Top 15 Environmental Laws In India

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“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”

 ― Mahatma Gandhi

Did you know that the global population generates approximately 1.3 billion tons of waste every year? It is crucial to comprehend & appreciate the role of the “environment” in our daily lives. 

Scientists have been closely researching the different ways that people have an impact on the “Environment” in recent years. They have discovered that we are responsible for many hazardous issues to both the world and us, including air pollution, deforestation, acid rain, and other related issues. 

Various laws, rules, and regulations apply to the situations stated above. The government has taken a significant interest in preserving and advancing the environment in recent decades, and as a result, numerous environmental laws have been passed.

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The Evolution Of Environmental Laws In India

Article 51 A (g) of the Indian Constitution enshrines it as a social obligation and basic duty. The idea of environmental conservation has been ingrained in Indian culture since the dawn of time. It is crucial to examine earlier Indian traditions and environmental protection practices in order to comprehend the current legislative framework for environmental preservation and resource conservation. 

There was no clear environmental policy in place during the early years of independence, and there were few attempts to create a distinct policy or law for the protection of the environment. However, the national planning procedure and forest policy showed concern for environmental conservation. 

Environmentalism is not a static idea; rather, it is always changing due to its environment. Following independence, Indian laws rapidly changed as environmental needs and concerns increased. From ancient environmental laws, such as those found in Buddhism and Jainism, to medieval times, the British Empire, and finally, the post-Stockholm era and the introduction of modern environmental laws in India, the legislature and even the Indian judiciary have demonstrated a great sense of concern for the environment through their ground-breaking rulings.

Ancient Indian Laws And Policies (500 BC-1638 AD)

Even the pre-Vedic Indian Valley Civilization, which flourished in northern India around 5,000 years ago, can be said to have been conscious of the environment. This is clear from the archaeological data acquired from Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, two of the civilization’s most important cities. 

Their construction of ventilated homes, clean streets, numerous wells, bathrooms, public baths, and covered underground drains demonstrates their concern for cleanliness and sanitation. The Vedic culture, which existed between 1500 and 500 BC, placed a high value on environmental preservation and cleanup. 

The medical science text Charak Samhita, which was written between 900 and 600 BC, has numerous recommendations on how to handle water to preserve its cleanliness. 

Medieval Indian Laws And Policies (1638-1800 AD)

The Mughal emperors regarded forests merely as hunting grounds. Muslim rulers dominated medieval India’s history, and it was only under the Mughal Emperor Akbar that environmental law truly began to take shape. Except for the kings, no one else is allowed to do shikar or go hunting during Akbar’s reign. 

However, because the monarchs were solely concerned with war, the spread of religion, and empire building, no significant measures were made throughout the medieval period to prevent environmental protection and resource conservation. 

There were no restrictions on cutting other trees, hunting animals, etc., with the exception of “royal trees” that benefited from patronage and couldn’t be cut without paying a fee. During this time, the size of the forests gradually decreased.

British Indian Laws (1800-1947)

The British Government in India formulated several Environmental Laws during their colonization. The laws from 1800-1947 are as follows- 

  • The Shore Nuisance (Bombay and Kolaba) Act of 1853 placed limitations on seawater pollution.
  • The Merchant Shipping Act of 1858 addressed the prevention of oil-related water pollution.
  • The 1897 Fisheries Act
  • 1905’s Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act
  • The 1912 Bombay Smoke Nuisance Act
  • The 1912 Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act

Environmental Laws Formulated After Independence (1947) 

With the new governance of an independent India, several laws were established to protect, conserve and work on the physical environment. These laws are as follows-

  • The 1950 Indian Constitution does not specifically address environmental issues or the prevention and management of pollution.
  • The Stockholm Declaration of 1972 is what first brought the border viewpoint of environmental preservation to the Indian government’s notice.
  • The Central Government of India passed extensive (special) environmental regulations.
  • In 1972, the National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning was established. In 1985, it became the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
  • The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act of 1974 calls for the creation of pollution control boards at the federal level and in each state to serve as gatekeepers for pollution prevention and control.
  • The 1980 Forest (Conservation) Act sought to prevent deforestation, divert forest areas away from forestry, and advance social forestry.
  • The Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 sought to use pollution control boards to control air pollution.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is a piece of legislation that establishes a singular focus on environmental protection in the nation and seeks to close legal gaps.
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 is a significant piece of law passed in the name of the communities that are tasked with protecting the biodiversity in their immediate surroundings.

Top 15 Environmental Laws In India

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

In order to properly safeguard the country’s wild animals and to prevent poaching, smuggling, and the illegal trade in wildlife & its products, the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 was passed. The Act was revised in January 2003, and the penalties and punishment for violations of the Act are now more severe. 

The Ministry has suggested adding stricter regulations to the Act in order to strengthen it. The goal is to protect the ecologically significant protected areas as well as the listed endangered species of plants and animals.

The Water (Prevention and Control Of Pollution) Act, 1974

This Act (the “Water Act”) was passed to address water pollution prevention and control as well as to preserve or restore the nation’s water’s wholesomeness. In order to carry out the aims mentioned above, it also provides for the establishment of Boards for the prevention & control of water pollution. 

The Water Act imposes fines for non-compliance and forbids the discharge of contaminants into water bodies above a specified standard. The CPCB, which establishes guidelines for the prevention and management of water pollution, was established at the federal level under the Water Act. SPCBs operate at the State level under the supervision of the CPCB and the State Government.

The Air (Prevention And Control Of Pollution) Act, 1981

The Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 (the “Air Act”) establishes boards at the central & state levels to carry out the functions mentioned above as well as the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution.

