1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974

The Act provides for the prevention and control of water pollution and maintenance and restoration of wholesomeness of water. It establishes a Central Pollution Control Board at the national level and State Pollution Control Boards in every state in order to administer and implement the Act. Before the establishment of an industry dealing with water that is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluents, the project proponent should get prior consent from the State Pollution Control Board and comply with the conditions laid down by the Board. Any violation of the provisions of the Act will attract penal provisions. The State Pollution Control Board and citizens (after 60 days notice in case of citizens) can launch prosecution against the polluting industry.

  1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977

The purpose of the Act is to provide for the levy and collection of cess on the water for human consumption within industries and by local authorities. According to the Act, a rebate is available for the person or local authority installing a plant for the treatment of sewage or trade effluents. An amendment was made in the year 1991, provided that rebates be withheld from persons who fail to comply with the Water Act, 1974 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

  1. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981

The Air Act was enacted for the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution. The Central and State Pollution Control Boards were envisaged by the Act and for the purpose of this Act, the Boards constituted under the Water Act, 1974 shall be deemed to be the Boards for the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution. The State Pollution Control Boards are empowered to declare air pollution control areas. Consent of the State Pollution Control Board is required to establish or operate any industry in an air pollution-controlled area.

  1. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

It is comprehensive umbrella legislation, which covers not only industrial pollution, but also all aspects of environmental degradation. It does not create any permanent authority like Central or State Pollution Control Boards as established by the Water Act or Air Act. The Act gives powers to the Central Government to make Rules or Notifications or to create any authority to deal with specific environmental problems in the country. This provision enabled the Central Government to issue many important Rules and Notifications. These include, the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 1989; the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rule 1989; the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 1991; the Scheme of Labeling of Environment-Friendly Products (Ecomarks) 1992; the Notification on Environmental Statement 1992; the Notification on Environmental Impact Assessment 1994; the Notification on Public Hearing 1997; the Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 1998; the Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules 1999; the Notification on Dumping and Disposal of Fly ash 1999; the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000, the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, etc.

Nature conservation laws

The enactments relating to conservation of nature such as forests and wildlife include the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001, and the Biological Diversity Bill, 2002.

  1. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

This Act provides for the protection of wild animals, birds, and plants and constitutes authorities such as the Director of Wildlife Preservation, Wildlife Wardens, and Wildlife Advisory Boards for that purpose. According to the Act, wildlife means and includes any animal, bees, butterflies, crustacean, fish and moths, and aqua or land vegetation which form part of any habitat. An amendment made to the Act in 1986 and 1991 prohibited all kinds of trade of wild animals and animal articles.

  1. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

This Act is a significant piece of legislation that seeks to conserve forests from any sort of developmental activity. The spirit of this legislation is that it prohibits the use of forest land for any non-forest purpose, except with the prior approval of the Central Government. According to the Act, ‘non-forest purpose’ means breaking up or clearing of any forest land for cultivation of tea, coffee, spices, rubber, palms, oil-bearing plants, horticulture crops or medicinal plants, and any purpose other than reforestation.

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, though enacted to achieve many other objectives, both contain provisions to protect and conserve the plant genetic resources and biological diversity as their cardinal principles.

Environmental policies

In India, policies do not coincide with the laws. The usual practice is that whenever the government is convinced that a problem persists and has to be solved, it will formulate a policy describing the strategies to solve the problem. The next step is to make a law to implement such policy. But in India, the law comes first and is put into force. Later, realizing that the law has no policy back up, the government comes out with a policy. According to experts like Prof. M. K. Ramesh, this scenario reminds us of the situation ‘cart first and the horse next’.

In our country, we have the following policies on the environment:

  • The National Ocean Policy, 1983
  • The National Water Policy, 1987
  • The National Forest Policy, 1988
  • The Policy Statement for Abatement of Pollution, 1992
  • The National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development, 1992
  • National Policy and Macro level Action Strategy on Biodiversity, 1999
  • The Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002
  • National Environment Policy
  • The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.

to be continued….

L. Pushpa Kumar

Source: Eco News, Vol.9, No.2 (July – September), 2003.

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