Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 – UPSC

In this article, You will read Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 and amendment, 1987 – for UPSC IAS.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981, or the Air Act, was a law passed by the Parliament of India to prevent and control the harmful effects of air pollution in India. This act is seen as the first concrete step taken by the government of India to combat air pollution.

Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981

  • To implement the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in June 1972, Parliament enacted the nationwide Air Act.
  • The main objectives of this Act are to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control, and abate air pollution in the country.

The following are the definitions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

  • Section 2(a) defines an ‘air pollutantsas any solid liquid or gaseous substance which may cause harm or damage the environment, humans, plants, animals, or even damage property.
  • A 1987 amendment to the act also added ‘noise’ to the list of harmful substances.
  • The air act defines ‘air pollution’ as the presence of any dangerous pollutant that makes the air unbreathable
    • Section 2 (g) of the Act also set up the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) whose powers extended to the whole of India. To carry out the directives of the CPCB the act also called for the setting up of the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) for the individual states of India.

Important provisions of this Act are given below:

  • The Air Act’s framework is similar to that of the Water Act of 1974.
  • The Air Act expanded the authority of the central and state boards established under the Water Act, to include air pollution control.
  • States not having water pollution boards were required to set up air pollution boards.
  • Under the Air Act, all industries operating within designated air pollution control areas must obtain a “consent” (permit) from the State Boards.
  • The states are required to prescribe emission standards for industry and automobiles after consulting the central board and noting its ambient air quality standards.
  • The Act grants power to SPCB and to test equipment and to take the sample for the purpose of analysis from any chimney, fly ash or dust, or any other.
  • Prior to its amendment in 1988, enforcement under the Act was achieved through criminal prosecutions initiated by the Boards.
  • The 1988 amendment act empowered SPCB and CPCB to close a defaulting industrial plant.
  • Notably, the 1987 amendment introduced a citizen’s suit provision into the Air Act and extended the Act to include noise pollution.

Penalties and Procedure under the Air Act

The failure to comply with the Central Pollution Control Board directives would result in imprisonment of 1 year. It can be extended to 6 years with a fine with the additional fine of 5000 Rs per day added provided the directives are still not met.

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