Policy Analysis

Critical Analysis of the Environment Protection Act, 1986

Author: Gitika Sonthalia, a student of KIIT University


The environment is can be defined as the inter-relationship among the basic elements of the earth which sustain the human species, these elements include, land, air, water, plants, microorganisms, and other living creatures. 

It is the fundamental component that provides resources to humans for their basic survival on this planet. In many countries, the tribal population and the rural population are largely dependent on these environmental resources for their survival. For the tribal people, the forests are their homes as well as they worship the natural world. In a world of growing urbanization and industrialization, it has become extremely necessary to protect and conserve the environment. 

Relevance of the Topic in the Present Context

Environmental protection has emerged as a global issue due to the unchecked felling of trees, polluting of water bodies, and increasing air pollution. There are concerns to protect the environment as the global temperature is rising which in turn leads to rising sea levels and displacement of the population from coastal areas.  

If the environment is not protected at the earliest, it can lead to the destruction of the habitat of thousands of species of flora and fauna, and displacement of the tribal population. It is also leading to global hunger and food crisis. 

Reasons for the passing of The Environment Protection Act, 1986

  • The original Constitution of India did not include any provisions for environmental preservation. However, the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution included the conservation of the environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, as a duty of citizens.
  • Several environmental movements such as the Chipko Movement (1973), and Save Silent Valley Movement (1978), etc. had started to take place frequently. This reflected the urgent need for legislation on environmental protection.  
  • Making decisions and implementing steps that will prevent, mitigate, and remediate environmental problems is critical.
  • Lack of total confidence should not be used to justify delaying appropriate environmental protection measures when there is a threat of substantial or irreversible harm to the ecological integrity.
  • Everyone bears financial and other responsibility for the effects of their actions or inaction on the environment.
  • Adaptable, responsive, fair, effective, and timely administrative, managerial, and regulatory systems are required.

The Environment Protection Act, 1986

  • It has the legal authority to coordinate and carry out national environmental programs and plans.
  • It has the power to impose environmental quality standards, notably those relating to the emission or discharge of contaminants. The EPA expressly prohibits the discharge of contaminants into the environment that exceeds regulation limits.
  • This law has the potential to limit the placement of industries.
  • The law grants the government the authority to enter, for the purpose of examination, testing equipment, and other purposes, as well as the authority to analyze samples of air, water, soil, or any other substance from any location. The Act allows anybody, licensed government personnel, to submit a complaint in court if they believe the Act’s provisions have been violated.
  • A special provision for handling dangerous substances is also in place, which is forbidden unless by legal standards.

Social changes that have been brought about through the law

  • There has been a continuous check on the emission by vehicles, discarding of old vehicles which consume comparatively more fuel as to the new the ones. 
  • Awareness has been ingrained among the citizens to conserve the resources and use them judiciously. An environmentally conscious approach to lifestyle has taken place by the people of the society. 
  • The rise in the sea level of India and its temperature could have been controlled because of this act. Consistent examination and imposition of the law by the governmental agencies have better led to its accordance with society.

Critical Analysis of the Law


  • By imposing harsh sanctions, the Act embodies a deterrent approach to environmental pollution. It also gives a fresh perspective on the topic of locus standi. It allows a regular citizen to file a complaint with the courts if the Act’s provisions are violated. 
  • Another interesting feature of this Act is that it considers both accidental and intentional pollution. Section 9 of the Act mandates remedial efforts not only against accidental pollution but also against suspected contamination, demonstrating a proactive approach.


  • The act excludes from its ambit the forests which form an integral part of the environment. It centralizes the power to the Centre, which further leads to arbitrariness and misuse of power. 
  • The definition of environmental pollutants in section 2 of the law is not comprehensive enough. For example, it does not include pollution that can be caused by heat radiation, vibration, or emission.


The Environment (Protection) Act 1986, while a welcome positive step within the direction of environment protection, still doesn’t adequately take into consideration all the mandatory aspects. It suffers from many defects and lacks comprehensiveness. Supplementing the pre-existing environmental laws, it’s obviously strengthened the general structure of environmental protection laws in India. But, it still includes ways to travel. India could be a ‘soft state’ when it involves environmental laws. this suggests that the implementation of such laws in India suffers from major setbacks and is commonly influenced by politics and corruption.

It is only then that we would be able to achieve a preserved and pollution-free environment.


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