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Air Pollution and Control Legislation in India

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DOI: 10.1007/s40030-015-0125-z


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J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. A (July–September 2015) 96(3):259–265
DOI 10.1007/s40030-015-0125-z


Air Pollution and Control Legislation in India

Prashant P Bhave1 • Nikhil Kulkarni2

Received: 5 March 2013 / Accepted: 27 May 2015 / Published online: 19 June 2015
Ó The Institution of Engineers (India) 2015

Abstract Air pollution in urban areas arises from multiple health, forests and wild life. There were some Articles (39,
sources, which may vary with location and developmental 42, 47, 48 and 49) indirectly dealing with the subject of
activities. Anthropogenic activities as rampant industrial- environmental pollution and protection in the former con-
ization, exploitation and over consumption of natural stitutional law of India [1]. However, in the year 1976,
resources, ever growing population size are major contrib- 42nd constitutional amendment was adopted in response to
utors of air pollution. The presented review is an effort to the Stockholm International Conference on Human Envi-
discuss various aspects of air pollution and control legisla- ronment in 1972 and came into effect on 3rd January, 1977.
tion in India emphasizing on the history, present scenario, The Directive principles of State Policy (Article 48-A) 38
international treaties, gaps and drawbacks. The review also and Fundamental Duties (Article 51-Ag) 39 under the
presents legislative controls with judicial response to certain Constitution of India explicitly announced the national
landmark judgments related to air pollution. The down sides commitment to protect and improve environment and
related to enforcement mechanism for the effective imple- preserve air quality [1]. Nowadays through judicial inter-
mentation of environmental laws for air pollution control pretations, the right to clean air has been identified as
have been highlighted. element of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The language of the Directive Principles of State Policy
Keywords Constitution  Air pollution  Acts  (Article 47) requires not only a protectionist stance by the
Policy state but also compels the State to look for the improve-
ment of the polluted environment. Policy statement for the
amendment of pollution (1992) declares the objective of
Introduction the government to integrate environmental considerations
into decision makings at all levels.
Republic of India is one of the largest democratic nations in
the world being the first country to insert an amendment Basics of Air Pollution Scale and Legislations
into its constitution allowing the state to protect and
improve the environment for safeguarding the public (a) Level and Scale of Air Pollution Problem:

Level and scale of air pollution problem [2]

Level Vertical scale Time scale Level of action

Local Height of stacks Hours Municipal

& Nikhil Kulkarni Urban Lower kilometers Days District
Regional Troposphere Months State/National
Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, Veermata Continental Stratosphere Years National/International
Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI), Mumbai 400019, India
Global Atmosphere Decades International
Thane Municipal Corporation, Thane, Maharashtra, India

