Environmental protection in India

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Environmental Protection is one of the fundamental requirements for any nation’s overall development. Environmental Protection is improving and maintaining the quality of the environment. It focuses on the aspect that no part of nature is affected by any activity of human beings. India is now a country that experiences strong GDP growth.

This implies that when there is an increase in urbanization, industrialization, and use of resources the nation experiences a steady rise. All of these advancements cause a backlash on the environment such as pollution, water scarcity, and rising temperature. This leads the nation to adopt sustainable development for the protection of the environment.

History of environmental protection

To understand the present-day environmental law protection system, we need to look into the history of where the protection of the environment started. A look into the past Indian traditions and practices of protecting the environment will give an idea.

The evolution of environmental protection has been divided into four phases-

Ancient Indian policies

Even the pre-Vedic Indian Valley Civilization, which flourished in northern India around 5,000 years ago, can be said to have been conscious of the environment. All this has been gathered from archaeological evidence.

The awareness about hygiene and sanitation is evident from the construction of houses, streets, wells, and many more. Cleanliness was one of the main focuses of the Vedic culture.

The Charka Samhita gives many verses about the use of water for maintaining its purity. There were also many punishments prescribed for the man if he or she cut a tree or harm the environment.

Medieval Indian policies

During the Mughals, forests were considered for hunting. During this period there were no such major environmental protection acts to laws took place.

British Indian policies

There were some of the major laws for environmental protection introduced such as the Shore Nuisance (Bombay and Kolaba) Act, 1853 imposed restrictions on the fouling of seawater; The Merchant Shipping Act of 1858 dealt with the prevention of sea pollution by oil; The Fisheries Act, 1897; The Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act of 1905; Bombay Smoke Nuisance Act of 1912.

After independence policies

The Constitution of India did not mainly deal with any such environmental protection acts or subjects. In 1972, the Stockholm Declaration focused on environmental protection. The National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning was set up in 1972 to focus on environmental protection.

Another act named the Wildlife (Protection) Act, of 1972, aimed at the logical and contemporary management of wildlife. Up to the present, there have been several policies and laws enacted for the protection of the environment.

Present-day environmental protection acts and policies

Before the independence, the laws and policies for the environmental protection act existed but after the independence at the Stockholm Conference, the National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning was established in 1972. Later, this became the Ministry of Environment and Forests. This is today one of the main bodies for the protection of the environment.

Let us now discuss some of the important and prevalent legislation for environmental protection:

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974

The purpose of this act was to prevent and control water pollution and to maintain or restore the country’s water wholesomeness. This act mainly focuses to prohibit the discharge of pollutants into the water bodies and also puts penalties on those who do not comply with the said acts.

At the Centre, the CPCB, and at the State, the SPCBs are there to lay down the standards for the protection of the water bodies. The cess is gathered to supplement the funds available to the Central Board and State Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution, which was established by the 1974 Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act. The Act last underwent revision in 2003.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981

The purpose of this act is to prevent and control air pollution and also maintain the pollutants realized into the air. the Boards at the Centre and the State have been built to carry out the purpose of air protection. There were standards established under the Air Acts for the protection of Air quality.

These standards were laid down by prohibiting the use of polluting fuels and substances in the air. Through this Act, the State was empowered with the right to declare any area as having polluted air.

The Environment Protection Act, 1986

The purpose of this act was to protect and improve environmental conditions. Through this act, there is a framework established for the studying and implementation of the long-term requirements of the environment for its protection.

The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

This is a tribunal established to provide a basis for the effective disposal of cases that are related to environmental protection and conservation. This Act had the establishment of NGT to deal with environmental laws.

In light of the National Green Tribunal’s establishment under the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010 and notification number S.O. 2570(E) dated October 18, 2010, the National Environment Appellate Authority established under section 3(1) of the National Environment Appellate Authority Act of 1997 stands dissolved.

Some of the other acts that are important from a viewpoint of environmental protection are:

  • The Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
  • The Forest Conservation Act 1980.
  • Public Liability Insurance Act 1991.
  • The Biological Diversity Act 2022.

Constitutional aspects of environmental protection

The of India is a living document and has in past years invalidated a lot of provisions related to environmental protection and conservation. The provisions such as who has the power to make laws regarding the environmental laws, how the laws are to be enacted, what can be the possible ways to protect the environment, and many more.

Under the Environmental Protection Act, of 1986 the word environment has been defined as “environment includes water, air and land and the interrelationship which exists among and between air, water and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism, and property”.

