Environment Protection Act, 1986

Proposed changes to the Environment Protection Act, 1986 explained

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The MoEFCC issued a note on July 1, 2022, recommending revisions to the Environment Protection Act, 1986. This article will discuss the Environment Protection Act 1986 in-depth, as well as the new proposed changes by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986

Right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution also includes a healthy living environment. The Environment Protection Act (EPA) of 1986, India’sIndia’s environmental law, is a landmark piece of legislation in the country. The EPA sets out standards for protecting the environment and provides for the enforcement of these standards. It also defines the roles and responsibilities of various parties involved in the environmental protection process.

UPSC PYQ 

You can write down in the comment the answer to these questions.

Year 2019. 

Consider the following statements: 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

Year 2020GS Paper- 3

How does the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020, differ from the existing EIA Notification, 2006?


The Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986 aims to protect the environment and regulate activities that may have an adverse impact on it. The EPA was enacted in response to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm in 1972. The EPA is administered by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

United Nations Conference on the Human Environment

The first world conference on the environment

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) was the first world conference on the environment, and it aimed to address human-environment interaction and ways to improve it. The conference was held in Stockholm, Sweden, from June 5-16, 1972. A range of topics was covered during the conference, including air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, and soil erosion.

One of the key outcomes of the UNCHE was the creation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), which is still in operation today. The conference also led to the adoption of a number of resolutions and declarations, including the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment.

It was the first major world conference to focus on the environment, the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972India was also one of the countries that took part. Participants agreed on a set of rules for sound environmental management, such as the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment and a number of resolutions. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was one of the most important things that came out of the Stockholm conference.

Origin of Environment Protection Act (EPA) 1986

The original Indian Constitution did not include any specific provisions for environmental preservation at the time. However, India has begun to implement environmental legislation. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was the first to be enacted. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974 followed. However, the 42nd Amendment 1976 added the Fundamental Duties, along with the specific duty towards the environment, i.e. the conservation of the environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife.

This 42nd amendment also included a new Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 48A, directing the state to maintain and develop the environment and protect forests and wildlife. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 followed. In the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984, Parliament created the Environment Protection Act (EPA) in 1986.

The goal of the Environment Protection Act

The Environment Protection Act (EPA) of 1986 was enacted under Article 253 of the Constitution, which authorises the Centre to establish laws to give effect to international accords made by India. The goal of the Environment Protection Act is to carry out the resolutions of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. It is responsible for the protection and improvement of the human environment, as well as the prevention of hazards to humans, other living animals, plants, and property. The Act was last revised in 1991.

Other Important setups related to Environment Protection Act

  • Under the Environmental Protection Act of 1986 (EPA), MoEFCC notifies 10 km buffer zones around protected areas that are Eco-sensitive Zones or ecologically fragile.
  • The Coastal regulation zones have been declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change under the Environment Protection Act 1986.
  • The National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010 by the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 so that cases about protecting the environment could be handled quickly and effectively. NGT handles cases that are covered by the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986. It also handles civil cases that are covered by six other laws.

Statutory bodies under the EPA, 1986:

  1. Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee
  2. National Ganga Council, which was formed in 2016

Various Important provisions of EPA that authorise the central government:

  • Protecting and improving environmental quality, controlling and reducing pollution from all sources, and prohibiting or restricting the establishment and/or operation of any industrial facility on environmental grounds. 
  • To establish authorities tasked with preventing all forms of environmental pollution and addressing specific environmental challenges unique to different parts of the nation.
  • The Environment (Protection) Rules explain how to set standards for the amount of pollution that can be released into the environment. Set criteria for environmental quality in all of its components. It Establishes criteria for the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from diverse sources.
  • Plan and carry out a national programme for preventing, controlling, and eliminating pollution.
  • The limitation of the areas in which any industry or operation, or process shall/shall not be carried out subject to specified environmental safeguards.
  • Penalties for Offences: Any violation of the Act’s terms is deemed an offence. The Central Government may appoint officers for various purposes and assign them the associated duties and functions under this legislation.
  • Any violation of the EPA is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, or both.
  • Cognisance of offences: No Court shall take cognisance of any offence under this Act unless the Central Government or any authority acting on its behalf files a complaint.
Environment Protection Act, 1986
The Environment Protection Act, 1986

Proposed Changes to Environment Protection Act, 1986

The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change issued a note on July 1, 2022, recommending revisions to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Ministry of the Environment Proposes to relax the terms of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) by changing a paragraph that calls for violators to be imprisoned with one that just calls for them to pay a fine. However, major violations that result in serious harm or death will be prosecuted under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, as well as Section 24 of the Environment Protection Act. But the clause on the provision of a jail term for the first violation has been sought to be removed. The removal of prison sentences also applies to the Air Act, which is the primary law for dealing with air pollution, and the Water Act, which handles violations of water bodies.

Two significant changes proposed are 

  1. Appointing an “adjudication officer” to decide on penalties for environmental violations.
  2. Setting up Environmental Protection Fund: Penalty funds would be accumulated in an “Environmental Protection Fund.” In the event of a violation of the Act, the penalty might range from 5 lakh to 5 crores.
Environment Protection Act, 1986
Environment Protection Act, 1986

Shortcoming of the EPA 1986

  • Complete Centralisation of the Act: One problem with the Act could be that it makes things more centralised. Since the Centre has so much power and the state governments have none, the Centre is more likely to act arbitrarily and wrongly.
  • No Public Participation: The Act also doesn’t say anything about how people can help protect the environment. People need to help protect the environment so that they don’t act randomly and so that they become more aware of and care about the environment.
  • Incomplete Coverage of Pollutants: The Act doesn’t talk about modern ideas of pollution, like noise, overcrowded transportation systems, and radioactive waves, which are also a big reason why the environment is getting worse.
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