260 J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. A (July–September 2015) 96(3):259–265

(b) Basic principles of environmental laws and treaties: substances to be dangerously inflammable and reg-
ularizing such substances with Petroleum Act 1934.
1. The polluter pays principle
5. The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 [5] The act was
2. Principle of non-discrimination
addressing only health impact and safety from the
3. Precautionary principle
radioactive substances with the sole purpose of
4. Principle-common but differentiated
control over atomic energy and radioactive
5. Principle of intergenerational equity [3]
6. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,
1981 This is the first act formulated with the sole
purpose to provide for the prevention, control and
History of Legislation in India abatement of air pollution. It was established to carry
out the purposes, of boards, for conferring on and
Kautilya, the prime minister of Magadh, during the regime assigning to such boards powers and functions
of Chandra Gupta Maurya, 300 B.C. in his ‘Arthshastra’ relating to the matters concerned. The decisions were
revealed the question of environment protection. Mauryan taken at the United Nations Conference on the
King Ashoka, Emperor Shivaji depicted compassion for Human Environment held in Stockholm in June,
environment [4]. 1972, in which India participated, to take appropriate
Laws prior to the independence of India: steps for the preservation of natural resources of the
earth which, among other things, include the preser-
1. The Oriental Gas Company Act, 1857
vation of the quality of air and control of air pollution
2. Indian Penal Code, 1860
3. Indian Explosive Act, 1884
7. The Environment (Protection) act, 1986 This act
4. The Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act, 1905
came into force on 23rd May, 1986 to provide for the
5. The Bombay Smoke Nuisance Act, 1905
protection and improvement of environment and for
6. The Indian Boilers Act, 1923
matters connected there with. This act is serving as
7. Indian Petroleum Act, 1934
an umbrella act for many other rules and laws. e.g.
8. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 [5]
Notification on lead free petrol and catalytic conver-
tors for vehicles in metropolitan cities, 1995 etc. [6].
8. Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 This act deals with control
Present Scenario of automobile emissions and specifies vehicular
emission standards [5].
1. The Factories Act, 1948 This is the first act of inde- 9. The Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and
pendent India indirectly focusing on air pollution. Control) Rules, 2000 [6] India is categorized as
Chapter III, Sects. 13, 14 and 15 of this act focuses operating under Article 5 paragraph 1 of the Montreal
on proper ventilation, dust, fumes and humidity Protocol Regulation of production and consumption
related to the health of labor. of ozone depleting substances. This act deals with
2. The Industrial (Development and Regulation) Act, prohibition on new investments with ozone depleting
1957 This was the first act providing Power to central substances, Regulation of import, export and sale of
government to cause investigation to be made into products made with or containing ozone depleting
scheduled industries or industrial undertakings. The substances along amid Monitoring and reporting
extent was limited to the purpose of conserving any requirements for the same. The Ozone Cell estab-
resources of national importance which are utilized in lished by MoEF which has been given the respon-
the industry along with the regulation of production sibility for carrying out all tasks relating to phase out
and industrial development. of ozone depleting substances.
3. The Mines Act, 1952 The consideration of air 10. The Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Han-
pollution was again limited to the ventilation, actions dling) Rules, 2000 Ambient air quality monitoring
to be taken in respect of dust fire and inflammable has been made mandatory at the landfill sites
and noxious gases including precautions against including installation of landfill gas control system
spontaneous combustion, underground fire and coal [6].
dust. 11. The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules,
4. The Inflammable Substances Act, 1952 The act was 2000 Ambient air quality standards in respect of
indirectly stirring air pollution through safety. The noise, mentioned here are classified on the basis of
solitary purpose of the act was to declare certain area (land use), time (day or night) [6].

J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. A (July–September 2015) 96(3):259–265 261

