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What are the provisions under the Environment Protection Act, 1986?

The environment protection act, 1986 is an act of the parliament of India. This act relates to the protection and improvement of the human environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property. It was enacted by the parliament of India and the official date of its commencement was 9th January, 1986. It later came into force on the 19th of November, 1986. 

In the Indian constitution, it is mentioned under article 253 of the constitution with a total of 4 chapters and 26 sections. The chapter one consists of the preliminary information such as the short title, extend, date of commencement and the definitions as well. Likewise, chapter number two describes the general powers of the central government, chapter three gives the central government the power to take action to protect the environment. The last chapter, that is chapter 4 allows the government to appoint officers to achieve these objectives. 

To elaborate on the the reasons which gave rise to the formation of the Environment Protection Act (EPA), the decision was initially taken at a conference held by the United Nations on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in June, 1972. This program was setup in Geneva and India participated to take appropriate steps for the protection and improvement of the human environment.

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy is, to this date, considered to be the worst industrial tragedy to have happened in India. This was a tragedy wherein a gas leak incident on the night of 2nd to 3rd December, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh took place. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas. The highly toxic substance made its way into and around the small towns located near the plants. This, hence was the immediate cause of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. 

The Indian constitution also states that it is the duty of the state to “Protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. Article 51-A (g) states that, “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.” 

The main objectives of this act are the following:-

  • To protect and improve the environment and environmental conditions. 
  • To take strict actions against all those who harm the environment. 
  • To implement the decisions made at the UN conference on Human Environment that was held at Stockholm in the year 1972. 
  • To enforce laws on environment protection in the areas that are not included by the existing laws. 
  • To give all the powers to the central government to take strict measures for environment protection. 
  • To coordinate the activities of various regulating agencies and to provide punishment to those who inculcate in endangering the human environment, safety and health of the general public.  

This act is also called the Umbrella Act aa it provides the framework to the central government in order to make the coordination between the different states. The purpose is to control the pollution from all the sources so that the quality of the environment can be improved. The acts like the water act, 1974, air act 1981 and the other acts relating to biological diversity also merge in this act. 

The powers of the central government under the act are as follows:-

  • The central government has got the powers to issue directions and guidelines to any person, officer, or any authority and such person or authority shall be bound to comply with such directions. 
  • The directions issued by the central government may include the following 
  • (A) Direction for closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation or process. 
  • (B) Stoppage or regulation of supply of electricity or water or any other service. 

The power of the government to make rules is under section 6 of the act. The central government can make rules pertaining to the following aspects:- 

  • (A) standards of quality of air, water, or soil for various areas and purposes. 
  • (B) maximum allowable concentration of various environmental pollutants for different areas. 
  • (C ) procedure and safeguards for handling the hazardous substances. 
  • (D) prohibition and restrictions on location of industries and carrying on operations or processes in different areas. 
  • Procedures and safeguards for prevention of accidents which may cause environmental pollution and for providing remedial measures. 

Furthermore, section 7 states that persons carrying on industry operation etc not to allow emission or discharge of environmental pollutants in excess of the standards. Section 8 of the EPA stats that the persons handling the hazardous substances have to comply with the procedural safeguards. 

Along with this, this act also highlights the restricted areas and these are, the Doon valley in Uttarakhand, the Aravali regions in Alwar, Rajasthan, coastal zones and the ecologically sensitive zones etc. 

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