The United Nations Conference on Environment, in Stockholm was the first Conference held at the world level that took the environment as a serious international concern.
One of the most impactful results of this conference was the formulation of the United Nations Environment Programme.
India also participated in the conference and vociferously raised its concern for the environment. In order to implement the decisions adopted at this conference, the Indian Parliament exercised its powers under Article 253 to enact the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Why is the Environment Protection Act called an ‘Umbrella Act’?
It establishes the basic framework for planning and executing large-scale strategies to protect and improve the overall environment, rather than focusing on specific aspects.
It provides for coordination between the Central government, state government, and authorities that are established under various other legislation related to the environment.
It fills the lacuna created by several other distinct legislation like the Water Act and Air Act. It connects them together and makes them more effective.
It is broad and comprehensive legislation that covers the definitions, powers, and responsibilities of the central government towards the environment, and penal provisions as well.
Provisions of the act:
Section 3 empowers the Central Government to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient to protect and improve the quality of the environment, and to prevent, control, and abate environmental pollution.
Section 4 authorizes the Central Government to appoint officers with such designations, powers, and functions as it thinks fit. The officers appointed shall be under the control and direction of the government or any authority empowered by it.
Under this Section, any person authorised by the Central Government has the right to enter any place, at reasonable times.
Section 5A- Appeal to National Green Tribunal.
Section 7- Emission or discharge of environmental pollutants in excess of the standards.
Section 8- Handling of hazardous substances.
Section 11 empowers the State Government or any officer authorised by it to take the samples of air, water, soil, or other substances from the premises of any factory.
Section 20: For the purpose of performing its functions under the Act, the Central Government has the power to ask for any reports, returns, statistics, accounts, and other information from any person, officer, state government, or any authority, which shall be bound to do so.
Coastal Regulation Zone notification, Environment Impact Assessment,Handling hazardous substances and nuclear waste is regulated through this act.
Bodies created under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 are: National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA), Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), Central Ground Water Authority.