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Do we have adequate laws to enforce ‘Swachh Bharat’ Mission?

Posted by Admin on October 8, 2014 | Comment

With the launch of the Clean India or ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put the onus back on the 1.25 billion people to free the country from filth. As a nation, India has been subjected to much criticism for the lack of sanitation in its cities, towns and villages. As state governments chart out their course of action and spread awareness about this nationwide sanitation drive, let’s have an understanding of the environmental laws we have in India that prohibit littering.

environmental laws in India

Environment Protection Act 1986

Environment Protection Act, 1986 was enacted as an immediate response to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The government brought this law into force under Article 253 of the Constitution, which gives Parliament the power to make any law for implementing an international treaty.

The primary objectives of the Act include:

To ensure coordination among the already existing regulatory agencies and the activities they undertake.

Create an authority or authorities that will have substantial powers for environmental protection.

Control the release of environmental pollutants and tackle the issue of hazardous substance.

In case of accidents that threaten environment, the law would ensure speedy response and punishment to those “who endanger human environment, safety and health.”

Other Environmental Laws

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974:  Besides the prevention and control of water pollution, this law was enacted to maintain or restore the “wholesomeness of water” in the country. The law was enacted in 1974 and amended in 1988.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981:  India had participated at the UN Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, in which, decisions were taken to take steps to preserve the quality of air among other natural resources of the earth. This Act came into force in 1981 with the objective of providing for the “prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.” It also provided for the establishment of Boards and assigning powers to them for monitoring matters relevant to air pollution.

In the year 1974, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was established under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act. It works as a statutory organisation under the Environment Ministry. The organisation is also bestowed with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The Pollution Control Board helps the environment ministry in monitoring whether the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 are being adhered to.

The National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995: The law fixes strict liability for damages caused due to accidents occurring while handling hazardous substance. The law also provides for the establishment of a National Environment Tribunal for “effective and expeditious disposal of cases” emerging from such accidents. The objective behind setting up this tribunal is to put the liability on the offender to give relief and compensation for damages done to human lives, property, and the environment. It was back in 1992 when the UN Conference on Environment and Development called upon the nations to establish laws “regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damages.”

Anti-Littering Activities Across India

There have been anti-plastic and anti-littering campaigns by the environmentalist and activists. The demand for a stringent anti-littering law has also been raised by the concerned groups time and again.

Back in 2011, there were talks of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) implementing an anti-littering law to deter citizens from spitting, littering and urinating in public. It was only recently in August 2014 that the North Delhi municipal corporation decided to penalise people littering in public places. It’s a 100-day ‘sanitation-cum-cleanliness’ drive wherein even if the pets are found defecating in public places, their owners would be fined Rs 500.

The plan to extend this drive to institutions is on cards. If this becomes applicable for hospitals, then they would be compelled to find a solution to treat bio-degradable waste in order to avoid hefty penalty.

Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) had enforced a ban on the use of plastic bags below 40 microns, following which the Supreme Court also banned the packaging of gutka in plastic sachets. Even the environment ministry also prohibited the use of plastic materials in sachets for storing, packaging or selling tobacco.

While Meghalaya has stringent anti-littering laws in place, the Goa government has already made littering of plastic at roadsides and beaches an offence. However, there’s no central law that has been enacted nationwide to prevent littering and punish the offenders.