Air pollution is one of the world’s largest health and environmental problems. It consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants. It also damages buildings. Pollutants in the air take many forms. They can be gases, solid particles, or liquid droplets.
Our Indian Constitution also provide us information about Protection of Environment and Public Health, the Directive Principles of States Policy are committed to Protect and Improvement of the Environment.
In India, there has been a regular upgrading of the law regarding the protection and improvement of the environment. It is very difficult to change the law when environment changes, both law and environment are dynamic in nature. The judiciary in India has created a new “environmental jurisprudence.
Some of the Laws prior to the independence of India: The Oriental Gas Company Act, 1857, Indian Penal Code, 1860, Indian Explosive Act, 1884, The Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act, 1905, Indian Petroleum Act, 1934.
Sources of Air Pollution
Most air pollution is created by people, taking the form of emissions from factories, cars, planes, or aerosol cans. Second-hand cigarette smoke is also considered air pollution. Some other types of air pollution, such as smoke from wildfires or ash from volcanoes, occurs naturally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some of the worlds most polluted cities are Karachi, Pakistan; New Delhi, India; Beijing, China; Lima, Peru; and Cairo, Egypt.
Steps Taken By Authorities To Curb Rising Air Pollution Levels
The Indian Government make compulsory Pollution Under Control (PUC) certification of Petrol Driven Vehicles which tests for Carbon Mono-oxides, and Hydrocarbons.
The Delhi Government also makes many protocols for reducing Air Pollution in Delhi like, Introducing of Odd-Even Policy in Vehicles which means odd days if the vehicle’s license plate ends in an odd number, and even days if it ends in an even number. Delhi Metro also announces more trips in Delhi and Public Transport also increase buses for reducing the use of personal vehicles.
Air (Prevention and Control of Air Pollution) Act 1981
Sweden suggested United Nation for the global conference for the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution, in which India participated and it takes appropriate steps for the preservation of the natural resources of the Earth which, among other things, include the preservation of the quality of air pollution; The objective of this Act is to provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution, for the establishment, with a view to carrying out the preceding purposes.
The Supreme Court of India has given many judgments on Preventing and Controlling of Air Pollution Section 2 defines ‘Air Pollutant’ as any solid, liquid or gaseous substance that may be harming or injuring the environment, humans, other living creatures, plants or even property. The judiciary, to fulfill its constitutional obligations was and is always prepared to issue appropriate orders, directions and writs against those persons who cause environmental pollution and ecological imbalance.. This case provoked the consciousness of the judiciary to a problem which had not attracted much attention earlier. The Supreme Court responded with equal anxiety and raised the issue to come within the mandate of the Constitution.
Many acts are also passed by the Judiciary for preventing of the air pollution, like Public Air Nuisance and Judiciary, Control of Industrial Pollution, Exploitation of Natural Resources, Maintenance of Ecological Balance and Diversity, these all acts/ judgments given by the Supreme Court for Controlling and Preventing of Air Pollution.
Steps to be taken by Central Board
The main function of the Central Board is to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or prevent the air pollution of the country. Central Government have to draft Plans and cause to be executed a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution; It also Co-ordinate with the activity of State and resolve disputes among them; Provide technical assistance and guidance to the state boards, carry out and sponsor investigations and research relating to problems of air pollution. Organize through mass media a comprehensive programme regarding the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution. The Central Board may establish or recognize a laboratory to enable the Central Board to perform its functions under this section efficiently.
Steps to be taken by State Board
State board have to inspect air pollution control areas at such intervals as it may think necessary, assess the quality of air therein and take steps for the prevention of air pollution in such areas.
Scenario of Air Pollution after Independence: The Factories Act,1948
It is the first act after independence indirectly focusing on Air Pollution, it focuses on proper ventilation, dust, fumes, and humidity related health of the labor, which describes in Section 13,14 and 15.
Air Pollution Act 1987
Under the Air Pollution Act 1987, local authorities have the primary responsibility for monitoring air quality, including the nature, extent and effects of emissions. Local authorities are also given powers under the Act to take measures to prevent or limit air pollution in their area. Owners of certain industrial plants must have an air pollution licence from the local authority or the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in order to run industries that will be responsible for emissions.
Bhopal Disaster Case
On December 3, 1984, the worst industrial accident in history occurred. Around 40 tons of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas mixed with other poisonous gasses from a chemical plant which is owned and operated by Union Carbide (India) Limited. At least 3,800 people were killed and several were injured in this incident. The Union Carbide Corporation paid a sum of U.S. Dollars 470 million for full settlement of all claims, rights and liabilities related to and arising out of the Bhopal Gas disaster to the Union of India. The principle of absolute liability was used by the Supreme Court made the Union Carbide Corporation pay compensation.
MC Mehta (Taj Mahal Matter) V. Union of India
Huge numbers of industries were around Taj Mahal. The main responsible factors for polluting the ambient air around Taj Mahal are industrial/refinery emissions, brick-kilns, vehicular traffic and generator-sets. The petition states that the color of marble has converted from whitish to yellowish and blackish. Taj Mahal, which is one of the world heritage sites as declared by UNESCO, has been source of revenue to the country because it has capacity to attract tourist throughout the world. The court was of the view that The Taj Mahal is a masterpiece and has international reputation. It is also an important source of revenue to the country because of the huge tourist attraction it commanded. So, there won’t be compromise regarding its beauty. The industries were supposed to relocate far from Taj Mahal.
The development should be done in such a way that it will last for a long time and the future generation won’t get into problems. But the situation is contrary in the case of India. The pace of development is very fast. But it is failing to maintain clean air. There are acts, case laws, regulatory bodies and so on but still the situation of air is getting worse and worse. Lots of people are dying due to respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Especially in the city, where there is large population and where people from different rural parts of India come to seek facilities, are highly polluted. The officials had made planned to establish industrial area far from human residence, world heritage sites and cities then there won’t be problem. Due to lack of plan, at first the industry pollutes the environment, latter the case is filed and the court deliver verdict to relocate the industries in the case like MC Mehta V Union of India.
Author: Ritik Agrawal
Institute of Law, Jiwaji University