The legal and Regulatory Framework for Environmental Protection in India

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The legal and regulatory framework for environmental protection in India

Over the years, together with a spreading of environmental consciousness, there has been a change in the traditionally-held perception that there is a trade-off between environmental quality and economic growth as people have come to believe that the two are necessarily complementary. The current focus on environment is not new—environmental considerations have been an integral part of the Indian culture. The need for conservation and sustainable use of natural resources has been expressed in Indian scriptures, more than three thousand years old and is reflected in the constitutional, legislative and policy framework as also in the international commitments of the country. Even before India’s independence in 1947, several environmental legislation existed but the real impetus for bringing about a well-developed framework came only after the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972). Under the influence of this declaration, the National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning within the Department of Science and Technology was set up in 1972. This Council later evolved into a full-fledged Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 1985 which today is the apex administrative body in the country for regulating and ensuring environmental protection. After the Stockholm Conference, in 1976, constitutional sanction was given to environmental concerns through the 42 nd Amendment, which incorporated them into the Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Rights and Duties. Since the 1970s an extensive network of environmental legislation has grown in the country. The MoEF and the pollution control boards (CPCB i.e. Central Pollution Control Board and SPCBs i.e. State Pollution Control Boards) together form the regulatory and administrative core of the sector. A policy framework has also been developed to complement the legislative provisions. The Policy Statement for Abatement of Pollution and the National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development were brought out by the MoEF in 1992, to develop and promote initiatives for the protection and improvement of the environment. The EAP (Environmental

Legal and regulatory framework


Action Programme) was formulated in 1993 with the objective of improving environmental services and integrating environmental considerations in to development programmes. Other measures have also been taken by the government to protect and preserve the environment. Several sector-specific policies have evolved, which are discussed at length in the concerned chapters. This chapter attempts to highlight only legislative initiatives towards the protection of the environment.

Legislation for environmental protection in India
Water quality standards especially those for drinking water are set by the Indian Council of Medical Research. These bear close resemblance to WHO standards. The discharge of industrial effluents is regulated by the Indian Standard Codes and recently, water quality standards for coastal water marine outfalls have also been specified. In addition to the general standards, certain specific standards have been developed for effluent discharges from industries such as, iron and steel, aluminium, pulp and paper, oil refineries, petrochemicals and thermal power plants. Legislation to control water pollution are listed below.

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
This Act represented India’s first attempts to comprehensively deal with environmental issues. The Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into water bodies beyond a given standard, and lays down penalties for non-compliance. The Act was amended in 1988 to conform closely to the provisions of the EPA, 1986. It set up the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) which lays down standards for the prevention and...
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