Environmental Laws In India

Soumya Goswamy
Article By Soumya Goswami | 3rd Year Law student at PIMR Department Of Law, Indore


It is interesting to note that natural resources had been stored virtually untouched in the Earth for millions of years. But since the start of the industrial revolution vast amounts of these resources had been exploited within a period of just a couple of hundreds of years at unimaginable rates, with all the waste from this exploitation going straight in the environment (air, water, land) and seriously damaging its natural processes. Although pollution had been known to exist for a very long time (at least since people started using fire thousands of years ago), it had seen the growth of truly global proportions only since the onset of the industrial revolution during the 19th century.

Environmental degradation in India has been caused by a variety of social, economic, institutional and technological factors. Rapidly growing population, urbanization and industrial activities have all resulted in considerable deterioration in the quality and sustainability of the environment. Environmental ethics have also formed an inherent part of Indian religious precepts and philosophy.

With the rapid increase in industrialization and human needs, environment has been badly suffered. Thankfully, the importance of protection as well as conservation of environment along with sustainable use of natural resources is reflected really  well in the constitutional framework of India. The Environmental laws in India give huge importance to maintain an ecological balance of environment by safeguarding the forests and wildlife of the country.


Constitutional provision of Environmental Law-


There are certain constitutional provisions which give certain power and rights to the citizens to protect environment. Let’s have a look:


  • Article 48A: This Article comes under the Directive principle of the State policy. This article implies that State shall endeavor to protect the environment. It also emphasizes on safeguarding the forests and wildlife of the country. Article 48A imposes a duty on State to protect the environment from pollution by adopting various measures.


  • Article 51A (g): The Article 51 A(g) states that it shall be the duty of each and every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment that includes lakes, rivers, forests and wildlife. This Article also focuses on showing compassion for living creatures. This article is similar to Article 48A, but the only difference is that it concentrates on fundamental duty of citizens whereas Article 48A instructs the state to perform their duties and protect environment. Hence, it is our duty to not only protect the environment from pollution but also improve its quality.


  • Article 253: This Article gives power to Parliament to create laws for the country in order to implement any treaty conventions and agreement with other countries. By this article, Parliament enacted various laws in order to protect environment like – Water Act 1974, Air Act 1981 and the Environmental Protection Act 1984.


  • Article 246: The Article 246 divides the subjects of legislation between Union and State. It also provides the details of Concurrent list in which both the Union and State make laws by sharing the jurisdiction comprising the protection of mines, wildlife and minerals development. So, both State and Union have power to enact laws to protect the environment. Article 246 also provides the extra power to Parliament in order to make laws in State list for the National interest.


  • Article 47: This article imposes duty on the State in order to improve the standards of living of citizens by providing health facilities, proper nutrition, and sanitization and protect the environment to live safely. Article 47 also pressurizes its citizens to be more conscious of the environment.


  • Article 21: It states that right to life is not just for animals but it also provides the right to humans to live safely in an environment with basic human dignities. Because. In M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India, Supreme Court had stated that the right to live includes living in a pollution-free environment and be free from diseases.


  • Article 19(1) (g): It states that citizens cannot practice such trade or business activities which are hazardous to public health.


  • Article 32 & 226: This article provides right to citizen to approach to Supreme or High Court whenever there is violation of fundamental right by PIL (Public Interest Litigation). This article helps preserve the environment and maintain ecological balance. This Article also dictates that environment conservation is not just the duty of government but also the responsibility of citizens of India.


The constitutional provisions are backed by a number of laws – acts, rules, and notifications. The EPA (Environment Protection Act), 1986 came into force soon after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and is considered an umbrella legislation as it fills many gaps in the existing laws. Thereafter a large number of laws came into existence as the problems began arising, for example, Handling and Management of Hazardous Waste Rules in 1989.


Following is a list of the environmental legislations that have come into effect:

  • General
  • Forest and wildlife
  • Water
  • Air




  • General


  • 1986 – The Environment (Protection) Act authorizes the central government to protect and improve environmental quality, control and reduce pollution from all sources, and prohibit or restrict the setting and /or operation of any industrial facility on environmental grounds.


  • 1986 – The Environment (Protection) Rules lay down procedures for setting standards of emission or discharge of environmental pollutants.


  • 1989 – The objective of Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules is to control the generation, collection, treatment, import, storage, and handling of hazardous waste.


  • 1989 – The Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Rules define the terms used in this context, and sets up an authority to inspect, once a year, the industrial activity connected with hazardous chemicals and isolated storage facilities.


  • 1989 – The Manufacture, Use, Import, Export, and Storage of hazardous Micro-organisms/ Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules were introduced with a view to protect the environment, nature, and health, in connection with the application of gene technology and microorganisms.
  • 1991 – The Public Liability Insurance Act and Rules and Amendment, 1992 was drawn up to provide for public liability insurance for the purpose of providing immediate relief to the persons affected by accident while handling any hazardous substance.


