Environmental Laws of India

To understand international treaties related to environment and climate change, funding etc including national action plan on climate change read these blogs first

  1. Primer on Environmental issues
  2. Rio To Paris via Kyoto

1. Indian Forest Act, 1927

  • Britishers enacted such acts in 1865 and 1876 also, purpose was to monopolize forest resources <esp. timber> for their own exploitation and depriving forest dwellers of their rights
  • It was finally corrected when forest rights act, 2006 was enacted which gave traditional dwellers and community various rights over forest and gram sabha became the ultimate authority <remember Niyamgiri and POSCO>
  • The act does not even define the Forest or Forest Land but define forest produce

Act establishes 3 categories of forest

  1. Reserve Forest – Most restricted, constituted by state govt on govt property
  2. Protected Forest –
  3. Village Forest –

2. Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act (PCA), 1960

  • prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals
  • Animal Board of India was constituted under this act
  • Supreme court banned Jallikattu under it which govt tried to revive by a notification but court refused to vacate the stay

Read the whole story -Jallikattu : Culture v/s cruelty to animals debate here 

3. Wild Life Protection Act, 1972

  • protection of wildlife i.e animals, birds and plants <yes plants>
  • It has 6 schedules with schedule 1 and part 2 of schedule 2 providing maximum absolute protection
  • Schedule 5 animals can be hunted <vermins?>
  • Schedule 6 plants are prohibited from cultivation and planting
  • National Board for wildlife and National Tiger conservation authority are constituted under this act <function of both recommendation, providing guidelines etc.>
  • National Parks sanctuaries, conservation reserves, community reserves, marine reserves etc are constituted under this act <what’s the difference b/w community and conservation reserve? What is a sacred grove?>
  1. Note – state govt constitute all protected areas including national park
  2. Note – differences b/s national park, sanctuary and biosphere reserves done in earlier titbits, click here to read


4. Forest Conservation Act, 1980

As the name suggests to conserve forests <4 objectives>

  1. restricting the use of forest land for non-forest purposes
  2. preventing the de-reservation of forests that have been reserved
  3. restrict leasing of forest land to private individuals, authority, corporations not owned by the Government
  4. prevent clear felling of naturally grown trees.

You need permission to use forest land for non forest purposes <one of the requirement for EIA><btw what permissions are needed to build a factory on a forest land>

5. Environment Protection Act, 1986

  • Was enacted in the wake of Bhopal gas tragedy under article 253 of constitution <what is article 253, number is not important but content of article very important>
  • Implements agenda of UN conference on human environment
  • regulate environmental pollution, laying down procedures and standards for industrial waste, emissions, hazardous waste
  • Environment Protection Authority, ecosensitive zones under this act <what is ESZ?>

6. Biological Diversity Act, 2002

  • To implement agenda of CBD
  • sets up National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Board (SBB) and Biodiversity Management Committees <local level and maintains people’s biodiversity register> <PM is not chairperson of NBA>
  • has provisions for notifying heritage sites by State Government in consultation with local body <see everything related to environment  is notified by state govt>

Note – Provisions of CBD, protocols and functions of various authorities have been discussed in titbits  and blog 

Acts Related to Pollution –

Water (prevention and Control of Pollution) act, 1974

  • Creates central board and a state board, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and SPCB
  • Water polluted from industrial waste was the main target

Air (prevention and control of pollution) act, 1981

  • To implement the decision of UN conference on Human environment
  • This act also covers noise pollution
  • Same CPCB and SPCB implements this act

Environmental Policies

National Forest Policy, 1988

  • Earlier forest policy of 1894, 1952
  • aim at a coverage of one-third of the total land area under forest and tree cover (2/3 in hilly and mountainous areas to prevent soil erosion and degradation)

National Environment Policy, 2006

  • Art 21, right to healthy environment
  • Art 48- state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country (DPSP)
  • Art 51 A – duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures

Principle underlying the policy

  • Polluter Pay Principle – Internalize the externalities <what does that mean>
  • Policy adopts civil liability not criminal liability for environmental damage
  • Doctrine of Public Trust – state is not owner of natural resources but keep them in trust of citizens

Wild Life Protection act and Vermin

Vermin means nuisance animals which attack crops, cattle, property and humans  What the act says –

  • States can send a list of wild animals to the Centre requesting it to declare them vermin for selective slaughter.
  • The Central Government may by notification, declare any wild animal other than those specified in Schedule I and part 11 of Schedule 2 of the law to be vermin for any area <not all area> for a given period of time <not all time>
  • As long as the notification is in force such wild animal shall be included in Schedule V of the law, depriving them of any protection under that law <we discussed schedules above>

Controversy – central govt has allowed culling of Nilgai <largest Indian Antelope and Indigenous to India>  and Rhesus Monkey and Maneka Gandhi is furious

They are not endangered animals by any means <IUCN least concern category> but you know Maneka

P.S. – Did I miss any important act or Policy? Do let us know in comments. Any factoid/ trivia or important point related to act ? mention in comments

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By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!

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