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THE WATER (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1974: AN OVERVIEW

INTRODUCTION

Article 253 of the Indian Constitution Gives power to the parliament to introduce new laws for the implementation of Environmental treaties. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, of 1974 came after the adoption of the Environmental Conference of the United Nations which is held in Stockholm in the year 1972, This act was introduced to curb problems related to the pollution of rivers and streams to protect the wholesomeness of water and regulate the discharges of industrial as well as domestic waste. This act Obtained assent from the President of India on 23rd March 1974, it also provided for the establishment of Pollution Control Boards both at the Centre as well as state or joint, giving them powers to overcome problems related to water pollution; it consists of 68 sections and VIII Chapters.

DEFINITION OF POLLUTION 

According to Section 2(e)Pollution means such contamination of water or such alteration of the physical, chemical or biological properties of water or such discharge of any sewage or trade effluent or any other liquid, gaseous or solid substance into the water as may, or is likely to, generate a danger or make such water poisonous or injurious to public health or immunity, or domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural or other legitimate usages, or the life and health of animals or plants or of aquatic organisms

This definition is so diverse that includes humans, animals, plants etc. It also states that water is deemed unclean if it is toxic to industrial, agricultural, and domestic consumption.

CENTRAL POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD

In September 1974 this Board was formed. it has got Statutory recognition under Section 3 of this act. It was also designated to work under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, of 1981.

Composition

  • This Board consists of one full-time Chairman, who has a special understanding or reasonable experience handling Environmental Issues. The Central Government has the right to nominate any person who has the above qualification as a chairman.
  • A maximum of five members are appointed as representatives of the central government of India 
  • A maximum of five members are to be elected from the members of the state government of various states.
  • A central government shall appoint a maximum of three members to represent Fisheries, trade, Agriculture, etc. These are non-official members.
  • 2 individuals to represent the corporations or enterprises acquired, organised or by India’s Central Government. 
  • One full-time member secretary acquiring detailed understanding, experience and capability in scientific administration of pollution related to the Environment.

Function (Section 16)

  • Give Advice  To Central Government 
  • Work in coordination with the state government
  • Publication of technical data 
  • Provide technical assistance to state government 
  • Organisation of Training Programs in a comprehensive manner 
  • To make a Nationwide plan for the prevention of pollution which is generated from water.

STATE POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD

Composition

 Section 4 provides –

  • The Board shall consist of a Chairperson who has special mastery and understanding of Environmental issues.
  • Not more than 5 members representing various state governments.
  • A maximum of 5 members will represent local bodies like municipalities or Zillaparishads, etc.
  • several non-official members not surpassing 3 to represent agriculture, fishery, industry, trade or any other activities.
  • 2 people representing businesses or companies acquired by the government of the state.
  • One full full-time person as member secretary.

Functions (Section 17)

  • Plan the statewide training programmes.
  • To conduct research, Investigation relating to this act.
  • Inspection of trade effluents or discharges works and plants for the treatment and purification of flowing water. 
  • Provide Standards for discharging, treatment, utilisation, and disposal of sewage.

In SamarendraNath v State of Orissa, The High Court held that The State Government by Section 17 (1) (m) of the act can make effluent norms be accepted by individuals while provoking the sewage release and lay down, modifying or abolishing effluent criteria for the trade effluents.

POWERS AND PENALTIES

Chapter VI from Sections 19 to 33-A provides powers of Boards to control water pollution And Penalties are given in Sections 41 to 45A Some of them are as follows –

1. State Government can restrict the Application of this act in specific areas.

Section 19  of this act conveys that the State after consulting the Board of the state may limit the scope of the act only to that region which may be announced as water prevention and control areas of pollution. Although the Government doesn’t have the power to give privileges to any industry in that declared area for setting up pollution discharge plants.

2. Power of State Government to Collect Information 

Section 20 states that Any officer appointed by the State Government can collect the survey of any area and gauge and may record data related to the flow and quantity of water and also keep a record of the rainfall in that region.

A Board can advise anyone who is extracting water from streams in a specific area in which to release trade effluent into any streams.

 Penalty (Section 41)

Any person who does not follow orders given by the state board under section 20 then he is liable to punishment for 3 months or a fine can be imposed or both.

3. Board can put restrictions on throwing or releasing pollutants in streams or wells (Section 24)

No individual shall deliberately induce or authorise any toxic, noxious, or contaminating matter to enter any river, as determined by such standards given by the State Board, or

Anyone shall not intentionally induce or authorise the entry into any river or stream of any other issue or consequence that might tend, either independently or with the help of others, to curb the adequate flow of the stream or river’s water in a way that results in or is likely to result in a material aggravation of pollution from other causes.

Penalty (Section 43)

Anyone who violates section 24’s requirements faces fines and can get imprisonment that must not be a minimum of 18 months but can attain 6 years maximum.

4. Board has the power to put restraints on new outlets. (Section 25)

Every individual should take consent from the state board for establishing a fresh outlet which probably results in pollution, it is restricted to utilising new or altered outlets for the release of sewage or trying to develop any new discharge.

In Mahabir Soap And Gudakhu Factory v Union Of India and Ors. The State Board dismissed approval to establish the factory in a highly populated location on the people’s objection under Section 25, The court held that it was a serious reason for dismissing approval to give permission.  

Penalty (Section 44)

Any individual who contravenes the requirement of Section 25 will be responsible for a minimum of 1 year and 6 months ie. 18 months which might go to a maximum of 6 years with a fine as a penalty.

DRAWBACKS OF THE ACT 

  • This act does not contain the diseases induced due to water-related pollution, there is a serious necessity to put waterborne diseases caused by streams and rivers in this act.
  • The act does not even comprise tap water or groundwater or agricultural water and rainwater management, Parliament should amend the act to include the above sources as well.
  • In several cases the court grants orders but it was not executed appropriately by Boards due to political pressure and many reasons.
  • This act is old legislation so for the current circumstance, the penalties shall be enhanced.

CONCLUSION

The Gujarat High in Shailesh Shah v State discussed the necessity for reasonable administration as contamination of water resources causes numerous diseases which are harmful to people’s health. This act of 1974 came to uplift water quality and control pollution related to water, This act creates bodies to administer in this direction. Act gives them the power to CPCB and State PCB to create an action plan, and supervise to make healthier water sources for every individual and anyone who doesn’t follow the guidelines can be punished and also fined through this act. Although this act is almost 48 years old, parliament should amend it to enhance penalties and it shall be relevant to current situations.

Author(s) Name: Yogesh Somwanshi (Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune)