After Stockholm Conference on Human Environment in June 1972, the Government of India considered appropriate to have an uniform law all over the country for the prevention and control of water pollution, through Central and State pollution Boards to be created for the purpose.
Since water is a state subject the Parliament has no jurisdiction to make legislation on water pollution. Therefore in pursuance of clause (1) of Article 252 of the constitution, most of the State legislatures passed resolutions authorizing parliament to make laws in this regard. Accordingly the parliament passed the Water Act in March-1974 and it applies to the States which passed resolution. Other State followed it subsequently.
The main provisions of this Act aim at prevention and control of water pollution as well as restoration of water quality, through the establishment of State Pollution Control Boards. Some salient features of this Act are as follows-
Subject to the provisions in the Act –
(a) No person shall knowingly cause or permit any poisonous, noxious or polluting matter determined in accordance with such standards as may be laid down by the State Board to enter (whether directly or indirectly) into any stream or well or sewer or on land;
(b) No person shall knowingly cause or permit to enter into any stream any other matter which may tend, either directly or in combination with similar matters, to impede the proper flow of the Water of the stream in a matter leading or likely to lead to a substantial aggravation of pollution due to other causes or of its consequences.
(c) No person shall, without the previous consent of the State Board:
(i) establish or take any steps to establish any industry, operation or process, or any treatment and disposal system or an extension or addition thereto which is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluent into a stream or well or sewer or on land (such discharge being hereafter in this section referred to as discharge of sewage); or
(ii) bring into use any new or altered outlets for the discharge of sewage; or
(iii) begin to make any new discharge of sewage.
An investor intending to set up an industry is required to apply in the prescribed form to the SPCB concerned to obtain the consent to establish as well as the consent to operate the industry after establishment. While granting the consent, the SPCB also stipulates specific conditions relating to the temperature, volume, composition, rate and point of discharge of emissions, effluents etc. The consent to operate an industry is granted for a specific period after which the conditions stipulated at the time of granting consent are reviewed by the SPCB. Even before the expiry of the consent period, the SPCB is authorised to carry out random checks on any industry to check if the standards prescribed are being complied with by the industry; in case the standards are not being met, the SPCB is authorised to serve a notice to the concerned person.
The owner of a defaulting industry may be required to construct a sewage/effluent treatment system. In the event of non-compliance of the standards, the SPCB may issue directions for disconnecting electricity and water supply or any other services to the industry, in extreme cases even to close down the unit.
Stringent penalties are prescribed in this Act for those who operate their industry without the valid consent or in violation of consent conditions.
Any Person aggrieved by an order of the SPCB in the above context may appeal to the Appellate Authority constituted by the concerned State Government. As per the provisions under the Water Act and the Air Act, all State Governments, are required to constitute Appellate Authorities for addressing the appeals received against SPCB. While some State Governments have separate Appellate Authorities under the two Acts, a single Appellate Authority may also exist in other states.