The Environment (Protection) Act was enacted in the year 1986. It was enacted with the main objective to provide the protection and improvement of environment and for matters connected therewith. The Act is one of the most comprehensive legislations with pretext to protection and improvement of environment.
Objectives of THE ENVIRONMENT (PROTECTION) ACT, 1986 (EPA)
To implement the decisions made at the UN Conference on Human Environment held at Stockholm in June, 1972.
To enact a general law on the areas of environmental protection which were left uncovered by existing laws. The existing laws were more specific in nature and concentrated on a more specific type of pollution and specific categories of hazardous substances rather than on general problems that chiefly caused major environmental hazards.
To co-ordinate activities of the various regulatory agencies under the existing laws
To provide for the creation of an authority or authorities for environmental protection
The Environment (Protection) Act is applicable to whole of India including Jammu & Kashmir. It came into force on November 19, 1986.
Premises of the Act
It is now generally accepted that environment is threatened by a wide variety of human activities ranging from the instinctive drive to reproduce its kind to the restless urge of improving the standards of living, development of technological solutions to this end, the vast amount of waste, both natural and chemical, that these advances produce. Paradoxically, this urge to grow and develop, which was initially uncontrolled is now widely perceived to be threatening as it results in the depletion of both living and non-living natural resources and life support systems. The air, water, land, living creatures as well as the environment in general is becoming polluted at an alarming rate that needs to be controlled and curbed as soon as possible.
The 1986 Act was enacted in this spirit. From time to time various legislations have been enacted in India for this purpose. However, all legislations prior to the 1986 Act have been specific relating to precise aspects of environmental pollution. However, the 1986 Act was a general legislation enacted under Article 253 (Legislation for giving effect to international agreements.—Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, Parliament has power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body) of the Constitution, pursuant to the international obligations of India. India was a signatory to the Stockholm Conference of 1972 where the world community had resolved to protect and enhance the environment.
Section 2 (a) “Environment” includes water, air, and land and the interrelationship that exists among and between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property. This definition is not exhaustive but an inclusive one.
Section 2 (b) “Environmental Pollutant” means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be injurious to environment.
Powers of Central Government to take measures to Protect and Improve Environment According to the provisions of the Act, the Central Government shall have the power to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing controlling and abating environmental pollution. Such measures may include measures with respect to all or any of the following matters, namely: a) co-ordination of actions by the State Governments, officers and other authorities-
(a) under this Act, or the rules made thereunder, or
(b) under any other law for the time being in force which is relatable to the objects of this Act;
b) planning and execution of a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;
c) laying down standards for the quality of environment in its various aspects;
d) laying down standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources whatsoever: Provided that different standards for emission or discharge may be laid down under this clause from different sources having regard to the quality or composition of the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from such sources;
e) 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;
f) laying down procedures and safeguards for the prevention of accidents which may cause environmental pollution and remedial measures for such accidents;
g) laying down procedures and safeguards for the handling of hazardous substances;
h) examination of such manufacturing processes, materials and substances as are likely to cause environmental pollution;
i) carrying out and sponsoring investigations and research relating to problems of environmental pollution;
j) inspection of any premises, plant, equipment, machinery, manufacturing or other processes, materials or substances and giving, by order, of such directions to such authorities, officers or persons as it may consider necessary to take steps for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;
k) establishment or recognition of environmental laboratories and institutes to carry out the functions entrusted to such environmental laboratories and institutes under this Act;
l) collection and dissemination of information in respect of matters relating to environmental pollution;
m) preparation of manuals, codes or guides relating to the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;
n) such other matters as the Central Government deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of securing the effective implementation of the provisions of this Act.
As considerable adverse environment impact has been caused due to degradation of the environment with excessive soil erosion and water and air pollution due to certain development activities therefore it is necessary to protect the environment. This can be achieved only by careful assessment of a project proposed to be located in any area, on the basis of an environment impact assessment and environment management plan for the prevention, elimination or mitigation of the adverse impacts, right from the inception stage of the project.
The Central Government has passed certain notifications laying that the expansion or modernization of any existing industry or new projects listed shall not be undertaken in any part of India, unless it gets environmental clearance by the Central Government, or the State Government.
Prevention, Control and Abetment of Environment Pollution
Chapter III of the EPA deals with prevention, Control and abetment of Environmental Pollution. Some important provisions of this chapter provide that, No person carrying on any industry, operation or process shall discharge or emit or permit to be discharged or emitted any environmental pollutant in excess of such standards as may be prescribed. No person shall handle or cause to be handled any hazardous substance except in accordance with such procedure and after complying with such safe guards as may be prescribed. Where the discharge of any environmental pollutant in excess of the prescribed standards occurs or is apprehended to occur due to any accident or other unforeseen act or event, the person responsible for such discharge and the person in charge of the place at which the discharge occurs shall be bound to prevent or mitigate the environmental pollution. and shall also:
(a) intimate the fact of such occurrence or apprehension of such occurrence; and
(b) be bound, if called upon, to render all assistance. On receipt of such information, the authorities or agencies shall cause such remedial measures to be taken as are necessary to prevent or mitigate the environmental pollution.
The expenses incurred by any authority or agency may be recovered from the person concerned as arrears of land revenue or of public demand.