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Environmental Laws in India

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Environment laws in India mainly focus on the management and preservation of natural resources. Consequently, several environmental legal principles are enforced to save the environment from exploitation. The emphasis is mainly laid on forests, minerals, and fisheries. The implementation of environmental laws in India is directly associated with the Indian constitution. The framework of environmental laws is mainly enacted for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Not only the laws but India’s international commitment also look after this fact to protect the environment as much as possible. Some of the significant environmental laws are portrayed below with detailed explanations.

The Environmental laws of India not only attempt to safeguard the environment from the crisis situation but also serve as an important reminder of who and how is allowed to use the natural resources and under what circumstances. Under the Environmental Protection Act of 1986, water, air, and land serve interpersonal relationships which occur among them as well as humans along with plants, microorganisms, and property, which is referred to as Environment.

Environmental Laws in India

Environmental Laws in India

Provision of Environmental Law in India

Various environmental protection legislation in India states about environmental protection and the responsibility of the government. The constitutional provisions which provide rights to citizens for the protection of laws are as follows:

Article 48

Article 48 states come under the State policy Directive principle and as per this, the government should make efforts to conserve the environment and highlights the protection of the country’s both forests and animals.

Article 51A(g)

According to this Article, it is the responsibility of every Indian Citizen to maintain as well as enhance the environment, and also puts emphasis on the importance of exhibiting compassion for fellow living beings.

Article 253

This Article empowers Parliament for enacting laws for the country for carrying out the treaty conventions and for international agreements. The Water Act 1974, Air Act 1981, and the Environmental Protection Act 1984 come under the same.

Article 21

The assertion for the right to life does not only apply to animals but also to humans who have to right the right to live in a safe environment with that fundamental human dignity.

Environmental Laws After Independence (1947)

The Constitution of India in the year 1950, was adopted and had made no mention of the environment or pollution prevention until the 1976 Amendment. Post- Independence Indian Approach has focused on economic development, and poverty relief rather than just the conservation of natural resources:

Wild Life Act (Protection) of 1972

Environment laws in India are enacted for the protection of wild animals, birds, and plants; and for matters related thereto either by accident or incidental to it. It extends to the whole of India. It has six appendices that provide different levels of protection:

  • Schedules I and Part II of the schedule provide absolute protection, offenses under them are prescribed the highest penalty.
  •  Species listed in Appendix III and IV are also protected, but the penalty is much lower. 
  • Animals from Appendix V, for example, Common crows, fruit bats, rats, and mice are legally considered vermin and can be hunted freely.
  • Endemic plant species specified in Appendix VI are prohibited from being planted and cultivated

Statutory authorities under Wildlife Protection Act

  • National Wildlife and State Wildlife Advisory Boards
  • Central Zoo Authority 
  • Wildlife Crime Control Bureau 
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority

The Water Act (Prevention and Control of Pollution) of 1974

Under all environmental laws in India, this particular law is to ensure the prevention and control of water pollution. Maintain or restore the safety and purity of water in various water sources. It gives management authority to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs).

CPCB and SPSB are statutory bodies established under the Water Act 1974. It empowers CPCB and SPCB to set and enforce effluent standards for industries that discharge pollutants into the water bodies. The CPCB performs these same functions for the Union territories, in addition to formulating policies related to the prevention of water pollution and coordinating the activities of the various SPSBs. SPCB controls industrial wastewater and discharge by approving, denying, and authorizing discharges.

The Air Act (Prevention and Control of Pollution) of 1981

This Act is enacted under environmental laws in India which intended to control and prevent air pollution in India and its primary objectives are:

  • To ensure prevention, control, and reduction of air pollution.
  • Provisions for the establishment of councils at the State and Central levels to implement the law.
  • The responsibility was given to CPCB and SPCB.

It stipulates that sources of air pollution such as internal combustion engines, industry, power plants, vehicles, etc., are not allowed to emit Carbon Monoxide, particulates, lead, nitrogen oxide, Sulphur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or other hazardous substances above predetermined limits.  It gives the power to the state governments to designate air pollution areas.

Environment Protection Act of 1986

This act was adopted under Article 253 (Law in force for international agreements). This was adopted after the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984. It was issued in response to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment,1972 – Stockholm Declaration.  Ecologically sensitive areas or environmentally sensitive areas had been notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) under EPA, 1986 – 10 km buffer zones around protected areas.

Statutory agencies under EPA, 1986:

  • National Coastal Zone Management Authority (later transformed into National Ganga Council under Jal Shakti Ministry)
  • Genetic Engineering Review Committee

Energy Conservation Act of 2001

This act is counted as another important step among environmental laws in India.

  • It was enacted as a step to improve energy efficiency and reduce wastage. It prescribes energy consumption standards for appliances and equipment. 
  • It specifies energy consumption standards and norms for consumers. 
  • It specifies the energy-efficient building codes for commercial buildings.

The statutory body established under this act is the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).

The National Green Tribunal Act of 2010

It was created in line with the 1992 Rio Summit to provide judicial and administrative remedies for the victims of pollutants and other environmental damage.

  • It also agrees with Article 21, the constitutional right to a healthy environment for its citizens. 
  • The NGT must render judgment on the cases presented within 6 months of their appeal. 
  • The NGT has original jurisdiction over matters relating to significant environmental issues.

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act of 2016

The CAF Law was enacted to manage the funds collected for afforestation under the compensation scheme which until then was administered by the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

  • Compensatory Afforestation means that whenever forest land is converted to non-forest use such as industry or mining, the user agency pays for reforestation on an equivalent area of non-forested land, or if the land has no forest,  double the area of degraded forest land.

According to the rules of environmental laws in India, 90% of CAF funds must be given to the states while 10% must be kept by the Centre. Funds can be used to treat watershed forests, support natural production, manage forests, protect and manage wildlife, relocate villages from protected areas, manage human-wildlife conflicts, train and awareness raising, provision of wood-saving devices, and related activities.

Hazardous Waste Management Regulations

Hazardous waste refers to any waste which poses a threat to human health or to the environment because of its corrosive properties. Various laws for the management of hazardous waste are as follows:

  1. Hazardous Wastes Rules,2008- It helps and guides in the production, importation, and also damage of hazardous chemicals for the management of such wastes.
  2. Biochemical Waste Rules 1988-  These guidelines are created for ensuring infectious wastes were disposed of and transported efficiently.
  3. Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2000- The main goal is to make it possible municipalities for disposing solid waste more efficiently.


We as humans are accountable for environmental damage, so we must respect the environmental regulations and also raise awareness for the environment. However, we must think about the future generations who suffer from our wrongdoings and we must contribute to protection by plantation of plants.

Related Links

  1. Environmental Protection Act 1986
  2. Constitutional Provisions for the Protection of the Environment
  3. Environmental Protection under Fundamental Duties

FAQs on Environmental Laws in India

Q 1. How many environmental laws are there in India?


There are 7 acts that are related to the environment:

  1. Water Act, 1974
  2. Water Cess Act, 1974
  3. Air Act, 1977
  4. Forest Conservation Act, 1980
  5. Environmental Protection Act, 1986
  6. Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
  7. Biological Diversity Act, 2002

Q 2. What are the 5 environmental acts in India?


The 5 Environmental acts in India are:

  1. Forest Act, 1980
  2. Environment Act, 1986
  3. Wildlife Act, 1972
  4. The Water Act, 1974
  5. The Air Act, 1981

Q 3. What are three important environmental laws?


The three important environmental laws are as follows:

  1. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980
  2. The Environment Act, 1986
  3. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

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Last Updated : 13 May, 2023
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