Pollution is at the rise in today’s world having adverse effect on the environment. Environmental pollution is the major issue prevalent which causes adversities to the population at large. It is basically when the harmful substances are released in the environment as to causes detrimental damage and destruction to environment. Because of the activities of people like excavation, digging, keeping harmful substance and other material factors is the reason for the growing harm to the environment. The growth of it at such a drastic rate has consequential impact on the present as well as future generation. Therefore, effective laws are necessary which curb such phenomena and the depletion of natural resources.


Though, there exist several kinds of pollution prevalent in the society and environment, but there are a certain few that are dominant in the environment and requires extra attention to stop them from spreading. There is air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, noise pollution and newly-came space pollution. There definitely are several others including thermal pollution, plastic pollution, radioactive pollution, soil pollution, and many others which also have adverse effect on environment.

  • Air Pollution

Air pollution is the contamination in the air particles which is caused by harmful gases and other particulate matter released in the environment. It is one of the most harmful form of pollution causes several problems and having effect on the humans as well as environment. The example of the turning black of the monument Taj Mahal is because of air pollution and destructive pollutants in the air. The burning of the fossil fuels, of plastic and the release of chemical substances from the industries and factories is the leading cause for the air pollution. Hazardous air pollutants and particulate matter have severe and drastic effect on the health of people.

  • Water Pollution

Water pollution occurs by the release of the harmful substances in the water bodies so as to cause contamination and degradation of it. The chemicals released into the water streams like lakes, oceans and other water bodies have drastic effect on environment. Water being the basic sustenance of life with the freshwater for usage being contaminated at high rate causes the increase in risk of water shortage for future generation. The major increasing portion of the groundwater being contaminated and depleted is also a significant problem. The waste thrown in the water causes damage and affects the survival of bio-diversity. The agricultural waste, the sewage, radioactive waste and other substances that are harmful and destructive in nature are thrown in the water polluting it.

  • Land Pollution

Land pollution is the most commonly found form of environmental pollution with rubbish and waste material being thrown on land.  The garbage being exerted on the streets and roads, the landfills where the pile of the garbage and waste material laid causes nauseous smell and damaging the environment and many other factors that are responsible for the land pollution. The mining and excavation activities destroy the soil and other useful nutrients in the land. The rise of deforestation is also the cause of land pollution.

  • Space pollution

Space pollution is of increasing concern now-a-days. With the widespread exploration of the outer space, there are chances for debris being thrown and damage caused forthwith. The pollution caused because of the collision of objects or when certain exploration is done and it leads to dismantling and abrasion with the other space craft. Space waste has become a problem. Due to the increase of activities in space and on planets and moon causes a reaction of harmful substance suspended in the space. The testing of chemical, weapons and other substances in outer space also has an effect on the environment and leads to its destruction and damage.


The legal framework is necessary to limit the pollution being caused in the environment. Sustainable measures for the protection, safeguard and preservation of environment are the significant requirement for it. These legal measures in the form of treaties, statutes, protocols and declaration are foremost important.

At National Level

In India, there are various statutes enacted for the benefit of the environment and for its preservation. One of the foremost is the Constitution of India, where under Articles 47, 48 and 51A (g) talks about environment. Article 51A (g) specifically provides for the duty of every citizen to safeguard and preserve the environment. There are several statutes that make sure of environment protection.

  • Air Act, 1981

This Act establishes various Boards at Central and State level to make sure that the functions of the protection of environment is performed and that the certain standards are maintained. It gives power to the government to establish regions which are control areas so that the emission of harmful gases can be regulated. It provides for the fuel to be emitted from the vehicles and its limit. It provides for the use of CNGs which is not harmful to the environment. It gives various powers to the central board in planning and executing of programme and other measures that will curb the air pollution.


It also helps in improving the quality of air and prevents the air pollution and effluents harmful. It also collects data to make sure that no unnecessary harm is caused by its power of investigation. The state board has powers to advise their respective state governments on effective measures to be applied for preserving the quality of air. It also uses instruments and inspects the industrial plant, factories or manufacturing units to see as to which are causing air pollution in the environment and the steps to be taken to stop and prevent it. The Boards also has power to taken sample from the industries or other units and send it for inspection in laboratories for analysis. The Act defines certain penalties and punishments as well.

