Every industry is no stranger to complying with environmental compliances. Indian legislation has specific laws to address specific environmental issues, from air pollution, and waste management to coastal area pollution. The Indian constitution is one of the few in the world that contains provisions relating to environmental conservation and a specialized court/tribunal.
The efforts of the environmental regulatory authority to protect and preserve India’s environment are clearly bearing positive results.
The Supreme Court of India in 1978 provided substantial life to this Article 21 in the case of Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (1978) and Subhash Kumar vs. the State of Bihar (1991), the Supreme Court of India declared that Article 21 “includes the right of enjoyment of pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of life”. India’s first PIL on environmental issues before the Supreme Court was the case, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra vs. the State of UP (1988). There is a proactive role of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Supreme Court in protecting India’s natural environment.
NGT has ordered the environmental regulatory authorities, that is, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) to strictly enforce and take into account the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index. With the rapid growth in the economy, there are significant environmental issues arising like pollution control, waste management, natural resource conservation, climate change, etc. The SEBI introduced the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR), and mandates reporting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) parameters from the next financial year.
The main environmental laws in India are
- Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 (Water Act),
- Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 (Air Act).
- E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016, as amended in 2018 (E-Waste Rules);
- Batteries (Management & Handling) Rules 2001 (and the proposed draft Battery Waste Management Rules 2020);
- Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules 2016;
- Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 (and a proposed draft 2021 amendment);
- Solid Waste Management Rules 2016;
- Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules 2016;
- Hazardous and Other Waste (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules 2016, as amended in 2019 (HW Rules);
- Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules 1989 (MSIHC Rules);
- Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2019 (and related 2021 procedure for violation of the CRZ Notification); and
- Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006.
- Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.
- Forest (Conservation) Act 1980.
- Public Liability Insurance Act 1991.
- Biological Diversity Act 2002.
- National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
Every industry is discussing environmental issues more than ever. The Factory Manager, EHS Manager, etc are responsible for the implementation of their regulations. Companies/Industries shall obtain an Environment Clearance (EC), Consent to Establish (CTE) at the planning stage, followed by Consent to Operate (CTO) before the commencement of any activities/operations and renew it under the water act and air act can typically be obtained by submitting a combined consent application to the relevant SPCB.
Depending on the type of activities undertaken by a company, multiple permits may need to be obtained. Companies/Industries shall obtain site operations from applications for environmental permits as well as from statutory records and returns. Companies/Industries shall maintain the records of waste characterisation and inventory, labels on containers of hazardous chemicals and hazardous wastes, documented information regarding the waste vendors and the final fate of disposed of wastes.
Non-Compliance of these regulators will face action and bear the burnt of penalties imposed by the Environmental Protection Act, National Green Tribunal and Courts Companies/Industries shall have proper management with adequate knowledge of the applicable regulations and have an understanding of the actions required to demonstrate compliance.