In the Constitution of India it is clearly stated that it is the duty of the state to ‘protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country’. Some of the Environmental Laws of India have been described below:
- The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974
- The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981
- The Environment (Protection) Act of 1986
- The National Environmental Tribunal Act of 1995
1. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 was enacted with the objective of effectively protecting the wild life of this country and to control poaching, smuggling and illegal trade in wildlife and its derivatives. The Act was amended in January 2003 and punishment and penalty for offences under the Act have been made more stringent. The Ministry has proposed further amendments in the law by introducing more rigid measures to strengthen the Act. The objective is to provide protection to the listed endangered flora and fauna and ecologically important protected areas.
2. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974 (the “Water Act”) has been enacted to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution and to maintain or restore wholesomeness of water in the country. It further provides for the establishment of Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution with a view to carry out the aforesaid purposes. The Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into water bodies beyond a given standard, and lays down penalties for non-compliance. At the Centre, the Water Act has set up the CPCB which lays down standards for the prevention and control of water pollution. At the State level, SPCBs function under the direction of the CPCB and the State Government.
Further, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act was enacted in 1977 to provide for the levy and collection of a cess on water consumed by persons operating and carrying on certain types of industrial activities. This cess is collected with a view to augment the resources of the Central Board and the State Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The Act was last amended in 2003.
3. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980
The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted to help conserve the country’s forests. It strictly restricts and regulates the de-reservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purposes without the prior approval of Central Government. To this end the Act lays down the pre-requisites for the diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, recognises the rights of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers over the forest areas inhabited by them and provides a framework for according the same.
The Indian Forest Act, 1927 consolidates the law relating to forests, the transit of forest-produce and the duty leviable on timber and other forest-produce.
4. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (the “Air Act”) is an act to provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution and for the establishment of Boards at the Central and State levels with a view to carrying out the aforesaid purposes.
To counter the problems associated with air pollution, ambient air quality standards were established under the Air Act. The Air Act seeks to combat air pollution by prohibiting the use of polluting fuels and substances, as well as by regulating appliances that give rise to air pollution. The Air Act empowers the State Government, after consultation with the SPCBs, to declare any area or areas within the Sate as air pollution control area or areas. Under the Act, establishing or operating any industrial plant in the pollution control area requires consent from SPCBs. SPCBs are also expected to test the air in air pollution control areas, inspect pollution control equipment, and manufacturing processes.
5. The Environment Protection Act, 1986
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 (the “Environment Act”) provides for the protection and improvement of environment. The Environment Protection Act establishes the framework for studying, planning and implementing long-term requirements of environmental safety and laying down a system of speedy and adequate response to situations threatening the environment. It is an umbrella legislation designed to provide a framework for the coordination of central and state authorities established under the Water Act, 1974 and the Air Act. The term “environment” is understood in a very wide term under s 2(a) of the Environment Act. It includes water, air and land as well as the interrelationship which exists between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organisms and property.
Under the Environment Act, the Central Government is empowered to take measures necessary to protect and improve the quality of environment by setting standards for emissions and discharges of pollution in the atmosphere by any person carrying on an industry or activity; regulating the location of industries; management of hazardous wastes, and protection of public health and welfare. From time to time, the Central Government issues notifications under the Environment Act for the protection of ecologically-sensitive areas or issues guidelines for matters under the Environment Act.
In case of any non-compliance or contravention of the Environment Act, or of the rules or directions under the said Act, the violator will be punishable with imprisonment up to five years or with fine up to Rs 1,00,000, or with both. In case of continuation of such violation, an additional fine of up to Rs 5,000 for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such failure or contravention, will be levied. Further, if the violation continues beyond a period of one year after the date of conviction, the offender shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.