Some of the International Conventions/Treaties 4. Geneva Protocol concerning the Control of Emissions
of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or their
1. Montreal Protocol on Ozone depleting substances, transboundary fluxes, 1991 In November 1991, the
1985 (Signed by India on: 19 June 1992) In 1977 the Protocol to the convention on long-range transbound-
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ary air pollution on the control of emissions of Volatile
concluded a World Plan of Action on the Ozone Layer, Organic Compounds (VOCs i.e. hydrocarbons) or their
which called for intensive international research and transboundary fluxes, the second major air pollutant
monitoring of the ozone layer, and in 1981, UNEP’s responsible for the formation of ground level ozone,
Governing Council authorized UNEP to draft a global was adopted. It has entered into force on 29 September
framework convention on stratospheric ozone protec- 1997. This Protocol specifies three options for emis-
tion. The Vienna Convention, concluded in 1985, is a sion reduction targets that have to be chosen upon
framework agreement in which States agree to coop- signature or upon ratification:
erate in relevant research and scientific assessments of
1. 30 % reduction in emissions of VOCs by 1999
the ozone problem, to exchange information, and to
using a year between 1984 and 1990 as a
adopt ‘‘appropriate measures’’. The Montreal Protocol
controls the production and consumption of specific
2. The same reduction as for (i) within a Tropo-
chemicals, none of which occur naturally. This pro-
spheric Ozone Management Area (TOMA)
tocol resulted into The Ozone Depleting Substances
specified in Annex I to the Protocol and
(Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 in India and
ensuring that by 1999 total national emissions
categorized 95 ozone depleting substances in groups
do not exceed 1988 levels.
with their ozone depleting potential.
3. Finally, where emissions in 1988 did not exceed
2. Helsinki Protocol on the reduction of Sulphur emis-
certain specified levels, Parties may opt for
sions or their transboundary fluxes, 1986 The need to
stabilization at that level of emission by 1999.
control Sulphur emissions resulted into a Protocol to
the convention on long-range transboundary air pollu- 5. United nations framework convention on climate change,
tion on the reduction of Sulphur emissions/their 1992 [7] (signed by India on 1 November 1993) UNFCCC
transboundary fluxes by at least 30 % was entered is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the
into force in 1987. Twenty-one ECE countries are ‘‘Earth Summit’’, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June
Parties to this Protocol, which aims at tapering off one 1992. The objective of the treaty is to ‘‘stabilize greenhouse
of the major air pollutants. Given the target year 1993 gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would
for the 1985 Sulphur Protocol, all Parties to that prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the
Protocol have reached the target. climate system’’. It was opened for signature on 9 May
3. Sofia Protocol to control the emissions of Nitrogen 1992 and entered into force on 21 March 1994. As of 2014,
Oxides or their transboundary fluxes, 1988 In 1988 the UNFCCC has 192 parties.
Protocol concerning the Control of Emissions of 6. Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Climate
Nitrogen Oxides or their Transboundary Fluxes was Change (Kyoto), 1997 (Signed by India in: 1997) At
adopted in Sofia (Bulgaria). This Protocol required a COP 1 (Berlin, March/April 1995), in a decision
first step, to freeze emissions of nitrogen oxides or known as the Berlin Mandate, Parties discussed cide
their Transboundary Fluxes. The general reference on stronger and more detailed commitments for
year was 1987. Nineteen of the 25 Parties to the 1988 industrialized countries. After two and a half years of
NOx Protocol have reached the target and stabilized intense negotiations, The Kyoto Protocol was adopted
emissions at 1987 (or in the case of the United States in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered
1978) levels. The second step to the NOx Protocol into force on 16 February 2005. Recognizing that
required the application of an effects-based approach. developed countries are predominantly responsible for
Applying the multi-pollutant, multi-effect critical load the current high levels of GHG emissions in the
approach, a new tool being prepared which should atmosphere as a result of industrial activity, the
provide for further reduction of emissions of nitrogen Protocol places a burden on developed nations under
compounds, including ammonia, and volatile organic the principle of ‘‘common but differentiated responsi-
compounds. While developing this importance should bilities.’’ Its first commitment period started in 2008
be given to their contribution to photochemical and ended in 2012. As on April 2012 more than 4000
pollution, acidification and eutrophication, and their projects registered under Clean Development Mecha-
effects on human health, the environment and mate- nism; India at second amongst the 74 countries. India
rials, by addressing all significant emission sources. benefited from transfer of technology and additional

