the environment, the Act, and laws passed during last sixty years, is a major step for the protection of environment in India.
The following are the important Acts:
1. Damodar Valley Corporation (Prevention of Pollution of Water) Regulation Act, 1948.
2. River Board Act, 1956.
3. Water Preservation and Control of Pollution Act, 1974 and 1977.
4. Atomic Energy Act, 1972.
5. Radiation Protection Rules, 1971.
6. Wild Life Protection Act, 1972.
7. Factories Amendment Act, 1987.
8. Environmental Protection Act, 1986.
9. Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.
10. Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991.
11. Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
12. Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.
13. Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989
14. Bio-Medical Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989
15. Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling), Rules, 2000.
Besides, in 1977, a major step in this direction has been taken in the form of 42nd Constitution Amendment. Accordingly, Article 48-A imposes a duty on the state “to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. Likewise, Article 51A (g) imposes a duty on citizens of India “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures”.
In India, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) is primarily concerned with the implementation of policies and programmes relating to conservation of the country’s natural resources including lakes and rivers, its biodiversity, forests and wildlife, ensuring the welfare of its animals and prevention and abatement of pollution.
While implementing these policies and programmes, the MEF is guided by the principle of sustainable development and enhancement of human well-being. The MEF also serves as the nodal agency in the country for the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP), South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and for the follow-up of the United Nations’ Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).
The Ministry is also entrusted with the issues relating to multilateral bodies, such as the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), Global Environment Facility (GEF) and of regional bodies like Economic and Social Council for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), on matters pertaining to environment.
Conservation and survey of flora, fauna, forests and wildlife, prevention and control of pollution, afforestation and regeneration of degraded areas and protection of environment are the mandates of the MEF.
These objectives are sought to be fulfilled through environmental impact assessment, eco-regeneration, assistance to organisations in implementing environmental and forestry programmes, including animal welfare programmes, promotion of environmental and forestry research, education and training, dissemination of environmental information and international cooperation and creation of environmental awareness.