Provision of the Constitution

At the Stockholm Conference, the Global Movement led the establishment of the 42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution in 1976. The environmental provisions were added to the Constitution. An example is that Article 48-A[1] was added to the Directive Principles of State Policy by this particular amendment.

Fundamental rights

These Articles state the right to a clean environment:

Article 14 states that every citizen is entitled to equality before the law and also gets equal protection from the law. This article is a way to have the state practice fairness between the citizens.

Article 19(1) can also be used in a way to deal with noise pollution.

Article 21 states that no person shall be deprived of the right to life and personal liberty.

Article 32 states the right to file a petition for constitutional remedies. Petitions can be filed under this section for matters related to environmental protection.

Fundamental duties

Article 51-A(g): This article mentions that every citizen must preserve and enhance the natural environment such as the forests, lakes, rivers, animals, etc. Also, both the State and every person have the responsibility to preserve the environment.

Directive principles of state policy

Article 48-A: This article states that the State shall make every effort to protect the nation’s forests and wildlife, as well as to preserve and advance the environment.[2]

Importance of environmental protection

There is keen importance on environmental protection for the following reasons:

  • To lessen pollution of the air, water, and land.
  • To make it easier to protect natural resources for future generations.
  • To make sure that biodiversity is protected.
  • To put sustainable development into practice.
  • To re-establish ecological harmony.
  • To protect the environment from the damaging effects of global warming.

Environmental protection: need of the hour in India

As it is evident that the GDP of India is increasing and improving day by day. India is making constant efforts to become more and more self-sufficient and improve its economy.

As improving the economy requires more advanced technology, the advancement of technology is proportional to the harm the environment is causes by certain activities that the industries cause. Industrialization, urbanization, and all the means to lead a better life and have a clean and pure environment to live in.

So, for the conservation of the environment, India took some crucial steps such as obtaining sustainable development. India has brought measures for preserving water and energy resources, droughts, and many more.

There has to be a balance struck between economic development and the development of the environment. Certain steps can be taken, they are mentioned below:

  • Sustainable development: In these, measures are taken to use the resources in a manner in which there is sufficient left for the future generation to use. India has adopted these models for better utilization of resources and the protection of the environment.
  • Advancement and adoption of technology: India is taking certain steps to improve technology and advance it. There are steps taken such as Make in India, Smart Manufacturing, and Skill India.
  • The three-fold collaboration: The collaboration and alliance between the industry, government and regulatory bodies will help the country to maintain the relationship between environmental protection and economic development. All the factors that contribute to the economy should in a combined way put efforts into the same.

Some of the recent environmental protection factors

There have been certain factors for the protection of the environment in respect of power generation the environment:

Special purpose vehicle (SPV) for afforestation

This is being set up jointing by NTPC and Central Power Sectors. This helps in the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Fly ash utilisation action plan

As per the Indian reports, all power stations together produce 90 million tonnes of fly ash per year. This plan has made several efforts and recommendations to use the fly ash in the production of cement, bricks, paving materials, floor tiles, wall panels, etc., as well as in farming, road building, land-filling, and mine backfilling.

Clean development mechanism (CDM)

The Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) has engaged in providing consultancy services for concerns related to environmental protection. Project development, baseline surveys for each project, negotiations with CDM parties, identification of counterpart CDM parties from developed countries, cost of CO2 monitoring and verification of CO2 emission reduction, and project implementation oversight are all included in the terms of reference.

ISO 14001

This was established in November 1975 to maintain Sustainable Power Development. As per the reports, with an installed capacity of 21,749 MW (19% of India’s installed capacity), contributing to 26% of the nation’s total generation, and having a high availability factor of its power plants, National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd. (NTPC) is now India’s largest power utility.


As to sum up, India is a developing country and is trying every day to make efforts for the improvement and advancement of the same. The judiciary of India has brought up a lot of laws and regulations for the same. The government is focusing on improving the economic conditions without the degradation of the environment.

Nature remaining intact is important for the people, flora, and fauna to survive. Recently, India has made a lot of new addition for the enhancement of the condition of the environment and its conservation as it is. Also, there have been constitutional provisions attached to environmental protection. There are fundamental duties, rights, and directive principles for the same.

The Indian government has passed and is working on many aspects that keep the economy growing and also protect the environment at the same time without any cost. Some of the major works are such as Make in India or Skill India. As for this moment, there are still advancements and improvements being made.



[1] Indian Constitution.

[2] Sher Singh v. Himachal Pradesh it was held that “the residents of the country were found to have a fundamental right to a clean, safe, and dignified environment”.


This article has been authored by Suhani Gupta.

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