Environmental Legislations in the mid 80's
The Tiwari Committee in the 80’s which was set up for recommending legislative measures and administrative machinery to strengthen the existing arrangements towards environmental protection, recommended establishing the Department of Environment (DOE) for dealing with various aspects of environment and ecology. The Department of Environment, created in 1980, performed an oversight role for the central government. DOE did environmental appraisals of development projects, monitored air and water quality, established an environmental information system, promoted research, and coordinated activities between federal, state and local governments. However DOE was criticized, by environmental groups who recognized that with its small political and financial base the agency was weak and symbolic in nature. Environmentalists also recognized that DOE would essentially serve as an advisory body with few enforcement powers.
The government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi recognized these deficiencies as well, and shortly after his administration began in 1985 created the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). MoEF was more comprehensive and institutionalized, and had a Union Minister and Minister of State, two political positions answering directly to the Prime Minister. The agency was comprised of 18 divisions, and two independent units, the Ganga Project Directorate and the National Mission on Wastelands Development. It continued the same functions that DOE originally had, such as monitoring and enforcement, conducting environmental assessments and surveys, but also did promotional work about the environment.
The MoEF’s implementation of a monitoring system was also aggressive. In 1977, India had 18 monitoring stations for water. By 1992, there were 480 water stations, including 51 from the Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS). In 1984, the country had 28 air monitoring stations in seven cities and by 1994, the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Program had 290 stations in 99 cities.
The 80’s witnessed the continuing decline in the quality of the environment, together with the Bhopal gas tragedy that had killed more than 2500 people. This spurred the Central Government to adopt stronger environmental policies, to enact fresh legislation and to create, reorganize and expand administrative agencies. In 1981, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was passed, and in 1986 as fallout of the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Parliament passed the Environment Protection Act (1986), this was an “umbrella” legislation designed to provide a framework for Central Government coordination of the activities of various central and state authorities established under previous laws, such as the Water Act and Air Act. It was also an “enabling” law, which articulated the essential legislative policy on bureaucrats , to frame necessary rules and regulations. The Act served to back a vast body of subordinate environmental legislation in India. During the intervening years, address specific issues act such as , The Atomic Energy Act and The Wild Life Protection Act, were passed. The Atomic Energy Act governs the regulation of nuclear energy and radioactive substances. Under this Act the Central Government is required to prevent radiation hazards, guarantee public safety , safety of workers handling radioactive substances, and ensure the disposal of radioactive wastes. The Wild Life Protection Act Provided a statutory framework for protecting wild animals, plants and their habitats. The Act adopts a two –pronged conservation strategy: protecting specific endangered species regardless of location, and protecting all species in designated areas called sanctuaries and national parks.
In December 1988 the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest constituted a committee to recommend a framework and an action plan for the conservation of resources. Based on the recommendations of the committee, the Government of India adopted a National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development (NCS). The preamble to the NCS adopts the policy of ‘Sustainable development’ and declares the government’s commitment to re-orient policies and action ‘in unison with the environmental perspective’.