The five elements form the basis of every existence upon this planet. Their wellbeing is necessary for the sustainability of all human, animal and plant life on Earth. Various businesses have stemmed out from these essential materials. Therefore, it is the duty of every business to function in reverence to these basic elements, most importantly the Land, Water, and Air. With such realization, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, has been enacted, to provide for protection and improvement of the environment as well as to implement the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in June 1972.
According to the Environment (Protection) Act, ‘Environment’ includes water, air, land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property. Chapter III of the Act provides for Prevention, Control and Abatement of Environmental Pollution. It regulates certain activities of industries in order to better protect the environment as well as human beings. Some of the provisions are as follows:
- Section 7- Limits the discharge of environmental pollutants during the performance of industrial activities. Such limits are prescribed under Rule 3 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986.
- Section 8- Regulates the method of handling hazardous substances in accordance with Rule 13 of Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, and other Rules such as Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008; Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989; and Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms, Genetically/Engineered Organisms or Cells Rules, 1989.
- Section 9- Requires the person responsible for causing environment pollution to inform the authorities appointed by the Central government of the same and also binds upon him the duty to mitigate or prevent such pollution.
- Section 10- Under this provision, the Central government has the power to authorize any person to inspect and check whether an industrial plant is acting in contravention to the provisions of the Act.
- Section 15- Imposes criminal liability if the provisions under the Act are not adhered to. Punishment includes imprisonment up to 5 years, fine up to 1 lakh, or both. Upon continued contraventions for more than 1 year, imprisonment up to 7 years.
Various other compliances are present under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations; The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, etc.
Significance of compliance:
Right to health has been included as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which enshrines the Right to life and Personal Liberty. Businesses use a variety of materials in their factories while manufacturing products, to yield to the needs of consumers. Such materials may be hazardous to the existing life on Earth, if they are disposed off negligently. In order to regulate the manner of such disposal and to ensure the safety and precaution while handling such materials, compliance with the Environment (Protection) Act and its various rules become a necessity. Regulations exist in order to ensure that business activity is successfully completed without much damage to the environment as well as human beings. It is an elemental duty of every factory to incorporate such regulations in order to mitigate the damage to the environment as well as their bank accounts. Criminal liability may also be imposed if a business entity fails to comply with the various Environmental laws in force in India. Natural resources are under the threat of being depleted, it is, therefore, necessary for large factories which have a major impact on the environment, to be in compliance with the environmental laws.
Awareness of such innumerable laws is necessary to run a successful business. A Compliance Management System is a useful tool in aiding companies to adhere to the various environmental laws in force by ensuring timely compliance and thus, avert unexpected expenses on litigation and fines.