262 J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. A (July–September 2015) 96(3):259–265

foreign investments in the sectors like renewable 1. Taj Trapezium Case, Agra: Taj pollution matter:
energy, energy generation—efficiency promotion and M.C.Mehta Vs UOI and Ors. W.P.(C) No.13381/1984
afforestation projects. The Kyoto Protocol facilitated This writ Petition was filed by Mr. M.C.Mehta,
India to take up clean technology projects with regarding pollution caused to the Taj Mahal in Agra.
external assistance in accordance with national sus- The sources of air pollution were particularly iron
tainable development priorities [8]. foundries, ferro-alloys industries, rubber processing,
7. Basel convention, 1989 (Signed by India on: 15 March lime processing, engineering, chemical industries,
1990) The convention designed to reduce the move- brick kilns, refractory units and automobiles espe-
ments of hazardous waste between nations, especially cially the Mathura Refinery and Ferozabad bangles
from developed to less developed countries indirectly and glass industries. Acid rain in this area has a
helping to air pollution problem. This convention is corroding effect on the gleaming white marble. The
intended (i) to minimize the generation of toxic waste Honorable Supreme Court after examining the
(ii) to ensure the ecofriendly waste management as reports from National Environmental Engineering
close as to the source (iii) to assist less developed Research Institute, Varadarajan committee, Central
countries for waste management. Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Utter Pradesh
8. Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollu- (U.P.) Board, on 31.12.1996 directed that the indus-
tants (POPs) (Signed by India on 14 May, 2002) The tries in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) were the
Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to control and active contributors of air pollution. All the 292
reduce the use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) industries had to approach either to the GAIL for
to protect human health and the environment. POPs are grant of industrial gas-connection or to the U.P.
chemicals that remain intact in the environment for Government for allotment of alternative plots outside
long periods, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living TTZ or stop functioning using coke/coal.
organisms and are toxic to living organisms. In Constitution Of Mahajan Committee The Honorable
implementing the Convention, Governments are taking Supreme Court on 30.8.1996 directed the Mahajan
measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs Committee to inspect the progress of the green belt
into the environment. development and the Taj Trapezium Zone Pollution
9) Lima Climate Change Conference, UNFCCC, (Prevention and Control) Authority to monitor pro-
COP20—December 2014 The key outcome of the gress of the implementation of various schemes.
conference—Invites Developing Country Parties and (Constituted on 17.5.1999) [11].
Least Developed Country Parties to communicate the 2. Delhi air pollution case: Vehicular pollution in
outcomes and process of formulation along with Delhi: writ petition (civil) no.13029/1985 (M.C.Me-
implementation of National Adaptation Plan on Cli- hta vs UOI and ors.) This writ petition was filed in
mate Change. COP 20 reiterates that the national the year of 1985 under Article 21 of the Constitution
adaptation plan process is a country-driven, gender of India regarding air pollution in Delhi. The
sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach. Petitioner challenged the inaction on the part of the
It should consider vulnerable groups, communities and Union of India, Delhi Administration (Government
ecosystems on the basis of and guided by the best of National Capital Territory of Delhi) and other
available science and, as appropriate, traditional and Authorities whereby smoke, highly toxic and other
indigenous knowledge. Parties must view to integrat- corrosive gases were allowed to pass into the air due
ing adaptation into relevant social, economic and to which the people of Delhi were put to high risk.
environmental policies and actions, where appropriate During the pendency of this Writ Petition, the
[9]. Government of India has published a National Honorable Supreme Court passed several orders/
Action Plan for Climate Change with eight National directions to deal with the situations arising from
Missions in 2008 as a response to the multilateral time-to-time and impressed upon the concerned
negotiations in UNFCCC for climate change [10]. authorities to take urgent steps to tackle the acute
problem of vehicular pollution in Delhi on 26.7.1998
which include elimination of leaded petrol, replace-
ment of old autos, taxies and buses, construction of
Judicial Responses for Environmental Issues new Interstate Bus Terminus at entry points, along
as Public Interest Litigations (PIL) with strengthening the air quality monitoring [12].
3. Vellore Citizen Welfare Forum Vs Union of India and
Judgments relating to air pollution issues have provided a Others (1996) 5 SSC 64 On 5.4.2002, the Honorable
great deal of momentum to improve air quality. Supreme Court has relied on the judgment in which

J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. A (July–September 2015) 96(3):259–265 263

