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Environmental Protection Act 1986, Key Features, Current Status and Drawback

In the face of growing environmental concerns and the need for sustainable development, governments around the world have been enacting legislation to safeguard their ecosystems and promote responsible resource management. One such significant step in this direction is the Environmental Protection Act 1986, a pivotal legal framework that aims to address pressing environmental challenges and strike a balance between developmental activities and ecological preservation. This article delves into the various aspects of the Environmental Protection Act 1986, shedding light on its role in shaping the trajectory of environmental consciousness and conservation efforts.

Environmental Protection Act 1986

Environmental Protection Act of 1986 is a significant legislation in India that was enacted to address environmental concerns and regulate various activities that have an impact on the environment. The primary objective of the Act is to promote the conservation of the environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants, and property. The legislation provides a framework for the coordination of activities of various central and state authorities established under the Act.

Key Points of Environmental Protection Act 1986

Environmental Protection Act 1986
Legislative Background Significant legislation in India enacted to address environmental concerns.
Objective Promote conservation and prevent hazards to humans, animals, plants, and property.
Regulatory Authorities Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) at the national level, State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) at the state level.
Environmental Clearance Empowers the central government to regulate activities impacting the environment, requiring clearance for potentially polluting projects.
Pollution Control Authorizes regulatory bodies to set emission and discharge standards, with powers to control and mitigate pollution.
Hazardous Substances Grants the government authority to regulate, manage, and ensure safe handling, transportation, and disposal of hazardous substances.
Penalties and Enforcement Prescribes penalties for offenses related to environmental pollution, including fines and closure of non-compliant industries.
Public Participation Emphasizes public involvement in environmental protection, allowing citizens to file complaints and seek legal remedies.
Environmental Impact Assessment Introduces mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for projects to assess potential environmental impacts before clearance.
Current Status and Offences Non-compliance or contravention constitutes an offence. Proceedings initiated upon complaint by Central Government, authorized authority, or individual with a 60-day notice.
Penalties for Violators Imprisonment up to 5 years, fine up to Rs 1,00,000, or both. Additional fine of up to Rs 5,000 per day for persistent violation. Imprisonment up to seven years for continued non-compliance.
Drawbacks Complete centralization of powers, lack of specified public participation requirements, and incomplete coverage of modern pollutants. Updating required for comprehensive environmental protection.

Features of Environmental Protection Act, 1986

Key features of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, include:

  • Regulatory Authorities: The Act establishes the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) at the national level and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) at the state level to implement and enforce environmental laws.
  • Environmental Clearance: The Act empowers the central government to take measures for the conservation and improvement of the environment. Industries and projects that have the potential to cause environmental pollution require clearance from the relevant authorities.
  • Pollution Control: The Act empowers regulatory bodies to set standards for emissions and discharge of pollutants. It authorizes the authorities to take measures to control and mitigate pollution.
  • Hazardous Substances: The Act gives the government the power to regulate and manage hazardous substances. It includes provisions for handling, transportation, and disposal of hazardous substances to prevent environmental and health hazards.
  • Penalties and Enforcement: The Act prescribes penalties for offences related to environmental pollution and violations of the provisions. It allows for the closure of industries that do not comply with environmental standards.
  • Public Participation: The Act emphasizes public participation in environmental protection. It allows citizens to file complaints and seek legal remedies in case of environmental violations.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): The Act introduced the concept of Environmental Impact Assessment, making it mandatory for certain projects to undergo an assessment of their potential environmental impact before clearance is granted.

Current Status of Environment Protection Act, 1986 (EPA)

Offences and Cognizance

  • Non-compliance or contravention of EPA provisions constitutes an offence.
  • No court can initiate proceedings unless a complaint is filed by the Central Government, its authorized authority, or an individual who has issued a 60-day notice to the Central Government or the relevant authority.


  • Violators may face imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine of up to Rs 1,00,000, or both.
  • In case of persistent violation, an additional fine of up to Rs 5,000 per day can be imposed after the initial conviction.
  • If the violation continues beyond one year post-conviction, imprisonment of up to seven years can be enforced.

Drawbacks of the Environment Protection Act, 1986

  • Complete Centralization: The Act’s concentration of powers in the Central Government raises concerns about potential arbitrariness and misuse, as state governments have limited authority.
  • Lack of Public Participation: The Act lacks provisions mandating public involvement in environmental protection initiatives, emphasizing the necessity to engage citizens to prevent arbitrary decision-making and enhance environmental awareness.
  • Incomplete Coverage of Pollutants: The Act falls short in addressing modern pollution concerns such as noise, transportation overload, and radiation waves, limiting its efficacy in tackling emerging environmental challenges. Updating the Act to encompass these aspects is crucial for comprehensive environmental protection.

Environmental Protection Act of 1986 UPSC

The Environmental Protection Act of 1986 in India is a crucial legislative framework addressing environmental concerns and regulating activities impacting the environment. Key features include the establishment of regulatory bodies, environmental clearance for polluting industries, pollution control measures, hazardous substance management, penalties for violations, and emphasis on public participation.

However, drawbacks include centralized power, insufficient public involvement, and incomplete coverage of modern pollutants. The Act’s penalties involve imprisonment, fines, and continuation fines. To enhance its efficacy, addressing drawbacks and incorporating broader pollutant coverage is vital for comprehensive environmental protection and sustainable development.

Other Important Articles
List of Environment Conventions & Protocols Stockholm Convention
Kyoto Protocol Vienna Convention


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Environmental Protection Act FAQs

What is the purpose of the environment Protection Act?

The purpose of the Environment Protection Act is to regulate and manage activities that could have a negative impact on the environment and human health.

What are the four environment protection act?

Four environment protection acts refer to specific legislations in different countries, such as the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 (UK), Environment Protection Act 1970 (Australia), and others.

What are the salient features of the Environmental Protection Act 1986?

Salient features of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 include the establishment of Pollution Control Boards, powers to regulate and manage hazardous substances, and penalties for violations.

What are the key features of National Environmental Policy Act?

Key features of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) include requiring federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of their projects and involving the public in decision-making.

What are the 5 environmental laws in India?

Five environmental laws in India are the Environment Protection Act 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, and Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

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