  • 1995 – The National Environmental Tribunal Act has been created to award compensation for damages to persons, property, and the environment arising from any activity involving hazardous substances.


  • 1997 – The National Environment Appellate Authority Act has been created to hear appeals with respect to restrictions of areas in which classes of industries etc. are carried out or prescribed subject to certain safeguards under the EPA.


  • 1998 – The Biomedical waste (Management and Handling) Rules is a legal binding on the health care institutions to streamline the process of proper handling of hospital waste such as segregation, disposal, collection, and treatment.


  • 1999 – The Environment (Siting for Industrial Projects) Rules, 1999 lay down detailed provisions relating to areas to be avoided for siting of industries, precautionary measures to be taken for site selecting as also the aspects of environmental protection which should have been incorporated during the implementation of the industrial development projects.


  • 2000 – The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 apply to every municipal authority responsible for the collection, segregation, storage, transportation, processing, and disposal of municipal solid wastes.


  • 2000 – The Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules have been laid down for the regulation of production and consumption of ozone depleting substances.


  • 2001 – The Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001 rules shall apply to every manufacturer, importer, re-conditioner, assembler, dealer, auctioneer, consumer, and bulk consumer involved in the manufacture, processing, sale, purchase, and use of batteries or components so as to regulate and ensure the environmentally safe disposal of used batteries.


  • 2002 – The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) (Amendment) Rules lay down
  • such terms and conditions as are necessary to reduce noise pollution, permit use of loud speakers or public address systems during night hours (between 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight) on or during any cultural or religious festive occasion


  • 2002 – The Biological Diversity Act is an act to provide for the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources and knowledge associated with it
  • Forest and wildlife


  • 1927 – The Indian Forest Act and Amendment, 1984, is one of the many surviving colonial statutes. It was enacted to ‘consolidate the law related to forest, the transit of forest produce, and the duty leviable on timber and other forest produce’.


  • 1972 – The Wildlife Protection Act, Rules 1973 and Amendment 1991 provides for the protection of birds and animals and for all matters that are connected to it whether it be their habitat or the waterhole or the forests that sustain them.


  • 1980 – The Forest (Conservation) Act and Rules, 1981, provides for the protection of and the conservation of the forests.


  • Water


  • 1882 – The Easement Act allows private rights to use a resource that is, groundwater, by viewing it as an attachment to the land. It also states that all surface water belongs to the state and is a state property.


  • 1897 – The Indian Fisheries Act establishes two sets of penal offences whereby the government can sue any person who uses dynamite or other explosive substance in any way (whether coastal or inland) with intent to catch or destroy any fish or poisonous fish in order to kill.
  • 1956 – The River Boards Act enables the states to enroll the central government in setting up an Advisory River Board to resolve issues in inter-state cooperation.


  • 1970 – The Merchant Shipping Act aims to deal with waste arising from ships along the coastal areas within a specified radius.


  • 1974 – The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act establishes an institutional structure for preventing and abating water pollution. It establishes standards for water quality and effluent. Polluting industries must seek permission to discharge waste into effluent bodies.
  • The CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) was constituted under this act.


  • 1977 – The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act provides for the levy and collection of cess or fees on water consuming industries and local authorities.


  • 1978 – The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Rules contains the standard definitions and indicate the kind of and location of meters that every consumer of water is required to affix.


  • 1991 – The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification puts regulations on various activities, including construction, are regulated. It gives some protection to the backwaters and estuaries.


  • Air


  • 1948 – The Factories Act and Amendment in 1987 was the first to express concern for the working environment of the workers. The amendment of 1987 has sharpened its environmental focus and expanded its application to hazardous processes.


  • 1981 – The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act provides for the control and abatement of air pollution. It entrusts the power of enforcing this act to the CPCB .


  • 1982 – The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules defines the procedures of the meetings of the Boards and the powers entrusted to them.


  • 1982 – The Atomic Energy Act deals with the radioactive waste.


  • 1987 – The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act empowers the central and state pollution control boards to meet with grave emergencies of air pollution.


  • 1988 – The Motor Vehicles Act states that all hazardous waste is to be properly packaged, labelled, and transported.



Connecting human rights and environment is a valuable sourcebook that explores the uncharted territory that lies between environmental and human rights legislation. Human beings can ensure fundamental equality and adequate conditions of life in an environment that permits a life of dignity and well-being. There is an urgent need to formulate laws keeping in mind the fact that those who pollute or destroy the natural environment are not just committing a crime against nature, but are violating human rights as well. Indeed, health has seemed to be the subject that bridges gaps between the two fields of environmental protection and human rights. The advancement of the relationship between human rights and environment would enable incorporation of human rights principles within an environmental scope, such as anti-discrimination standards, the need for social participation and the protection of vulnerable groups.

This article was written by Soumya Goswami, a 3rd Year student at Bennett University, Greater Noida. She may be reached at soumyagoswami80326@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of Hello Counsel.

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