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Major Environmental Laws Of India
The Constitution under Part IV (Article 48 A- Directive Principles of State Policies) stipulates that the State shall try to improve and protect the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife of the country.
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Protection and conservation of the environment and sustainable use of natural resources and its need is reflected in the constitutional framework of India as well as India’s international commitments like its Nationally Determined Contribution targets. Under Part IVA of the Constitution (Article 51A- Fundamental Duties), the Constitution casts a duty on every citizen to improve and protect the nature and have compassion for all living beings. Furthermore, the Constitution under Part IV (Article 48A- Directive Principles of State Policies) stipulates that the State shall try to improve and protect the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife of the country.
MoEF was established in 1985, which today is the apex administrative body in the country for regulating and ensuring environmental protection and lays down the legal and regulatory framework for the same. Since the 1970s, a number of environment legislations have been put in place. The MoEF and the pollution control boards ("CPCB", ie, Central Pollution Control Board and "SPCBs", ie, State Pollution Control Boards) together form the regulatory and administrative core of the sector.
Some of the important legislations for environment protection are as follows:
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (No. 19 of 2010) (NGT Act) has been enacted with the objectives to provide for establishment of a National Green Tribunal (NGT) for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environment protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- 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.
- 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 carrying 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.
- The Environment Protection Act, 1986
- The Environment Protection Act, 1986 (the "Environment Act") provides for the protection and improvement of the 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.
- The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, etc.
- Hazardous waste means any waste which, by reason of any of its physical, chemical, reactive, toxic, flammable, explosive or corrosive characteristics, causes danger or is likely to cause danger to health or environment, whether alone or when in contact with other wastes or substances.
In addition, there are many other laws relating to environment, namely –
- 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 the 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.
- 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.
- Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
- The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 was enacted with the objectives to provide for damages to victims of an accident which occurs as a result of handling any hazardous substance. The Act applies to all owners associated with the production or handling of any hazardous chemicals.)
- The Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- The Biological Diversity Act 2002 was born out of India's attempt to realise the objectives enshrined in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 1992 which recognises the sovereign rights of states to use their own Biological Resources. The Act aims at the conservation of biological resources and associated knowledge as well as facilitating access to them in a sustainable manner. The National Biodiversity Authority in Chennai has been established for the purposes of implementing the objects of the Act.
- Coastal Regulation Zone Notification
- The Ministry of Environment and Forests had issued the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification vide Notification no. S O. 19(E), dated January 06, 2011 with an objective to ensure livelihood security to the fishing communities and other local communities living in the coastal areas, to conserve and protect coastal stretches and to promote development in a sustainable manner based on scientific principles, taking into account the dangers of natural hazards in the coastal areas and sea level rise due to global warming.