In this article, You will read everything about Environment Protection Act 1986 for UPSC IAS Exam.

Environment Protection Act 1986

In the year 1984, a destructive incident shook the entire nation. A gas leak incident on a December night at UCIL pesticide plant in Bhopal took the lives of nearly four thousand people.

In the wake of the Bhopal tragedy, the Government of India enacted the Environment Protection Act of 1986 under Article 253 of the Constitution. The act got passed in March 1986 and on 19 November 1986 came into force.

The purpose of the Act is to implement the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment of 1972.

The decisions relate to the protection and improvement of the human environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property.

The Act is an “umbrella” for legislations designed to provide a framework for Central Government, coordination of the activities of various central and state authorities established under previous Acts, such as the Water Act and the Air Act.

In this Act, the main emphasis is given to environment”, “pollution”, “pollutants”, and “hazardous substances”.

Through this Act Central Government gets full power for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment.

Important Provisions of the Environment Protection Act 1986

  1. The act defines the environment, pollution, pollutants, and hazardous substances in a comprehensive way.
    • “environment” includes water, air, and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism, and property;
    • “environmental pollutant” means any solid, liquid, or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to the environment;
    • “environmental pollution” means the presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant;
    • “hazardous substance” means any substance or preparation which, by reason of its chemical or Physico-chemical properties or handling, is liable to cause harm to human beings, other living creatures, plant, micro-organism, property, or the environment;
  2. The act is based on the polluter pays principle.
  3. The act gives wide-ranging powers to the Central Government to frame rules for environmental conservation.
  4. Central Government has powers to state the requirement of public participation in the process of environmental protection.

Important facts

  1. The Act explicitly prohibits discharges of environmental pollutants in excess of prescribed regulatory standards.
  2. The act provides provisions for the proper handling of hazardous substances.
  3. The act has a relaxed provision for locus stands. Now any common citizen can approach the court. Section 19 provides that any person, in addition to authorized government officials, may file a complaint with a court alleging an offense under the Act.
  4. This “Citizens’ Suit” provision requires that the person has to give notice of not less than 60 days of the alleged offense of pollution to the Central Government.
  5. The minimum penalty for contravention of any provision of this law may extend to five years punishment or one lakh rupees as a fine. The act also provides that if contravention continues after date of conviction, then the fine will be 5000 rupees per day.
  6. If a failure or contravention occurs for more than one year, the offender may be punished with imprisonment which may be extended to seven years.
  7. The act grants immunity to officers of Government for any act done under the provisions of the act.
  8. The act enjoys supremacy over other environment-related legislation.
  9. The act debars the civil courts from having any jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceeding in respect of an action, direction, order issued by the Central Government.
  10. By virtue of this Act, the Central Government has armed itself with considerable powers which include,
    • coordination of action by the state,
    • planning and execution of nationwide programs,
    • laying down environmental quality standards, especially those governing emission or discharge of environmental pollutants,
    • placing restrictions on the location of industries and so on.
    • authority to issue direct orders included orders to close, prohibit, or regulate any industry.
    • power of entry for examination, testing of equipment, and other purposes and power to analyze the sample of air, water, soil, or any other substance from any place.

Rules under this Act

  1. Rules 1989 for regulating GM Crops
  2. EIA rules, 2006
  3. Eco-Sensitive Area(Zone) rules, 1988
  4. CRZ rules, 2018 based on Shailesh Nayak Committee

Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs)

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas are areas within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks, and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • ESZs are notified by MoEFCC, Government of India under Environment Protection Act 1986.
  • In the case of places with sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, even area beyond 10 km width can also be included in the eco-sensitive zone.
  • The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimize the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.

Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989

  • Biosafety concerns have led to the development of the regulatory regime in India.
  • The aim of ‘Rules 1989’ is to protect the environment, nature, and health in connection with the application of gene technology and micro-organisms.
  • These rules cover areas of research as well as large-scale applications of GMOs and their products including experimental field trials and seed production.
  • The Rules 1989 also define the competent authorities and composition of such authorities for the handling of various aspects of the Rules.

Presently there are six committees:

  1. Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RDAC): The functions are of an advisory nature. It recommends safety regulations for India in recombinant research, use, and applications.
  2. Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) established under the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, to monitor the safety-related aspects in respect of on-going research projects.
  3. Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC): it is the apex body constituted in the MoEF under ‘Rules 1989′, under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  4. State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC’s) have a major role in monitoring. It also has powers to inspect, investigate, and take punitive action in case of violations of statutory provisions.
  5. District Level Committees (DLCs) have a major role in monitoring the safety regulations in installations engaged in the use of genetically modified organisms/hazardous microorganisms and their applications in the environment.
  6. Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBSC) is established under the institution engaged in GMO research to oversee such research and to interface with the RCGM in regulating it.

The Ozone Depleting Substances Rules

  • The rules are framed under the jurisdiction of the Environment (Protection) Act.
  • These Rules set the deadlines for phasing out of various ODSs, besides regulating production, trade import, and export of ODSs and the product containing ODS.
  • These Rules prohibit the use of CFCs in manufacturing various products beyond 1st January 2003 except in metered-dose inhaler and for other medical purposes.
  • Similarly, the use of halons is prohibited after 1st January 2001 except for essential use.
  • Other ODSs such as carbon tetrachloride and methylchoroform and CFC for metered-dose inhalers can be used up to 1st January 2010.
  • Further, the use of methyl bromide has been allowed up to 1st January 2015.
  • Since HCFCs are used as interim substitutes to replace CFCs, these are allowed up to 1st January 2040.

National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)

  • National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) is financing, planning, implementing, monitoring, and coordinating authority for the Ganges River, functioning under the Ministry of Water Resources.
  • The mission of the organization is to safeguard the drainage basin which feeds water into the Ganges by protecting it from pollution or overuse.
  • In 2014, the NGRBA has been transferred from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Ministry of Jal Shakti (Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation).
  • It was established by the Central Government of India, in 2009 under Section 3(3) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, which also declared the Ganges as the ‘National River’ of India.
Composition of NGRBA
  • The Prime Minister chairs the authority.

Members belonging to the government sector are as follows:

  • Prime Minister of India
  • Minister of Environment and Forests (Union Minister)
  • Minister of Finance
  • Minister of Urban Development
  • Minister of Water Resources
  • Minister of Power
  • Minister of Sciences and Technology
  • Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal
  • Ministry of Environment and Forests (state minister)
  • Ministry of Environment and Forests, secretary.

The Environment Protection Act, 1986 empowers the Government of India to
1. state the requirement of public participation in the process of environmental protection, and the procedure and manner in which it is sought
2. lay down the standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

  1. Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
  2. Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999
  3. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  4. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972

1. ESZ are areas declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
2. The purpose is to prohibit all kinds of activities except agriculture.

Select the correct
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both
D. None

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Abhishek Tiwari

Thank you

Abhishek Tiwari

Following rules have also been framed under environment protection act 1986:
Solid waste management rules 2016
Hazardous and other waste (management, and transboundary movement) rule 2016
Plastic waste management rules, 2016
E-waste management rule 2016
Biomedical waste management rules, 2018.