Water Act 1974 Case Study

In this blog post, Shantanu Pandey, from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law Punjab, describes and details the laws prevalent in India that help to prevent and control water pollution. 

Access to a healthy environment is considered to be the prime concern of the state. Water is considered to be a very precious resource possessed by the country. Pollution of water is one of the severe issues which are being faced by the country in the current scenario. Various laws and policies are being framed to control the pollution of water through numerous ways. Herein discussed are some of the Indian laws which are being passed by the parliament of the country to monitor the pollution of water in the country.

 

Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1974

The prime object of this Act is to provide for the prevention of water pollution and cater to the maintenance of the water bodies and carry out activities to promote restoration of water. With the objective of giving practical implementation to this Act, [1]the Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Board have been established by the central and state authorities.The Central Pollution Control Board is to promote the cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the state.The Central Pollution Control Board has the power to advise the central government on various matters, which are concerned with the prevention and control of pollution of water. Under the Act mentioned above, the board has the power to encourage and conduct research and investigation with a view of promoting, the prevention of contamination of water in a significant manner.

Relevance of Section 24 of this Act

To promote the proper implementation of the Act, Section 24[2] of the Act imposes a duty upon a person to refrain from allowing any poisonous or noxious matter, as determined by the standards laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board, into any stream or sewer or on the land. Another duty imposed by this Act upon the person is that no person shall, knowingly enter into any stream in a manner so as to impede the flow of water or in any other way causes pollution of water. According to this Section, any person who violates or contravenes with the provision of this Section shall be made liable to be punished with imprisonment of one year and six months which may extend up to six years.

Drawbacks of this Act

The Water Pollution Prevention and Control Act suffers from various drawbacks in spite of being one of the earliest acts which were being passed by the Indian Parliament to control the pollution of water. One of the chief drawbacks of this Act is that the Act is silent about the groundwater[3] management policies. Another drawback with which this Act suffers from is the fact that it does not deal with the indiscriminate tapping of ground water, rain water harvesting, etc.

 

The Shore Nuisance Bombay and Kolaba Act

The objective, with which this act was being brought into force, was with the purpose of facilitating the removal of nuisances below the high water mark in the islands Bombay and Kolaba. This act aimed at safe navigation of the harbour in Bombay along with the objective of giving importance to the interest of the public. The Act empowered the land revenue collector of Bombay to issue a notice to remove the nuisances or obstructions which exist below the high water mark. The procedure for giving such notice is by affixing the same at a conspicuous place or near to the obstruction or the harbour below the high tide. Under this Act, the state is empowered by a competent authority to remove the obstruction if the notice is not being complied with within one month of issuance of the notice. The implementation can be governed or judged by the fact that, fine was being imposed by this act for contravening with the pollution of water.

Orissa River Pollution Act, 1953

Improper disposal of wastes has been one of the leading causes for the pollution of water in India. Disposal of wastes by the factories, industries, dumping of various toxic and poisonous substances into the river has been found to be the deep root cause of the increasing pollution of water in the country. This Act was formulated with the view of regulating the disposal of waste and effluents into the river by the factories and enable maintenance of the streams and water bodies. With the intention of giving this Act a practical implementation, the state of Orissa had established a board to govern the provisions of the Act above. This Act gives the board the competency to represent the inhabitants of a particular locality.

There is an urgent need to take control over the increasing level of water pollution in the state of Orissa. According to a recent study of water pollution, rivers in Orissa like Mahanadi and Brahmani amount to be the most polluted rivers amongst the rivers present in the state of Orissa. About [4]50 percent of water is polluted in these rivers which ultimately makes the survival of human life quite difficult. Sewage, waste from factories and mines, disposal of heavy metals like lead and magnesium are the major pollution causing agents in Orissa.

 

The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Cess Act, 2003

Industrial waste is one of the causes of the of water pollution. Often the waste from the industries is being disposed of into the rivers which pollute the river to a significant extent. According to Section 2 of this Act, industries include any operation or process or sewage or disposal treatment or any industrial effluent. Section 3 of this Act provides an exemption to industries from levying cess on those industries, which consume water below the specified limit. Water gets polluted through the toxic or non-biodegradable substances when the processing of these materials is being done in any industry, and such industries are required to pay cess under this law.