  • Water Act, 1974

This act establishes the central and state boards which regulate the water pollution. Special powers and functions are given to both these. They have the power to inspect, to collect sample and to make sure that the harmful effluents are not released in the water. It also has the power to check the quality of air and to obtain certain information. The power to prohibit the usage of a stream or water body because of the increase of pollutant level is also given. They are given the power to provide appropriate training and awareness to the people and society at large. Certain penalties are also imposed in the form of fines and imprisonment for certain term for such contamination.

  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

The National Green Tribunal or NGT is established whose main function is to solve the dispute relating to the environment and its degradation. It establishes penalty and liability of the person and provides relief or compensation to the aggrieved party. This tribunal is specifically established for the speedy disposal of the cases and issues relating to environment being solved quickly. It has power to take up cases from the acts like water act; air act and its jurisdiction extend forthwith. The violation of laws that relates to only certain specified acts is only taken up by the National Green Tribunal which is one of its major drawbacks. The tribunal acts in accordance with the principle of natural justice and gives decisions that are fair and based on the principle of equality. It is a quasi-judicial body and its administration is regulated which means it is not bound the rules of civil procedure code or criminal procedure code.

  • Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is the one that fundamentally deals with the air, water and land pollution and provides measures to curb and prevent it. It gives power to the Central government to establish certain standards and restriction for the quality of the environmental and to lay down the factors for the emission of the pollutants in the environment. It also has the power to declare restricted areas where entry is restricted because of the risk of pollution. It also gives the power to inspect and investigate certain industries and units that are environmentally damaging. It can collect information and samples for the analysis of it and check its standard and measure. It also provides for the protection of the coastlines and certain oceanic levels to keep in check the pollution. The act established penalty where violation of the environmental standards and the degradation of it leads to the compensation being paid.


  1. Vellore Citizen Welfare Forum V. Union of India[1]

The court in this case highlighted the polluter pays principle. The facts were that a lot of chemicals and other effluents were thrown in River Palar which was the major origin of the drinking water of people and used for agricultural land. The court held in this case where public interest litigation was brought that the compensation is to be paid by the Tanneries that were causing damage and destruction of environment by release of harmful effluents in the water.

  1. C. Mehta V. Union of India (Oleum Gas leak)[2]

In this case the court brought the concept of absolute liability where a person who keeps an unnatural substance in its vicinity or home and when that object escapes from that vicinity, then the person will have complete and absolute liability when the damage is caused by that escaped. The facts of the case are that a fertilizers industry kept hazardous gas which is oleum gas in their unit which escaped causing suffering to the people and having harmful effects on the environment. The court in this case held that in this case absolute liability principle will be followed and not strict liability. No defence can be taken by the accused once the hazardous object escapes, even if it was not his fault. They had to pay the compensation to the victims.

  1. C. Mehta V. Union of India (Ganga Pollution Case)[3]

In this case a writ petition was filed for the protection of the river Ganga. The industry waste and garbage was thrown in the river causing extreme damage and pollution. Ganga is the major river in India and the effluents present like leather and other from the industry units have the impact of destruction of the environment. Thus, the court held that the tanneries are to establish the treatment plant so that the waste material is not released in the river. It also said that the defence taken that it will have effect on the employment and wages of people is inconsequential in relation to the destruction to the environment. Thus, the establishment of treatment plant is a mandatory requirement.

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At International Level

The laws at international forum are necessary to keep in check that the nation-states follow the protocol. It makes sure that no unnecessary damage is done to the environment having consequential result contributing to climatic change. The laws are made on the environment and its protection where the nation-states which ratify and are a part of the convention are obligatory and can be fined for the destruction to environment caused. These laws come under the public international law where the efforts are made so that the depletion of resources is not there. For the purpose of sustainable environment not only for the present generation but also for the future generation, it is a significant measure.

  • Stockholm Declaration (1972)

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment or Stockholm Declaration is the first of its kind for the preservation and the protection of environment. It recognises that the responsibility needs to be taken by all the nations and efforts should be made so that protection of environment can take place. The declaration basically contains 26 principles of which various guidelines for the safeguard of environment is given. Of which some that provides that the pollution should not be so much as to render it impossible for environments capacity to rid or absorb it. Under its Principle 2, it specifically points for the natural resources like air, water, etc. to be protected. Principle 6 points out that the culmination and the emission of harmful substances or material in the environment should be kept in check.

