Laws provide a framework for regulating use of the environment. Law is crucial for environmental management in a number of ways aiding:
a) regulation of resource use;
b) protection of the environment and biodiversity;
c) mediation, conflict, resolution and conciliation; and
d) formulation of stable, unambiguous undertakings and agreements.
Environmental law is a complex and interlocking body of treaties, conventions, statutes, regulations, and common law that operates to regulate the interaction of humanity and the natural environment, toward the purpose of reducing the impacts of human activity. The topic may be divided into two major subjects:
(1) pollution control and remediation,
(2) resource conservation and management.
Laws dealing with pollution are often media-limited - i.e., pertain only to a single environmental medium, such as air, water (whether surface water, groundwater or oceans), soil, etc. - and control both emissions of pollutants into the medium, as well as liability for exceeding permitted emissions and responsibility for cleanup.
In the Constitution of India it is clearly stated that it is the duty of the state to ‘protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country’. It imposes a duty on every citizen ‘to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife’. Reference to the environment has also been made in the Directive Principles of State Policy as well as the Fundamental Rights. The Department of Environment was established in India in 1980 to ensure a healthy environment for the country. This later became the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1985.
The constitutional provisions are backed by a number of laws – acts, rules, and notifications. The EPA (Environment Protection Act), 1986 came into force soon after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and is considered an umbrella legislation as it fills many gaps in the...