precautionary principle and ‘polluter pays principle’ vs. Union of India & Shri Ram Fertilizer vs. Union of
was discussed. The Honorable Supreme Court issued India also known as ‘Oleum Gas leak case’, the
the directions for compliance emphasizing that, the significant questions raised were related to the scope
Union of India would give priority to transport sector of Article 21 and Article 32 of the Constitution of
including private vehicles all over India with regard India. The basis on which damages in case of such
to the allocation of CNG [13]. liability should be quantified, whether such large
4. Pollution by industries in Delhi: M.C.Mehta Vs enterprises should be allowed to continue to function
Union of India and Ors. Writ Petition (Civil) in thickly populated areas and if so permitted, what
No.4677/1985 This Writ Petition was filed by Mr. measures should be adopted to reduce the risks to
M.C.Mehta in 1985 regarding the pollution in Delhi minimum to the workers and community. The court
by the Industries located in residential areas of Delhi. recommended that a national policy for location of
The Honorable Supreme Court after considering the hazardous industries in areas of scarce pollution
reports submitted by the CPCB and the Delhi highlighting the need of setting up neutral scientific
Pollution Control Committee, finally ordered vide expertise body which could act as an information
its various orders, dated 8.7.1996, 6.9.1996, bank for the courts and the government departments
10.10.1996, 26.11.1996 and 19.12.1996. These and recommended for establishing ‘environmental
orders include: courts’ to deal with cases of environmental pollution
168 industries falling in ‘Ha’ and ‘Hb’ categories [17].
which were hazardous/noxious/heavy and large 8. M/s Navin Chemical Manufacturing & Trading
industries, 513 industries falling under ‘H’ category Co.Ltd. initially against two respondents namely
43 Hot Mix Plants, 246 brick kilns falling under Okhla Industrial Development Authority and M/s
category ‘H’, 21 arc/induction furnaces falling under Detchem Mineral Corporation In Navin Chemical
‘H’ category industries under the Master Plan of Manufacturing & Trading Co. Ltd. vs. New Okhla
Delhi (MPD-2001) were directed to close down and Industrial Development Authority the Supreme Court
stop functioning and operating in Union Territory of directed the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board to
Delhi. However, those industries could relocate to inspect the site of alleged air pollution industries and
any other industrial estate in the NCR or may change take necessary action against the industries that were
their technology to cleaner one [14]. causing pollution by grinding stones [18].
5. Noise pollution by firecrackers: Writ Petition (Civil) 9. Union Carbide Corporation vs. Union of India
No.72/1998 (Noise Pollution—Implementation of the (BhopalCASE-III)AIR 1992 SC 248 Ranganath Misra
laws for restricting use of loudspeakers and high C. J., K.N. Singh, M. N. Venkatachalliah, A.M.
volume producing sound systems) Vs UOI & Ors The Ahmadi and N. D. Ojha, JJ. In Union Carbide vs.
Honorable Court after hearing the matter on Union of India, review petitions under Article 137
27.9.2001 issued directions to all the States and the and writ petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution
Union Territories to control noise pollution arising of India, raised certain fundamental issues as to the
out of bursting of firecrackers, stressing on time constitutionality, legal validity, propriety, fairness
period of the day, area (silence zones), and public and conceivability of the settlement of the claims of
awareness. The rules have been framed under the the victims in a mass-tort action relating to what is
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 as noise stan- known as the ‘‘Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster,’’ consid-
dards for firecrackers mentioned at S. No. 89 of ered as the world’s worst industrial disaster, unprece-
Notification No.GSR 682(E), dated 5.10.1999 [15]. dented to its nature and magnitude [18].
6. Air pollution from Chembur, Mumbai, India Chem- 10. Murli Deora vs. Union of India and others, 2002 AIR
bur was identified as ‘critically polluted area’ in 1990 40, 2001(4)Suppl.SCR 650, 2001(8)SCC 765,
with air pollution being the dominant problem. The 2001(8)SCALE6, 2001(9)JT 364 In Murli Deora vs.
major industries in this area are oil refineries, Union of India and others, while prohibiting smoking
fertilizer, chemical and large power generating units; in public places the Supreme Court stated that
The four major industries in this area are BPCL, ‘‘fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitu-
HPCL, RCF & Oswal Petrochemicals for which tion of India provides that no one shall be deprived of
action plans were prepared for monitoring the status his life without due process of law. In any case there
of pollution control measures in these industries [16]. is no reason to compel non-smokers to be the helpless
7. Oleum Gas leak case: Oleum gas leak case on strict victims of air pollution. Realizing the gravity of the
liability: Writ Petition (Civil) No.12739 of 1985, situation the Honorable Supreme Court directed and
M.C.Mehta Vs Union of India and Ors In M.C.Mehta prohibited the smoking in public places and issue

