Environment (Protection) Act 1986

The infamous Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 in Madhya Pradesh proved to be fatal and the nastiest disaster in the globe. In the backdrop of this, the Environment Protection Act, of 1986 (EPA, 1986) was enacted. This act came into being in pursuance of the Article 253 of the Indian Constitution, which confers powers on Parliament for enforcing any treaty, convention or agreement with any country or any decision made at an international conference. The EPA was legislated to fulfill the responsibilities of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE) held in 1972 in Stockholm. Other constitutional provisions that inspire the enactment of the EPA,1986 are Article 48A (under Directive Principles of State Policy) and the provision of fulfilling the duty to conserve the environment under Article 51A (Fundamental Duty). 

The EPA,1986 constitutes 4 chapters and 26 sections. The act is considered an umbrella legislation for the Central government, and other central and state authorities. 

The objective of the EPA 1986 is to conserve and enhance the environment and also protect humans from environmental hazards. It promises the safety of the environment in general. The act specifies the definition of Environment as including water, air, and land and the interrelationships that are among air, water and land and also with human beings among other living organisms. Environmental pollution is induced by unwanted solid, liquid or gaseous substances in the environment. It is dangerous for the existence of humanity. 

Chapter one contains the introductory pointers as the Short Title, Date of Commencement etc. Chapter two comprises powers accorded to the Central Government. Chapter three empowers the Government to act to protect the environment. Chapter Four assigns the power to the government to select officers to fulfil the aims of this act. 

In pursuance of the provision of this act, the government can ensure closure, forbidding or regulation of the polluting entity. There is also the scope of penalties which holds the in-charge liable for the penalty. 

The significant features of the EPA 1986 are as follows 

  1. The Central Government is the empowered authority to conserve the environment and better the environmental situation in the country. 
  2. The Central Government has wide-ranging powers as to- 
  • Harmonize the actions of the State and Central government 
  • Conducting national plans 
  • Deciphering the environmental standards that should be followed 
  • Issuing orders and imposing constraints on operations and establishment of industries. 
  • Authority to carry out inspections and analyze the samples for the stated purposes 
  • Formulate codes, rules and regulations 
  • Any other matter as Central Government considers essential
  1. Discharge of effluents that is more than the stipulated standards shall be restricted. 4. Specific procedures are listed for using hazardous substances if not in consonance with the set standards. 
  2. The act specifies punishment such as imprisonment for periods ranging from 5 to even 7 years. 
  3. Any person can complain in a court of law for the contraception of law. 7. 60 days notice shall be given to the appropriate government regarding the commitment of the offence. 

Bodies/rules constituted under the provisions of The Environment (Protection) Act 1986- 1. Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee 

  1. National Ganga Council (2016) 
  2. Framing of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 
  3. National Coastal Zone Management Authority 
  4. Central Groundwater Authority (CGWA) 

The EPA 1986 inspires the spirit of protecting the environment and is in line with the oath of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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