 

The Indian Penal Code and Pollution

Under the Indian criminal law, provisions have been explicitly laid down to punish the person who commits an offence in contravention to the Code. Section 277 of the Code provides for the punishment to be given to the person who commits an offence of fouling of a public reservoir or a public spring voluntarily shall be liable to be punished with imprisonment of three months or with a fine of 500 Rupees or with both. The explanation of this situation can be given through an illustration. A, a resident of Chandigarh, goes near a reservoir and voluntarily puts a toxic substance with an intention to cause harm to the environment and in consideration pollutes the water. The reservoir was fit for public use before, but after the Act of A, the reservoir became unfit for the utilisation of the public. Therefore, A was being held liable for the offence under Section 277 of the IPC, and he was punished with imprisonment of up to three months and a fine of Rupees 500.

The River Boards Act, 1956

This act aimed at the establishment of rivers and the regulation of interstate water disputes.The interest of the public is considered to be the prime concern of this Act. The Act gives the power to the State Government to establish Boards by issuing a special notification.The object of this Act is to resolve and regulate the inter-state water disputes.[5]Article262 of the Constitution of India gives the power to the Union to establish and adjudicate the inter-state water disputes prevailing in the country. Through this Act, awards and tribunals were being formulated to regulate the interstate dispute prevailing in a particular country.

Damodar Valley Corporation Prevention of Water Pollution Act, 1948

The Damodar Valley has been among the most flourished river basins which the country has witnessed since time immemorial. With the view of keeping a check on the functioning of this valley, Damodar Valley Corporation was established. During the monsoon season, 80 percent of the waste comprising of waste from mines and industries is discharged into this river. With the coming up of this Cooperation, the agricultural sector had undergone a change. The agricultural area decreased from[6] 59 percent in 1925 to just 10 percent in 1984. The mining industry had become the need of the hour during that period. The discharge of effluents from these mines was made into this river. This results in the pollution of water.

 

Right To Clean Water: a Fundamental Right

The Indian Judiciary has initiated a positive step, with the view of controlling pollution of water. Under the Indian Constitution, the judiciary has given a liberal interpretation to Article 21 of the Constitution of India and included the right to clean water and environment under the ambit of Article 21, Article 48, Article51(g) of the Constitution of India. Various judicial decisions throughout the history of Fundamental Rights have paved a way to the broad concept of Right to Life. The judiciary had propounded that the Right to Clean water comes under the ambit of the right to life and hence the scope of Article 21, Article 48 and Article 51(g) can include the right to clean water. In the case of [7]Narmada Bachao Andolan Vs. The Union of India, the Supreme Court, held that the right to clean water is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The court had observed that right to clean water is a part of the basic necessity of the human’s right to life.The state is duty bound to prevent the water from getting polluted.In the leading case of MC Mehta vs. The Union of India, the court held that the preventing the water of river Ganga from being polluted is the need of the hour.

Though many acts have been passed by the Parliament to control the pollution of water still, there is an urgent need for preventing our streams, reservoirs ,rivers, lakes from being polluted. The government should keep a check on the functioning of reservoirs, streams, lakes and a body should be established to monitor the working of the government.

 

 

 


References:

[1] “www.environmental laws of India/Water Act”

[2] “Section 24 of the Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act,1974”

[3] “Lasya Popanda, Right to clean water, Legally Services India”

[4] “A Study of Water Pollution,Kapileshwar Sharma,PL Nayak”

[5] “Article 262 of the Constitution of India”

[6] “Case study on the Damodar Valley Region”

[7] “Supra note 3”

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The Central Pollution Control Board, and State Pollution Control Boards composition, terms and conditions of service of members are defined in Sections 3-12 of water (prevention and control of pollution) act, 1974.

The Board advises the government on any matter concerning the prevention and control of water pollution. It coordinates the activities and provides technical assistance and guidance. This policy sets the standards and penalties for non-compliance for polluting bodies.

The Government has power to restrict any unit, and to take samples of effluents and get them analysed in Central or State laboratories. Whoever fails to comply with any provision of this Act is punishable with imprisonment, fine or with both. 

The Central Board may perform all or any of the following functions, namely,-

  • advise the Central Government on any matter concerning the prevention and control of water pollution;
  • co-ordinate the activities of the State Boards and resolve disputes among them;
  • provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Boards, carry out and sponsor investigations and research relating to problems of water pollution and prevention, control or abatement of water pollution;
  • plan and organise the training of persons engaged or to be engaged in programmes for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution on such terms and conditions as the Central Board may specify;
  • organise through mass media a comprehensive programme regarding the prevention and control of water pollution;
  • collect, compile and publish technical and statistical data relating to water pollution and the measures devised for its effective prevention and control and prepare manuals, codes or guides relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents and disseminate information connected therewith;
  • lay down, modify or annul, in consultation with the State Government concerned, the standards for a stream or well;
  • plan and execute a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution;
  • perform such other functions as may be prescribed.

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