All questions

Environmental protection

i Air quality

The Air Act, in tandem with the EPA, provides for the prevention, control and regulation of air quality in India. Under the Air Act, the CPCB and the SPCB are the designated authorities for this purpose. The state government in consultation with the SPCB has the power to declare any area as 'air pollution control area'. A consent to establish, followed by a consent to operate, must be taken from the SPCB before establishing any industrial plant. Further, compliance is ensured through regular monitoring and imposition of fines and imprisonment for non-compliance. The industry or operation-specific standards for emission or discharge of environment pollutants are periodically revised by the MoEF&CC through the CPCB.

With increasing concerns about poor air quality in India, especially the capital region of Delhi, steps such as banning the burning of waste and crop residue, banning the registration of petrol and diesel vehicles older than 15 and 10 years, respectively, and banning the import and usage of petroleum coke as a fuel have been taken. The Hon'ble Supreme Court has ordered that, from 1 April 2020, only vehicles compliant with BS-VI standards would be sold in India.

ii Water quality

The Water Act, along with the EPA, primarily deals with regulation of water resources in India. The Water Act is comprehensive and applies to streams, inland waters, subterranean waters, and sea or tidal water. There is a consent procedure whereby no industry that is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluent can commence operations without the previous consent of the SPCB. The Water Act generally prohibits disposal of polluting matter in excess of the standards established by the EPA or SPCB. Industry or operation-specific standards for the discharge of effluent or the quality of water are periodically prescribed by the MoEF&CC through the CPCB, and enforced by the SPCBs through the consents granted to the industries.

The Prime Minister of India in his address on World Environment Day 2018 acknowledged tackling water pollution as one of the biggest challenges for India and expressed hope that initiatives such as the Namami Gange Programme would help clean rivers like the Ganges. As a result, effluent treatment plants have been established all along the river and SPCB has become more stringent in monitoring effluent discharge by industries.

iii Chemicals

The Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules 1989 regulate handling and dealings in hazardous chemicals. The rules apply to industrial activities in which a hazardous chemical as specified in the schedule to the rules is involved. Any industrial activity in which there might be a threshold quantity of a hazardous chemical is not to be undertaken without approval from the relevant authority. The rules further cast an obligation on the entity who has control of such industrial activity to provide evidence to show that it has identified the major accident hazards and taken adequate steps to prevent major accidents or limit their consequences to persons (including persons working on the site) and the environment. The rules require the occupier to notify any major accident within 48 hours to the concerned authority and thereafter furnish a report relating to the accident in instalments in the format prescribed in the schedule to the rules. The authority concerned is in turn required to undertake full analysis of a major accident and send the requisite information to the MoEF&CC.

iv Solid and hazardous waste

The waste management rules of the country were completely revamped in 2016. As part of this initiative, the government has notified the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 (the SW Rules) and the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules 2016 (the HW Rules). The new HW Rules provide for a single window clearance for setting up a hazardous waste disposal facility and import of other wastes. Co-processing of waste has been given preference over disposal. The approval for co-processing of hazardous waste to recover energy has been streamlined on an emission norms basis. The import or export of waste under the HW Rules was streamlined and the list of waste regulated for import or export has been revisited. Further, import of scrap metal, paper waste and various categories of electrical and electronic equipment for reuse purposes no longer needs the permission of the MoEF&CC. Since January 2016, new guidelines are in place to determine financial liability for causing contamination due to improper handling, storage, transport or disposal of hazardous substances.

The new SW Rules introduced the concept of segregating and storing the waste generated at source in three separate streams, namely biodegradable, non-biodegradable and domestic hazardous waste, in suitable bins before the same is handed over to authorised waste collectors. Further, spot fining for littering and non-segregation has been introduced.

v Contaminated land

The HW Rules together with the EPA, the Water Act and the rules framed by the respective state governments for the regulation of ground water provide the regime for controlling and preventing contamination of land and groundwater by the disposal of hazardous wastes. The rules impose the liability for damage caused to the environment or third party as a result of improper handling and disposal of hazardous waste on the occupier, importer, exporter and operator of a facility. The occupier and operator are also liable to financial penalties as may be levied by the SPCB in consultation with the CPCB.