The pollution caused by the oceans and its harmful effect on the environment should be kept in check which is the responsibility of every nation-state under Principle 7. Principle 22 states that the compensation should be given to the people affected or aggrieved by the pollution and people held liable. The Declaration also talks about various technological efforts to be made for the environment along with the states’ power to appoint specialised policies and departments for it. Awareness for the environment should be made among the masses. Principle 23 also details about the standards to be recognised by each nation-state for its pollution emitted and other parameters.

  • Rio Declaration (1992)

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development or Earth Summit consists of the principle for the safeguard of environment from pollution and for the sustainable development. The sustainable development is significant to protect both the present and future generations’ environmental need under Principle 3. Principle 11 details about the standards to be set and the objectives to be defined for the appropriate environmental development by the States. Principle 15 points out the precautionary principle where efforts should be made by the states in case of threat of harmful effluents and other emissions to be released and causing degradation.

Principle 16 adopted the polluter pays principle where the person who caused the pollution should pay the fine or penalty for the disregard to environment and the damage caused.  Principle 17 talks about the environment impact assessment where regular check is necessary for making sure those activities does not have brutal effect on the environment. Principle 24 highlights the warfare that has consequential impact on the environment and hampers the sustainable development approach.

  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP came after the successful declaration of Stockholm in 1972. It helps in the controlling of the pollution and assisting the nation-states in integrating and co-ordinating their activities to ensure that the regulations and policies that are effective to the environment are brought forward and implemented. The major objectives of UNEP are to manage the ecology and shield the environment from the harmful substances. It works to provide for the efficient resources and technology that curb the environmental damage caused because of the climate change and the pollution.

  • UN Conference on Sustainable Development (2012)

This was the 20th Rio conference where the objectives of it were to access the political changes and new challenges brought forward by the advent of the century. These changes were to be dealt with and the progress made in the previous year’s need to be assessed. The fact that the depletion of natural resources is there because of the growing gap between various different factors and non-accomplishment of the previous objectives and principles is necessary. The action was to be taken to move towards the green environment and economy with the usage of renewable resources and other technological advancement. It also points out that with the help of the international co-ordination and co-operation, an integral factor in the environmental progress.

  • Kyoto Protocol (1997)

Kyoto Protocol is another treaty that details about the greenhouse gases and their negative impact on the environment and the various measures to make sure that the nation-states keep in check such emissions in the environment. Article 2 specifically states that the concentration of such detrimental environmental effluents that causes contamination to the environment should be at a level where the sustainable development is maintained and climatic integrity is adhered.  There is included various ways through the domestically applying the principles and regulation for curbing the pollution. This treaty was adopted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

  • Vienna Convention (1985)

The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer established the treaty for the ozone layer and its protection. Because of the increase in the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other chemical substances in the environment creating a hole in the ozone layer is the reason for the advent of the treaty and the convention. It is significant because of harmful effects of ozone on the environment as well as people. Article 2 details about the general guidelines to be followed by the states to protect the environment and regulate the emission of the harmful substances. It points out various co-operative policies and regulation by the legislature and administration department for the control and limit of the activities that are harmful. Under Annexure I, it talks about the research and observation where modification and the changes in the UV radiations and effects of it on environment need to be maintained.

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  1. Costa Rica V. Nicaragua (2018)

This is the landmark judgement in international environment law where the Costa Rica has said that the Republic of Nicaragua had caused damages to its protected rainforests and wetlands by the illegal occupation of it. This has led to deforestation and the destruction and causing land pollution. For that purpose, Costa Rica brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2010 the case for damages to be instilled on Nicaragua. The court held that the damage is to be given to Costa Rica for the excavations carried out by Nicaragua was unlawful and led to irreparable loss of vegetation causing environmental pollution.

  1. Argentina V. Uruguay

In this case the air and noise pollution was caused because of the construction of the mills on the River Uruguay. This led to the harmful chemicals being released in the environment and large volumes of destruction as well. Therefore, the international court of justice held that the sustainable development is necessary which was not there in this case. The court ordered for the compensation on the principle of precautionary approach.


Thus, it can therefore be concluded that the ever going pollution has drastic impact on the environment and it becomes necessary to curb it. There are various forms pollution that creates menace in the environment be it the air pollution or the water pollution or even the space pollution and many others. Every state has a responsibility to safeguard the environment and for that purpose the sustainable development needs to be done. The several legal regulations at national and international levels keeps in check the environmental pollution and moves towards a better environment for posterity.

[1] AIR 1996 SC 2715

[2] 1987 SCR (1) 819

[3] 1987 4 SCC 463

Author: Arushi Anand,
Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, 4th Year


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