264 J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. A (July–September 2015) 96(3):259–265

directions to the Union of India, State governments as 4. Implementation of Continuous Emission Monitoring
well as the union territory to take effective steps [19]. System for large scale industries
5. Vehicular emission standards: Regulation of Emission
Norms in India
6. Promoting low carbon transport in India: Project by
Issues in Focus
UNEP, Government of India (2011) [22].
7. National Noise Monitoring Program, 2010:
1. National Ambient Air Quality Standards Following a
In pursuance to National Environmental Policy-2006
gap of 15 years, the Ministry of Environment and
(Sect. 5.2.8(iv)), ambient noise inclusion as an envi-
Forests has notified the Revised National Ambient Air
ronmental quality parameter and its monitoring in
Quality Standards in the official Gazette under the
specified urban areas is regularly needed. CPCB
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 on 16.11.2009
established the National Ambient Noise Monitoring
Network (NANMN) covering 35 locations in seven
Some of the salient features include:
metro cities. In the second phase, 35 more stations
(i) Area classification based on land-use has been shall be added in 2011 in the same seven cities, while
done away so that industrial areas have to in the third phase, 90 more locations in 18 other cities
conform to the same standards as residential are planned which become a largest Real Time
areas. Ambient Noise Monitoring Network in world [23].
(ii) The standards shall be applicable uniformly with
the exception of stringent standards for NO2 and
SO2 in the Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
Some of the Gaps/Drawbacks
(iii) The previous standards for residential area have
been uniformly applied for fine particulate
matter (PM10), Carbon Monoxide and Ammo-
nia. More stringent limits for Lead, SO2 and
(i) Laboratory facilities are inadequate (e.g. Dioxins and
NO2 have been prescribed even for residential
furans) CPCB is addressing some of the industries to
monitor dioxins and furans (e.g. cement industries) as
(iv) Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) as param-
a compliance condition through the consent in India.
eter has been replaced by fine particulate matter
The laboratory facilities for analysis of these chemi-
cals/pollutants are very limited in India.
(v) Other new parameters like, Ozone, Arsenic,
(ii) National air monitoring plan CPCB is executing a
Nickel, Benzene and Benzo(a)Pyrene have been
nation-wide program of ambient air quality monitor-
ing known as National Air Quality Monitoring
(vi) Standards for short duration, just one to few
Program (NAMP). The network consist of 342
hours, have been set to reduce peak exposure to
operating stations covering 127 cities/towns in 26
some deadly gases like Ozone and Carbon
States and 4 Union Territories of the country [24].
Due to the revised National Ambient Air Quality
(vii) Indian cities are reeling under heavy particulate
Standards the common platform of comparison for air
pollution with 52 % of cities (63 cities) hitting
quality monitoring data needs to be redefined.
critical levels (exceeding 1.5 times the stan-
Facilities to monitor PM2.5 (new parameter) are again
dard), 36 cities with high levels (1–1.5 times the
annual standard) and merely 19 cities are at
(iii) Unavailability of proper and efficient technology for
moderate levels, which is 50 % below the
vehicular emissions As the available technology is
standard. The revised standards are stricter than
not that much efficient and economic it is very
previous; hence it will increase the number of
difficult to prevent and control the automobile
highly polluted or critically polluted cities in
India downgrading its international image [21].
(iv) Economic loss due to air pollution is not considered
2. Implementation of Continuous Ambient Air Quality in policy formation No policy developed on the basis
Monitoring Stations for large scale industries of economic loss due to air pollution. Any law is
3. Monitoring of heavy metals in ambient air quality for considering only one objective at a time like land use
large scale industries as a compliance condition pattern, health etc.

J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. A (July–September 2015) 96(3):259–265 265

(v) No data about agricultural sensitive area Some of the References

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