Overview of Water (Prevention and Pollution Control) Act, 1974

Overview of The Water (Prevention and Pollution Control) Act, 1974

“WHEN THE WELL IS DRY, WE KNOW THE WORTH OF WATER” – Benjamin Franklin

In scientific language, liquid state of H2o at standard ambient temperature and pressure is known as ‘Water’. Water covers almost 71% of the earth’s surface, including seas and oceans. Around 1.7% Water is present below the ground, 1.7% in the glaciers and ice-caps of Antarctica and Greenland, 0.001% in form of vapour, clouds and precipitate in the air.

We all know, Water serves as the basis of life for each and every living being, from micro-organisms to humans and beasts, water is the first need. Life is not possible without water as Leonardo da Vinci said “Water is the driving force of all nature.”

We all are aware of the fact that no one can live without water, and still we all pollute and misuse and degrade water every single day. Almost 80% of the waste water is dumped directly into the environment even without proper treatment and sanitization, polluting rivers, seas and oceans. There are various other reasons for the degradation of water and in order to curb the issue various enactments had been passed by the government. One such act is “Water (Prevention and Pollution Control) Act, 1974” and in this article you will be reading about the act:

Introduction

After the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment 1972 it was considered to have uniform law for Environmental problems. The Water (Prevention and Control Pollution) Act, 1974 was first act enacted by the Government of India in this direction, with an aim to prevent and control pollution of water in India.

The aim of the Water Act to “provide for the prevention and control of water pollution and the maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water, for the establishment, with a view to carrying out the purposes aforesaid, of Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution, for conferring on and assigning to such Boards powers and functions relating thereto and for matters connected therewith.”

This Act covers the various aspects of regulating water resources i.e. to prevent and control water pollution; maintaining the qualities of water so that its consumption and use by living organisms is not hampered; establishing State Boards for prevention and control of pollution; empowering the Boards for prevention and control of water pollution; providing penalties for breaking the rules under this Act; establishing state water testing laboratories and developing protocols, in the country.

The Act has VIII chapters and 64 sections. Chapter II talks about constitution of the Central and State Pollution Control Boards, Chapter III talks about constitution of joint boards, Chapter IV describes the powers of the Boards, Chapter V describes steps to prevent and control water pollution, and Chapter VII describes penalties and punishment.

Some important sections of The Water (Prevention and Pollution Control) Act, 1974 are as follows-

1. Central Board – Central Pollution Control Board

Section 3(1) of the Water (Prevention and Pollution Control) Act, 1974 gave Central Government the power to constitute or appoint a Central Board “Central Pollution Control Board” through notification in the official gazette.

The Central Pollution Control Board constitutes following members:-

  1. A chairman having the knowledge or practical experience in dealing with cases relating to environmental protection. Only Central Government can appoint the Chairman.
  2. Maximum 5 officials to represent the central government.
  3. Maximum 5 members nominated by the central government from the members of the State Board.
  4. Maximum 3 members nominated by the central government to represent the interests of agriculture, fisheries, trade or any other interest which government want to be represented.
  5. 2 persons to represent the central government owned companies, corporations.
  6. A full-time member secretary having complete knowledge, experience and qualification of scientific management and controlling pollution.
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Functions of Central Board

Section 16 of the Act lays down the Functions to be performed by the Central Board.

  1. It advises the Central Government on all matters related to the prevention and control of water pollution.
  2. Central Board co-ordinate the activities of the State Boards and incase of disputes it resolves them.
  3. Central Board also assist and guide the State Boards in technical matters, carry out and sponsor investigations and research relating to problems, prevention, control of water pollution.
  4. Planning and organizing the training of persons engaged or engaging in future for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution is also a function of Central Board.
  5. Organizing comprehensive program on the prevention and control of water pollution through mass media.
  6. Collecting, compiling and publishing technical and statistical data on water pollution and the measures for its prevention and control and preparing manuals, codes or guides relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents.
  7. Laying down, modifying or annulling the standards for streams and wells after consultation with the concerned State Government (different standards may be laid down for the same stream or well or for different streams or wells, with regard to the quality of water, flow characteristics of the stream or well and the nature of the use of the water in such stream or well or streams or wells.)
  8. Planning a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control of water pollution;
  9. The Board may establish or recognize a laboratory or laboratories to enable the Board to perform its functions under this section efficiently including the analysis of samples of water from any stream or well or of samples of any sewage or trade effluents.

2. State Board- State Pollution Control Board

Section 4 of the Act gave state government the power appoint or constitute a state board “State Pollution Control Board” through official gazette.

The state board is composed of:-

  1. A Chairman having knowledge or experience in dealing cases related to environmental pollution.
  2. Maximum 5 members nominated by the state government to represent the government.
  3. Maximum 2 persons nominated by the state government who are members of the local authorities within the state.
  4. Maximum 3 persons nominated by the state government to represent the interest of fisheries, agriculture, trade and any other interest the government want to be represented.
  5. 2 persons from state owned, managed or controlled companies or corporations.
  6. A member secretary having knowledge, qualification, and experience in dealing with cases related to environmental pollution.

Functions of State Board

Section 17 of the Act lays down the functions to be performed by the State Board.

