AUTHOR’S NAME – Saksham Sachan, BBALLB, Fifth Year.
INSTITUTION NAME – Ramaiah institute of legal studies, Bangalore.
The Indian government passed the Environment Protection Act (EPA)[i] in 1986 to control pollution and safeguard the environment. The EPA offers India a legal framework for avoiding, managing, and reducing pollution while also fostering sustainable development. The EPA’s main provisions, implementation issues, and effects on India’s environment and society will all be covered in this article.
India is a developing nation that deals with several environmental issues, such as soil erosion, water pollution, air pollution, and loss of biodiversity. The environment and public health have deteriorated in India as a result of the country’s fast economic growth and urbanization. To address these environmental problems and encourage sustainable development in India, the EPA was passed into law.
Key provisions of the EPA:
Several important EPA provisions are designed to safeguard the environment and advance sustainable development. According to the Act, the term “environment” refers to the link between people, other living things, plants, microorganisms, water, air, and soil. Some of the EPA’s most important provisions include the following:
Any new project or activity that could have a negative impact on the environment must undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), according to the EPA. Before a project or activity is permitted, the environmental impact of it is assessed through the EIA process. It involves an evaluation of the project’s possible effects on the environment as well as steps to lessen such effects.
Hazardous Substances are governed by the EPA in terms of handling, transportation, and disposal. It offers instructions for handling and discarding hazardous waste safely, as well as for registering generators, transporters, and disposers of hazardous waste.
Pollution prevention and control are handled by the EPA, which also deals with water and air pollution.
It gives the central and state pollution control bodies the authority to control and keep an eye on the nation’s pollution levels. The EPA also permits the enforcement of fines against businesses and people that break pollution control laws.
Natural resource management and conservation are goals that the EPA works to advance. It offers protection for aquatic habitats, woodlands, and wildlife. Additionally, it controls the use of natural resources like water and minerals and forbids the felling of trees in specific places.
Implementation and Challenges:
The EPA offers a legislative foundation for environmental protection, but it has proved difficult to put into practice. The following are a few difficulties with implementation:
Lack of Resources: The EPA’s implementation calls for considerable financial and human resources. The federal and state pollution control boards[ii] frequently lack the funding necessary to carry out the EPA’s requirements, nevertheless.
Weak Enforcement Mechanisms: The EPA imposes fines on people and businesses who break pollution control laws. However, a lack of political will and corruption have made it difficult to implement these punishments.
Inadequate Monitoring: The EPA mandates that the national pollution levels be monitored by the state and federal pollution control boards. However, due to insufficient monitoring techniques, precise information on pollution levels has been lacking.
Public Participation: The EPA provides for public participation in the decision-making process regarding environmental issues. However, public participation has been limited due to a lack of awareness and resources.
Impact of the Environment Protection Act:
The EPA has had a significant impact on the environment and society in India. The following are some of the impacts of the EPA:
Pollution Levels Have Decreased: The EPA has contributed to a decrease in pollution across the nation. Air and water pollution have decreased as a result of the central and state pollution control boards’ ability to control and monitor pollution levels.
Promotion of Sustainable Development: The EPA works to advance sustainable development by enforcing laws that limit the use of natural resources and encouraging their protection. Ecosystems in forests, wildlife, and water. Before each project is approved, the Act mandates an environmental impact assessment, ensuring that it is developed in a way that is environmentally sustainable.
Protection of Public Health[iii]: The EPA’s implementation has reduced pollution levels, which has improved India’s public health. Particularly air pollution has been associated with a number of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, and the incidence of these illnesses has decreased as a result of lower air pollution levels.
Corporate social responsibility is being promoted, and the EPA has urged businesses to accept accountability for their environmental effects. The Act stipulates penalties for infractions and mandates that industries implement pollution prevention and control methods. As a result, businesses are taking steps to lessen their negative effects on the environment, such as adopting cleaner technology and lowering their carbon footprint.
Promotion of Public Participation: The EPA offers opportunities for the public to weigh in on environmental decision-making. This has boosted public involvement in environmental issues and awareness, including protests and environmentally damaging initiatives.
