This Act has been brought into force from November, 1986. Its salient features are:
(a) Conferring powers on the Central Government to:
(i) Take all necessary measures for protecting quality of environment,
(ii) Co-ordinate actions of States, officers and other authorities under this Act,
(iii) Plan and execute a nationwide programme for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution,
(iv) Lay down standards for discharge of environmental pollutants,
(v) Empower any person to enter, inspect, take samples and test,
(vi) Establish or recognise environmental laboratories,
(vii) Appoint or recognise government analysts, (viii) lay down standards for quality of environment,
(ix) Restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes may not be carried out subject to certain safeguards,
(x) Lay down safeguards for prevention of accidents and take remedial measures in case of such accidents,
(xi) Lay down procedures and safeguards for handling hazardous substances,
(xii) Constitute an authority for exercising powers,
(xiii) Issue directions to any person, officer or authority including the power to direct closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation or process,
(xiv) Require any person, officer or authority to furnish any prescribed information and
(xv) Delegate powers to any officer of a state or authority;
(b) It confers powers on persons to complain to courts regarding any violation of the provisions of the Act, after a notice of 60 days to the prescribed authorities;
(c) The Act makes it obligatory for the person in charge of a place to inform the prescribed authorities regarding any accidental discharge of any pollutant in excess of prescribed standards.
The concerned authorities, on receipt of such information, shall take remedial measures to prevent or mitigate pollution caused by such accidents and expenses incurred by the authorities in respect of remedial measures are recoverable with interest from the polluter;
(d) It prescribes stringent penalties for violation of the provisions of the Act; and
(e) Jurisdiction of civil courts is barred under the Act.
A comprehensive Environment (Protection) Act came into being in 1986 to remedy the lacunae noticed in the earlier laws and to serve as a single legislation on the subject.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 were amended to bring their provisions at par with those of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and to give more powers to the implementing agencies.