  1. Planning a comprehensive program for control and prevention of pollution of the wells and streams in the state.
  2. Advising the State Government on issues and matters of control and prevention of water pollution.
  3. Training persons employed or employing in future in preventing, controlling water pollution, in collaboration with the central board.
  4. Lying, modifying the effluent standards of sewage and trade effluents and for the quality of water from the discharge of effluents and to classify waters of the state.
  5. Evolving methods of utilizing the sewage and suitable trade effluents in agriculture.
  6. The state Board has the power and authority to set up laboratories to perform its function efficiently, including collecting samples of water from any stream or sewage or trade effluents.
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Section 62 empowers the State Government to supersede the State Board in case the State Board had made in default in performance or if there are circumstances in which it is necessary for the public interest.

3. Joint Board

Section 13 entitles State governments of two contiguous states to enter into an agreement to form a joint Board. Similarly, the Central Government and the government of other union territories can also enter into an agreement to make a joint board.

Composition of Joint Board

Section 14 of the act lays down the provisions for composition of Joint Board. A Joint board constitutes of-

  1. A chairman having knowledge, experience, and qualifications in matters related to prevention and controlling environmental pollution.
  2. Two members from each state government nominated by the state to represent the state in the joint board.
  3. One person nominated by each state who should be a member of the local authorities.
  4. One non-official nominated by each state to represent the interests of agriculture, fisheries, trade or any other interest of the participating state.
  5. 2 members nominated by the Central government from government owned, controlled or managed companies, corporations.
  6. A full-time member secretary nominated by the Central government having required skills, experience and qualifications in science, engineering or management aspect of controlling and preventing pollution.

Section 61 empowers Central Government to supersede the Central Board and joint boards if Central Government is of the view that Central board and joint board had made default in performance or if there are circumstances in which it is necessary for the public interest.

Prevention and Control of Water Pollution

Section 19 of the Act gives state board the power to limit the territorial jurisdiction of any order passed by the board. This means that the state board can limit the jurisdiction of areas for orders passed. It is on the discretion of state board to determine which area is to be declared water polluted and which is not, this can be done in reference to a map or making reference to a line of any watershed or the boundary of any district.

Section 20 of the Act gives state board has the power to inspect any land, conduct surveys or gauge in an area it thinks fit for controlling or preventing water pollution. State board also has the power to order any company, industry to dispose of the information pertaining to the construction, installation, and operation of its establishment. Section 21 of the Act empowers the state board or any employee on the behalf of state board to analyze any stream or well for the purpose of preventing and controlling water purpose.

The state board also has the power to stop and prevent any person from entering into any poisonous, noxious or polluting matter determined in the standards laid down in the Act. Section 25 restricts any person to setting up an industry or starting a new operation or process for treatment of sewage without approval of the state board, a notice of approval is required from the state board and only after that the person can start a new business.

If a person starts a new operation without the approval of the board, the board may impose any conditions for not obtaining notice of approval. Section 27 of the Act gives power to the state board refuse the approval for setting up a new industry or continuing an existing one. If the company has granted permission with some conditions attached, the state board can review the conditions attached before giving the notice of approval.

Meetings of the Board

According to Section 8, the board has to conduct a meeting and review all the laws and the orders implemented in every three months, the board also has to discuss the future plan of Action. An urgent meeting of the board can be held at any time if the chairman thinks that an urgent meeting is required to address a particular issue.

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Provision of appeals

Any person aggrieved by the decision of the state board, has a time of 30 days to make an appeal in the concerned appellate authority as established by the state government. The appellate authority may consist of a single person or three people as the government think necessary.

Penalties

Chapter vii of the act describes various penalties and procedures. Some are as follows:-

  1. If any person fails to comply with the orders of the board under subsection 2 and 3 of section 20 then in that case he can be punished with an imprisonment for 3 months or fine or both.
  2. If the person fails to comply with orders of the board under clause (c) of the sub-section 1 of Section 32 or under sub-section 3 of section 33 then, in that case, the person can be punished imprisonment for 6 months extending to 6 years or a fine or both.
  3. Section 42 of the act, mentions penalties for different kinds of Acts namely:
  • If any person removes, destroys or pull down any notice from the board.
  • If someone obstructs the member of the board from performing his/her duty.
  • If a person fails to produce any information as required by the member of the board for the performance of his duties. Or if he gives any false information to the members.

In all the above Acts if the person is convicted he would be punished with an imprisonment for a maximum period of 3 months or fine that may extend up to 10,000 rupees or both.

Central Water Laboratory

 Section 51 of the Act empowers the Central Government to constitute a Central Water Laboratory or specify any institute or laboratory as Central Water Laboratory, to out functions and rules of the Central Laboratory made by the Central Government after consultation with the Central Board.

State Water Laboratory

Section 52 of the act empowers the state government to constitute a State Water Laboratory or specify any institute or laboratory as State Water Laboratory, to out functions and rules of the State Laboratory made by the State Government after consultation with the State Board.

Section 55 of the Act lays down that local authorities shall help and assist the state and central board in their functioning and give all required information and provide the maps, plans and other documents necessary for the board.

Bar of Jurisdiction and Protection of action taken in good faith

Section 58 of the Act puts a bar of jurisdiction on civil court that means any civil court can’t entertain any suit filed by anyone in which appellate body had passed an order, no injunction shall be granted by the civil court or any other authority on any action taken by the appellate authority under this act.

Section 59 laid down that any action cannot be taken against the government or any member or any officer of the board on anything done by them in good faith or in pursuance of power conferred in this act.

Though this act covers various issues and problems related to the water pollution in the country and empowers Central and State government to make organizations and boards in order to prevent and control water pollution but still any provision regarding pollution of groundwater and pollution and misuse of water in agricultural purposes is missing from the act.

Author: Vikramjit Singh,
Panjab University SSG Regional Centre, Hoshiarpur

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