Environment Protection Laws in India


Laws relating to Environment Protection in India have been enshrined in the Constitution of India. The Indian Constitution has in its Article 51-A (g) made a fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living. Article 48-A of the Indian Constitution makes provision for the responsibility of the State to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.


The Legal Framework with regard to Environment Protection is mainly divided into 3 main enactments that set the parameters for businesses to follow, such as industry specific air emissions, discharge standards. The 3 main laws in India for the protection of environment are as follows:

  • Environmental (Protection) Act 1986
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974
  • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 along with rules made therein under.

The Environment Protection Act, 1986 is an act for the protection and improvement of environment and for matters connected therewith. It provide for a framework for the co-ordination of central and state authorities established under the water (prevention and control) act, 1974 and air (prevention and control) act, 1981 and the central government is empowered to take measures necessary to protect and improve the quality of the environment by setting standards for emissions and discharges, regulating the location of industries,  management of hazardous wastes, and protection of public health and welfare.

The other enactment to protect the environment is the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974. Regulations made under the said Act prohibit the discharge of pollutants into water bodies beyond the given standard, and lays down penalties for non-compliance. The law has also set up the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) and the SPCBs (State Pollution Control Board) which lays down standards for the prevention and control of water pollution. The SPCBs function under the direction of the CPCB and the state government.

Lastly the regulation on prevention of air pollution called as the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The said Act provides for air quality standards, means for the control and abatement of air pollution, prohibits the use of polluting fuels and substances and regulates appliances that give rise to air pollution. The amended Act of 1987 empowered the central and state pollution boards to meet grave emergencies. The boards were authorized to take immediate measures to tackle such emergencies and recover the expenses incurred from the offenders. The power to cancel consent for non-fulfilment of the conditions prescribed has also been emphasized in the air act amendment.

Over and above the regulations enacted by the government in the bid to protect the environment, the Indian government has pledged to reduce its carbon emission intensity of its GDP to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Also, India is one of the few countries in the world that mandates Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR). The Companies Corporate Social Responsibilities Policy Rules (2014) and the Companies Act of 2013 holds certain businesses  (i.e., with a certain net worth, turnover, or net profit) to sustainability reporting standards. These companies must constitute a CSR Committee, spend at least 2% of its average net profits on CSR initiatives, and include an annual report on CSR in its annual board report.

Further in the year 2016, India revised several waste management rules. Among those, hazardous waste, e-waste, and Plastic Waste Management Rules were revised to align India’s waste management with that of other regions, most notably the EU. Authorities incorporated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) into these laws, imposing significant responsibilities on manufacturers and companies that place products on the Indian market. To minimize the negative impact on the environment throughout products’ lifecycles, these companies are now subject to the “polluters pays” principle. This approach requires facilities manufacturing or placing products on the market in India to set up mechanism for collecting “channelizing” (or passing through various passageways such as dealers) and taking them back.


In India, the regulatory authorities play an important role in ensuring environmental protection. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), established in the year 1985, is the apex administrative structure in the country for environmental protection. Winged with the Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards, it is responsible for regulating environmental programme and enacting legal and regulatory framework for the same.

Bosky Tanmay Gokani Bosky Tanmay Gokani

Bosky Tanmay Gokani

Legal Advisor
Bosky Gokani, a qualified Indian lawyer, is currently based in Shanghai.
Veronica Gianola Veronica Gianola

Veronica Gianola

Senior Associate
Veronica Gianola, an accomplished Italian lawyer, is a member of the Milan Bar Association.

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