Important case laws:
M C Mehta vs Union of India:[iv]
The Supreme Court noted in a PIL filed by Mr. M. C. Mehta under Article 32[v] of the Indian Constitution that the water of the Ganga River was extremely poisonous close to Kanpur City because tanneries in the vicinity were discharging their untreated effluents into the river. Additionally, sewage effluents and sludge were being discharged into the river through nine nallahs. In a similar manner, dead bodies and partially burned bodies were also dumped into the river. Additionally, the city’s overall water supply and sanitary conditions fell short of the standards for a typical city.
The petitioner asked for a writ, order, or directive to stop the State of Uttar Pradesh from discharging trade effluents into the Ganga. The Court rejected their arguments, stating that “when forcing them to install primary treatment plants, financial capabilities of a tannery should be considered immaterial. The tanneries that cannot establish a primary treatment facility cannot be permitted to remain, just as an industry that cannot pay its employees the minimum wage cannot be allowed to exist. The court also noted that the iron and manganese contents of the river water were greater than the ISI standards, which were judged to be extremely dangerous for eating.
The court mandated that tanneries that failed to appear before it ceases operations and install pre-treatment equipment for trade effluents before resuming operations. As a result, the court declared the Kanpur Mahanagar Palika accountable and issued several orders for the PCA[vi] (Prevention, Control, and Abatement) of River Ganga pollution, including Enlarging sewers in labour colonies; Building numerous latrines and urinals; and forbidding the disposal of dead bodies, partially burned bodies, or ashes after funeral ceremonies in the river.
- installing treatment facilities in factories and other industrial settings.
- Keep the Village Clean Week in effect.
- adding slides about the value and purity of water during intermissions at the theatre.
Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India[vii]
In this instance, five factories in the Udaipur village of Bicchari were generating hyaluronic acid (H-acid). These facilities were releasing highly toxic, untreated effluents, such as sludge made of iron and gypsum.
The outcome was long-lasting harm to the ecology, as well as to the underground soil and water. Over a 350-hectare area, the water in about 60 wells turned crimson and became unsafe for drinking and other domestic uses. The 350 hectares of land lost all its fertility.
A show-cause request was issued by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate acting in accordance with the authority granted to him by Section 144[viii] of the Criminal Procedure Code.
So, the Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action, an environmentalist group, petitioned the Supreme Court to look at the matter.
The Court ruled that the factories must be shut down and that they must also pay up to Rs. 4 crores in damages for the area’s ecosystem.
Additionally, the Court recommended installing Green Benches in each State High Court.
An essential piece of law that offers a foundation for environmental protection in India is the Environment Protection Act[xii]. The Act has lowered pollution levels and encouraged the nation’s sustainable growth. However, there are obstacles to execution, such as a lack of funding, shoddy enforcement, poor oversight, and minimal public involvement. To successfully implement the EPA’s rules and safeguard the country’s environmental and public health protection[xiii], the Indian government must solve these issues.
[i] Indiacode\ https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/4316/1/ep_act_1986.pdf\ Last Visited 06\04\2023
[iii] cdc.gov\ https://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dfwed/keyprograms/public-health.html\ Last Visited 06\04\2023
[iv] legal service India \https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-5748-m-c-mehta-v-s-union-of-india.html\ Last Visited 06\04\2023
[vi]Indiacode\https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/6196/1/the_environment_protection_act%2C1986.pdf\ Last Visited 06\04\2023
[vii] Informea \https://www.informea.org/en/court-decision/indian-council-enviro-legal-action-and-others-petitioners-v-union-india-and-others-0\ Last Visited 06\04\2023
[ix] legal service India \https://legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-8016-case-analysis-rylands-v-s-fletcher.html\ 06\04\2023
[x] Alec.co \https://www.alec.co.in/judgement-page/the-oleum-gas-leak-case\ 06\04\2023
[xi] Indian express \https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/bhopal-gas-tragedy-1984-explained-8303103/ 06\04\2023
[xii] India code \https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/4316/1/ep_act_1986.pdf\ 06\04\2023
[xiii] Emro.who.int \https://www.emro.who.int/about-who/public-health-functions/health-protection.html\ 06\04\2023