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Environment Protection Act of 1986: Is it protecting the Environment?


Science is a blessing as well as a curse” – this line explains a lot of things about the advent of science in the relationship between humans and Nature. With the advancement in technology, the life of a human has gotten much easier but at the same time, the health of Nature is deteriorating day by day. It is quite evident from a very simple fact – the invention of Air Conditioners (AC). It is one of the main reasons for the depletion of the Ozone Layer, which is up there in the atmosphere protecting humans from the radiations emitted by the Sun. Thus, if we continue depleting the layer, one day will come when it will be depleted allowing the radiations to enter and disrupt the human life on earth. Environmental Disasters are mostly those occurring due to Industrial Disasters, like the very famous one of Chernobyl which is known to the whole world as a place of radiation. The environment in that city got uninhabitable due to the Nuclear Catastrophe which is a kind of Industrial Disaster leading to Environmental Pollution. One such famous incident in India is the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The environmental laws in India are an effect of the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Declaration) of 1972.

  • Need for Legislation

With the Stockholm Declaration being passed in 1972, specific legislation targeting Environmental Pollution became a need of the hour. But it was only after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984, that the legislators realized the necessity and the urgency of the requirement of such an act. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy is one of the most perilous Industrial Disaster that India has ever witnessed which took the lives of more than 15,000 people and affected the lives of almost 600,000 with the whole city being turned into a poison that affected almost all kinds of life including trees as well as animals.[1] It was also the first such kind of disaster in front of the Government of India, to be dealt with. But due to the lack of legislation, the company and the perpetrators of the crime went unpunished.[2] This kind of disaster leads to the pollution of the environment making it unsuitable for the rearing of not only human life but also for other life forms and is hazardous to Mother Nature too.

Additionally, the increasing amounts of cars on road leads to more air pollution. Various activities in water like dumping unregulated and unfiltered chemical waste from the factories to the river bodies, and dumping non-biodegradable wastes in water bodies lead to serious water pollution. Cutting trees for the construction of buildings and roads, and throwing away waste liquid on soil also leads to soil pollution. In order, to check all these kinds of pollution affecting the environment, the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, was enforced – which gives the Central Government, the authority to take measures to protect and improve the environment of India[3].

  • Salient Features

The Environment Protection Act of 1986 was enacted with its base on Article 253[4] of the Indian Constitution, which empowers the Parliament to make any legislation following the global treaties or agreements or conferences. It is also supported by Article 51A(g)[5] and Article 48A[6], which safeguard the forest and wildlife by improving the environment.

  1. It governs all kinds of pollution in the environment including air, soil, water, and others.
  2. It empowers the Central Government to take all kinds of measures and publish safeguard standards for the pollutants and other hazardous remainders from the factories, under Section 3[7] of the Act.
  • This Act also restrains the usage of any kind of hazardous materials in industries without the pre-permission from the Central Government.[8]
  1. The Central Government can assign any person or any authority with such powers as it thinks fit for maintaining the main objective of this act, and that person or the authority will be under the general control or the direction of the Government.[9]
  • An Overview

The Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 was enacted keeping in mind the only thing that is to be achieved by the implementation that is the protection and safeguarding of the environment from human intervention. It mainly allows the Central Government with a lot of power to appoint persons or authorities for looking upon a specific matter, as well as the power to prescribe the safety standards to be maintained all over India. Although India has several other laws relating to the protection of the environment like – The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974, The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981, and the National Forest Policy of 1988, the Environment Protection Act of 1986 is an umbrella above all of them.


India has been a mentionable country in the world when it comes to the question of pollution. Still today in India in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, the concept of Open Dumping is followed. The main reason behind such is the poverty in our country. Before fighting for the protection of the environment, India has to deal with its very own age-old problem of poverty.


The protection is not completed at all, and this is quite evident from the fact – that among the most polluted 15 cities in the world, 10 of them are from India.[10] A study from the University of Chicago has shown that the residents of Delhi and Lucknow are losing about a decade of their life due to the increasing pollution in that area.[11] Although it must be mentioned that though COVID-19 has been a huge hit to the whole world with millions losing their lives, there was a positive effect on the environment due to the imposing of lockdown almost around the whole world –evident from the chart.

Sl. No.




Meerut, Uttar Pradesh



Bhiwadi, Rajasthan



Shivaji Nagar, Maharashtra



Deoli, Delhi



Thane, Maharashtra



Khagaul, Bihar



Kohima, Nagaland



Pitampura, Delhi



Merta, Rajasthan



Kairana, Uttar Pradesh


Even according to IQAir,[12] out of the top 10 most polluted cities in India, the first two fall under the category of ‘Hazardous’ followed by the next two under the category of ‘Very Unhealthy’ and the rest under the class of ‘Unhealthy’. This is not an impressive score on the question of the protection of the environment. The Central, as well as every State Government, must come hand in hand to fight against this drastic situation to improve the Environment. Although several walks and seminars are conducted by several agencies to make awareness about the Environment to the public at large, it will take a long time for every citizen of India to become aware of this situation.


The Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 is a very good legal step towards the main objective of this act i.e., protecting the environment. This act has the answer to all the legal questions regarding environmental pollution, like – what can be done if any offence is made by a governmental office[13] or other companies[14]; empowered the Central Government to provide for the safety standard and the procedure of various hazardous materials used; and others. Although the act is very good in pen and paper, the reality is quite different from what was intended at the beginning of its enforcement. The pollutions are very hard to keep in check – as a result of which the capital city of Delhi suffers in various ways during the wintertime. Also, the pollution rates of other metro cities are increasing at a very high rate, which should have been checked. It is not only the work of the Government to ensure the protection of the environment, but also must be the duty of every citizen (according to Article 51A(g)[15] of the Indian Constitution)towards his/her surroundings.

Author(s) Name: Snehadeep Dalui (Techno India University, West Bengal)


[1]‘What was Bhopal Gas Tragedy’ (Business Standard) <> accessed 20th March 2022

[2]Saurab Babu, ‘India’s Environment Protection Act – An Overview’ (Eco-Intelligent, 4 December 2017) <> accessed 20th March 2022

[3]Section 3, The Environment (Protection) Act 1986

[4]Article 253, The Constitution of India

[5]Article 51A(g), The Constitution of India

[6]Article 48A, The Constitution of India

[7]Section 3, The Environment (Protection) Act 1986

[8]Saurab Babu, ‘India’s Environment Protection Act – An Overview’ (Eco-Intelligent, 4 December 2017) <> accessed 20th March 2022

[9]Section 4, The Environment (Protection) Act 1986

[10]Chetan Bhattacharjee, ‘63 Indian Cities in 100 most Polluted Places on Earth: Report’ (NDTV, Updated: 23rd March 2022 07:09 IST) <> accessed 24th March 2022


[12] ‘Air Quality in India’ (IQAir, Updated: 24th March 2022, 16:37 IST) <> accessed 24th March 2022

[13]Section 17, The Environment (Protection) Act 1986

[14]Section 16, The Environment (Protection) Act 1986

[15]Article 51A(g), The Constitution of India