Framework of EHS laws and regulations in India.
- Overview, environmental standards (This page)
As one of the BRICs countries, India has achieved remarkable economic growth in recent years. Along with economic growth, environmental pollution is increasing in the country. Various challenges have emerged, including air pollution in cities due to industrial development and vehicle emissions, degradation of water quality in the Ganges and other rivers, and an increase in waste (general waste, hazardous waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment, etc.) due to the growth of the urban population. India is also one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Therefore, while India is not under an obligation of international emission reduction, negligence in its efforts to reduce emissions is unacceptable. In order to deal with these environmental problems, India is taking proactive measures.
In addition to the Constitution, which provides for environmental protection, India developed the following environmental policies.
- National Forest Policy, 1988
- Policy Statement on Abatement of Pollution,1992
- National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development, 1992
- National Water Policy, 1987, 2002, 2012
The National Environment Policy, 2006 was formulated based on these policies. The objectives of the policy are as follows.
- Conservation of endangered environmental resources
- Guaranteeing the livelihoods of the poor (ensuring access to resources)
- Sustainable use of resources
- Integration of environmental issues with economic and social development
- Efficient use of resources
- Improvement of environmental governance
- Improvement of resources for environmental conservation
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is as the implementing agency for the policy.
These policies are not legally binding, but serve as guidelines for the central and state governments.
The main legal regime in India is shown in the following chart. The Indian legal system consists of Acts approved by the Parliament, Rules made by the relevant ministries and agencies to implement the laws, and Notifications made by the relevant ministries and agencies within their powers.
The Constitution of India is the supreme law in the country. The Constitution consists of a total of 395 articles and annexes and is a massive document. The Constitution is frequently amended in India, and since it came into force in 1950, it has been amended 103 times as of August 2020.
Following the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972 and the adoption of the Declaration on the Human Environment, India became the first country in the world to include provisions on environmental protection (Article 48A, Article 51A(g)) when it amended the Constitution in 1976.
“48A. The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.”
“51A. It shall be the duty of every citizen of India–
(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;
These provisions provide for the imposition of environmental protection obligations on the government and citizens. On the other hand, there is no provision in the Constitution recognizing the right to the enjoyment of a good environment. However, Article 21 guarantees individual liberty and the Indian judiciary, on the basis of the same Article, recognizes the right to enjoy a good environment as a fundamental human right.
“21. No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
The Constitution defines (1) areas over which the central government has exclusive supervisory authority, (2) areas over which state governments have exclusive supervisory authority, and (3) areas over which both governments have supervisory authority (Article 246), which are listed in Annex 7. List I (Union List) in the Annex lists the areas overseen by the central government, including defense and foreign affairs. List II (State List), which lists the areas overseen by state governments, includes public health and state public services. In relation to the environment, the state governments are empowered to supervise water, land, agriculture and fisheries, while forest and wildlife protection are listed in List III (Concurrent List), in which both the central and state governments have supervisory authority. In addition, state governments have oversight authority over water (e.g., water supply, irrigation water, hydroelectricity, etc.). In matters such as the management of rivers flowing through several states, the federal government is allowed to exercise oversight, subject to congressional approval.
Environmental laws and regulations
Environmental regulations existed in India even before the country gained independence in 1947. However, it was not until the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 that environmental laws and regulations began to be formulated in earnest. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, was the beginning of the process. The Water Act was enacted to prevent water pollution in India, and the development of India’s environmental laws began with the control of water pollution. The Water Act prohibits discharge of pollutants into the water system in excess of the standards and provides for penalties for violators. Also, it provides for setting up a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the Central Government and a State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) for the State Governments.
In 1981, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 was enacted. The Air Act was enacted to prevent air pollution in India and empowers state governments to ban the use of polluting fuels and substances. It also gives the CPCB and SPCBs the authority to control air pollution.
In 1986, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, was enacted as a comprehensive environmental legislation. The purpose of the Act is to provide a framework for the prevention and control of various environmental problems such as water, air and soil, as well as for the coordination of central government agencies and state government agencies. Article 3 of the Act provides that “the Central Government shall have the power to take all such steps for the protection and improvement of the environment and for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution as it may deem necessary or appropriate”. Article 25 also empowers the central government to make rules. Further, the Act also provides for penalties, and violation of the Act and its implementing rules is punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of five years or a fine of 100,000 rupees, or both (Article 15).
The implementing regulations of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 contain rules on a variety of areas such as waste, chemicals and noise, indicating that the Act is a comprehensive legislation covering a wide range of areas.
There are also the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the Biological Diversity Act 2002, and the Energy Conservation Act, 2001. Many of these kinds of environmental laws, particularly those related to nature conservation and pollution control, are administered by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). On the other hand, some laws on energy conservation are administered by the Ministry of Power (MoP) and other ministries and agencies.