The Environment (Protection) Act 1986 defines environment as ‘water, air and land and the interrelationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro- organism and property’. It defines hazardous substance as ‘any substance or preparation which, by reasons of its chemical or physiochemical properties or handling, is liable to cause harm to human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism, property or the environment’.
This Act empowers the Central Government to:
- Coordinate actions of the State Governments, officers and other authorities under the Act or any other law which is relatable to the objects of the Act;
- Planning and execution of a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;
- Laying down standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources and setting maximum permissible limits
- Identification of areas in which any industry, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out.
- Prevention of accident mediated environmental pollution by laying down safeguards and setting procedures for remedial measures after such accidents;
- Identification of materials, substances and manufacturing processes, which can cause environmental pollution;
- Carrying out and sponsoring investigations and research relating to problems of environmental pollution;
- Inspection of any premises, plant, equipment, machinery, manufacturing or other processes, materials or substances as a source of pollution, and giving order to authorities to take steps for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution.
- Establishment or recognition of environmental laboratories and institutions;
- preparation of manuals, codes or guides relating to the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution and publication of information related to environmental pollution.
The Central Government may organize an authority or authorities to make rules covering the following matters:
- The permissible standards of air, water or soil quality for various areas and purposes;
- The permissible limits of various environmental pollutants (including noise) for different areas;
- The procedures, safety methods, prohibitions and restrictions for the handling of hazardous substances in different areas;
- The limitations on the location of polluting industries and the prohibition and restrictions on the polluting processes and operations.