The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

The Environment Protection Act of 1986 (the “Environment Act”) addresses environmental preservation and enhancement. The Environment Protection Act lays out a framework for researching, organizing, and putting long-term environmental safety criteria into practice. It also sets a mechanism for prompt and adequate reaction to environmental threats.

 It is an overarching piece of legislation established to offer a framework for collaborating federal and state agencies created by the 1974 Water Act and the Air Act. Under section 2(a) of the Environment Act, the term “environment” has a fairly broad definition. Water, air, and land are all included, as well as the connections between them and people, other living things, plants, microorganisms, and property.

The National Environmental Tribunal Act, 1995, Amendment 2010

The Act’s purpose is to provide financial compensation for harm done to people, property, and the environment as a result of any action involving hazardous materials. The Green Tribunal’s three primary goals are

  • the quick and efficient resolution of matters involving environmental protection, forest preservation, and other natural resource preservation. The Tribunal will also hear all of the previously open cases.
  • All environmental legal rights are intended to be upheld by it.
  • It also takes into account giving affected individuals relief and compensation for property damage.

The National Environment Appellate Authority Act,1997

A law that establishes a National Environment Appellate Authority to hear appeals regarding the restriction of areas in which any industries, operations, or processes—or class of industries, operations, or processes—shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986—as well as for matters related to or incidental to such restrictions.

The Biomedical Waste (Management And Handling) Rules,1998

The Biomedical Trash (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 are a set of rules that healthcare facilities must follow in order to properly handle hospital waste, including segregation, disposal, collection, and treatment.

The Environment (Siting For Industrial Projects) Rules, 1999

The Environment (Siting for Industrial Projects) Rules, 1999 set forth specific guidelines regarding areas to be avoided for the siting of industries, precautions to be taken when choosing a site, and environmental protection considerations that should have been taken into account when carrying out industrial development projects.

The Ozone-Depleting Substances (Regulation And Control) Rules, 2000

The production and consumption of ozone-depleting compounds are governed by the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.

The Energy Conservation Act, 2001

It was implemented as a measure to increase energy efficiency and decrease waste. It details the requirements for appliances and equipment’s energy consumption. It lays out guidelines for consumer energy use. It specifies building standards for commercial structures that conserve energy. The statute created the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), a statutory organization.

Biological Diversity Act, 2002

The United Nations CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity), 1992, which recognizes the sovereign rights of states to use their own Biological Resources, inspired India to create the Biological Diversity Act 2002. The Act aims to preserve biological resources and related knowledge while also providing sustainable access to them. The National Biodiversity Authority, located in Chennai, was created with the intention of carrying out the Act’s goals.

The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (No. 19 of 2010) (NGT Act) was passed with the intention of creating a National Green Tribunal (NGT) to handle cases involving the protection of the environment, the conservation of forests and other natural resources, as well as the enforcement of any environmental legal rights & the provision of relief & compensation for damages to people and property, as well as matters related thereto.

The Noise Pollution (Regulation And Control) (Amendment) Rules, 2010

These regulations establish the terms and conditions required to lessen noise pollution and permit the use of loudspeakers or public address systems on or during any cultural or religious holiday during the night (between 10:00 p.m. and 12:00 midnight).

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, also known as the CAMPA Act, is a piece of Indian legislation that aims to establish a suitable institutional framework for the prompt, effective, and transparent use of funds released in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purposes in order to lessen the effects of such divergence.

Do Indian Environmental Laws Comply With The International Standards? 

International environmental law aims to control population growth and resource depletion while promoting sustainable development. International law addresses issues related to population, biodiversity, climate change, ozone depletion, dangerous compounds, and hazardous materials. 

The ability to comprehend how various natural events and human actions affect the environment has improved thanks to advances in science and technology. Multilateral environmental accords are addressing a variety of issues, including the depletion of freshwater resources, ozone depletion, climate change, biodiversity loss, toxic and hazardous products, and river contamination, which are multiplying exponentially.

International environmental law has developed in a variety of ways. It introduces its sources and significant underlying principles, even though some accords have successfully achieved the desired outcomes.

India is one of the nations most at risk from climate change. India now ranks behind China and the US as the third-largest emitter of greenhouse emissions. Between 2008 and 2035, India’s yearly carbon dioxide emissions are expected to double virtually. 

The net carbon dioxide emission is made up of the energy sector, which accounts for 8% of it, the industry sector, which accounts for 22% of it, the agricultural sector, which accounts for 17% of it, and the waste sector, which accounts for 3% of it.

Around the world, municipal, state, and national attention is focused primarily on climate change and energy. Today, India is a significant player and needs to implement a diversified strategy to develop clean energy sources, increase energy efficiency, and prepare for climate change’s effects.

The Supreme Court and the High Courts hold judicial hearings to define the principles on which environmental legislation in India is based. The court has been crucial in interpreting the law and establishing the guidelines on how to interpret Indian statutes and the Constitution.

The Supreme Court’s rulings and directives address a variety of topics, including air, water, solid waste, and hazardous waste. The Supreme Court has issued directives for the shutdown of hazardous aquaculture facilities and polluting enterprises, put a stop to unlawful mining, mandated cleaner car fuel, and safeguarded forests and world heritage sites like the Taj Mahal.

A Word From Lawzik

Currently, countries are working hard to reform their economies, which has shifted the focus of issues to sustainable development. Additionally, it depends on advancing the application of its environmental laws and the integration of the environment in order to achieve its economic and ecological goals. To better integrate into governmental action, it is always advised to increase the human and financial resources and analyze the organization’s structure. To make it simpler to enforce present laws and regulations and to strengthen the system of responsibility for all tiers of government and business, simplification must be encouraged.


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