In this article, You will read the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974 and Amendment, 1988 – for UPSC IAS.

  • Our constitution, originally, did not contain any direct provision regarding the protection of the natural environment.
  • However, after the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972, the Indian constitution was amended to include protection of the environment as a constitutional mandate.
  • Environment-related legislation came very late in 1972 with Wild Life Protection Act 1971.
  • The forty-second amendment (Fundamental Duties) Clause (g) to Article 51A of the Indian constitution made it a fundamental duty to protect and improve the natural environment.
  • Clause (g) to Article 51A of the Indian constitution states “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and have compassion for living creatures.”
  • There is a directive, given to the State as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy regarding the protection and improvement of the environment.
  • Article 48A states “The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”.
  • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • The Department of Environment was established in India in 1980 to ensure a healthy environment for the country. This later became the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 1985.

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was enacted in 1974 to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution, and for the maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water in the country.
  • The Act was amended in 1988.
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act was enacted in 1977, to provide for the levy and collection of a cess on water consumed by persons operating and carrying on certain types of industrial activities.
  • The Act vests regulatory authority in State Pollution Control Boards to establish and enforce effluent standards for factories.
  • Central Pollution Control Board performs the same functions for Union Territories and formulates policies and coordinates activities of different State Boards.
  • The Act grants power to SPCB and CPCB to test equipment and to take the sample for the purpose of analysis.
  • 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.

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act of 1977

  • The Water Cess Act was passed to generate financial resources to meet the expenses of the Central and State Pollution Boards.
  • The Act creates economic incentives for pollution control and requires local authorities and certain designated industries to pay a cess (tax) for water effluent discharge.
  • The Central Government, after deducting the expenses of collection, pays the central and state boards such sums, as it seems necessary.
  • To encourage capital investment in pollution control, the Act gives a polluter a 70% rebate of the applicable cess upon installing effluent treatment equipment.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the statutory organization, was constituted in September 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • The board is led by its chairman, who is nominated by the Central Government.


It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Principal Functions of the CPCB, as spelled out in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,

  1. to promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control, and abatement of water pollution, and
  2. to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control, or abate air pollution in the country.

Air Quality Monitoring

  • Air Quality Monitoring is an important part of air quality management.
  • The National Air Monitoring Programme (NAMP) has been established with objectives to determine the present air quality status and trends and to control and regulate pollution from industries and other sources to meet the air quality standards.
  • It also provides background air quality data needed for industrial siting and town planning.
  • Besides this, CPCB has an automatic monitoring station at ITO Intersection in New Delhi. At this station, Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), and Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) are being monitored regularly. This information on Air Quality at ITO is updated every week.

Water Quality Monitoring (WQM)

  • Freshwater is a finite resource essential for use in agriculture, industry, propagation of wildlife & fisheries, and for human existence.
  • India is a riverine country. It has 14 major rivers, 44 medium rivers, and 55 minor rivers besides numerous lakes, ponds, and wells which are used as primary sources of drinking water even without treatment.
  • Most of the rivers being fed by monsoon rains, which is limited to only three months of the year, run dry throughout the rest of the year often carrying wastewater discharges from industries or cities/towns endangering the quality of our scarce water resources.
  • The parliament of India in its wisdom enacted the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 with a view to maintaining and restoring wholesomeness of our water bodies.
  • One of the mandates of CPCB is to collect, collate and disseminate technical and statistical data relating to water pollution.
  • Hence, Water Quality Monitoring (WQM) and Surveillance are of utmost importance.

Major Water Quality Issues

The main source of pollution of rivers is the matter derived from diverse human activities. 

  • Pathogenic (Bacteriological) Pollution
  • Oxygen Depleting organic pollution
  • Salinity
  • Toxicity (micro-pollutants and other industrial pollutants)

Surface Water

  • Eutrophication
  • Oxygen depletion
  • Ecological health

Ground Water

  • Fluoride
  • Nitrate
  • Arsenic
  • Iron
  • Seawater intrusion
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
shivansh verma

topics are most holistically covered vis-a-vis other sites,thank you so much for saving aspirants valuable time


Good material done precisely. Kindly provide more.