The Act came into force on Nov. 19, 1986, the birth anniversary of our Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was a pioneer of environmental protection issues in our country. The Act extends to whole of India.
Some terms related to environment have been described as follows in the Act:
(i) Environment includes water, air and land and the inter-relationships that exist among and between them and human beings, all other living organisms and property.
(ii) Environmental pollution means the presence of any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration, as may be, or tend to be, injurious to environment.
(iii) Hazardous substance means any substance or preparation, which by its physio-chemical properties or handling is liable to cause harm to human beings, other living organisms, property or environment.
The Act has given powers to the Central Government to take measures to protect and improve environment while the state government coordinates the actions. The most important functions of Central Govt, under this Act include setting up of:
(a) The standards of quality of air, water or soil for various areas and purpose.
(b) The maximum permissible limits of concentration of various environmental pollutants (including noise) for different areas.
(c) The procedures and safeguards for the handling of hazardous substances in different areas.
(d) The prohibition and restriction on the location of industries and to carry on process and operations in different areas.
(e) The procedures and safeguards for the prevention of accidents which may cause environmental pollution and provide remedial measures for such accidents.
The power of entry and inspection, power to take sample etc. under the act lies with the Central Government or any officer empowered by it.
For the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing and abating pollution, standards have been specified under Schedule- I-VI of Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 for emission of gaseous pollutants and discharge of effluents/waste water from industries.
These standards vary from industry to industry and also vary with the medium into which the effluent is discharged or the area of emission, for instance, the maximum permissible limits of B.O.D. (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) of the waste water is 30 ppm if it is discharged into inland waters, 350 ppm if discharged into’ a public and 100 ppm, if discharged on to land or coastal region. Likewise emission standards vary in residential, sensitive and industrial area.
Under the Environmental (Protection) Rules 1986 the State Pollution Boards have to follow the guidelines provided under Schedule VI, some of which are as follows:
(a) The have to advise the Industries for treating the waste water and gases with the best available technology to achieve the prescribed standards.
(b) The industries have to be encouraged for recycling and reusing the wastes.
(c) They have to encourage the industries for recovery of biogas, energy and reusable materials.
(d) While permitting the discharge of effluents and emissions into the environment, the State Boards have to take into account the assimilative capacity of the water body.
(e) The Central and State Boards have to emphasize on the implementation of clean technologies by the industries in order to increase fuel efficiency and reduce the generation of environmental pollutants.
Under the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 the Central Government also made Hazardous Wastes (Management and handling) Rules 1989. Under these rules it is the responsibilities of the occupier that such wastes are properly handled and disposed off without any adverse effects.
There are 18 Hazardous Waste categories recognized under this rule and there are guidelines for their proper handling, storage, treatment, transport and disposal which should be strictly followed by the owner.
The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 has also made provision for environmental Audit as a means of checking whether or not a company is complying with the environmental laws and regulations.