India’s Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 – An overview

In light of recent alarming trends in air quality of India, I felt that it is a good idea to revisit one of the most important environmental legislation to have come into effect in India, and to see what the government had in mind when it came out with this Act.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 came soon after the the Water Act of 1974, and sought to provide a rounded legislation for the major environmental aspects of the India.

The aim of this Act…

The Air Act has the primary aim of providing provisions to abate and control air pollution in the country, and sets up Boards in the centre and the state to carry out the necessary steps to achieve this aim. The Boards are given the power to set up regulations to ensure that air pollution is controlled in the country. The legislation also gives the Boards power to take action on the entities that fail to meet the air quality standards that are set.

The Act contains 54 sections, and VII chapters. Chapter II and Chapter III sets out the roles and responsibilities of the pollution control boards, Chapter IV regulates the pollution standards that are set and how they can be monitored and Chapter VI describes the penalties imposed in case of noncompliance.

Image result for air pollution india
Source: Google Images.

Salient features of this Act…

The major sections and features of this Act are-

  • Section 3- The Central and State Pollution Control Boards have the responsibility to exercise the powers provided under this Act without prejudice.
  • Section 4- In states where there is a Water Pollution Control Board established, the same shall be given the joint responsibility of controlling and monitoring air pollution, and will be called State Pollution Control Board.
  • Section 5- In states where there is no Water Pollution Control Board, a new Pollution Control Board will be set up.
  • Section 16 describes the functions of the Central Pollution Control Board, some of which includes-
  1. Advice the Central government on matters pertaining to air and air pollution.
  2. Advice and support State Boards in carrying out their functions.
  3. Carry out research related to air pollution.
  4. Through mass media, spread awareness and information about air and air pollution.
  5. Plan and organize the training of personnel.
  6. Set the standards for Air Quality in India.
  • Section 17 describes the functions of the State Pollution Control, some of which are-
  1. Advice the State Government on matters of air and air pollution.
  2. In collaboration with the Central Board, plan and organize the training of personnel.
  3. Carry out inspections in air pollution control areas at necessary intervals.
  4. Advice the State Government about the feasibility of conducting industrial activity with respect to air pollution.
  • Section 19- The SPCBs have the authority to declare any area as an air pollution control area, with consultation from the CPCB.
  • Section 21 states that no person or entity shall establish an industry without prior permission from the Boards in an air pollution control area.
  • Section 22 states that no person or industry shall emit air pollutants above the standards set by the Pollution Control Boards. Under this, the Board can even approach a court to gain a restraining order on the industry that fails to meet it’s standards.
  • Section 26 gives any officer of the Pollution Control Boards,, the power to take samples from any chimney, duct, etc. for testing and seeing whether the emissions are within prescribed standards or not.
  • Section 28- This allows the SPCBs to set up State Air Laboratories, either as a new establishment or by declaring an existing lab as a State Air Lab. These labs have the authority to test the air samples and air quality procedures as described by the standards, for the SPCBs of that state in their areas.
  • Section 37, the law states that failure to comply with the rules of Section 21 and 22 will result in punishment that is a minimum of one year and 6 months, but extendable up to 6 years with fine. If the failure continues, an additional fine of 25,000 rupees per day is introduced till the time the offence does not stop. If the failure continues for more than a year, then the culprit is punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of 2 years and can extend up to 7 years with fine.

The environmental legislation in India is a combination of the Air Act 1986 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The two Acts have many overlapping features. Both these acts remain important, but the Environment Protection Act, 1986, become the major environment governing act after it came into force.

Author: Saurab Babu

Usually found sitting with a good book, nibbling on a piece of dark chocolate. Always ready for a good story.

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