The Water Act, 1974

Water is an essential element of human living. It is very useful only when it is unpolluted. It is in short supply since 97% of world’s water constitutes seawater, which is unfit for consumption. Polluted or contaminated water is injurious to health. In order to prevent and control the pollution of water, the Indian Parliament passed the Water Act, 1974. The main purpose of the Water Act, as enshrined in its preamble is:

  • To prevent and control the pollution of water;
  • To maintain and restore the wholesomeness of water;
  • The establishment of Boards for prevention and control of water pollution; and
  • To confer on such Boards, powers to prevent and control water pollution and to maintain or restore the wholesomeness of water.

Salient Features of the Water Act:

The Water Act comprises of 64 sections divided into 8 Chapters. Chapter-I deals with Preliminary aspects. Chapter-II deals with Central and State Boards for Prevention and Control of Water pollution. Chapter-Ill deals with Joint Boards. Chapter-IV contains powers and Functions of Boards. Chapter-V deals with Prevention and Control of Water Pollution. Chapter-VI contains the provisions relating to Funds, Accounts and Audit. Chapter-VII lays down Penalties and Procedure. Chapter-VIII contains the Miscellaneous Provisions.

Section-I speaks about the short title, application and commencement of the Water Act. Section 2 defines: (a) Board, (b) Central Board, (c) Member, (d) Occupier, (e) Pollution, (g) Sewage effluent, (h) State Board, (i) State Govt., (k) Trade effluent etc.

(d) Occupier: in relation to any factory or premises means the person who has control over the affairs of the factory or the premises and includes, in relation to any substance; the person in possession of the substance.

(e) Pollution: means such contamination of water or such alteration of the physical, chemical or biological properties of water or such discharge of any sewage or trade effluent or of any other liquid, gaseous or solid substance into water whether directly or indirectly as may, or is likely to create a nuisance or render such water harmful or injurious to public health or safety or to domestic, commercial, industrial, agricultural or other legitimate uses, or to the life and health of animals or plants or of aquatic organisms.

g) Sewage effluent: means effluent from any sewerage system or sewing disposal works and includes sullage from open drains.

Boards for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution:

Chapter-II of the Water Act containing Sections 3 to 12 deals with the constitution of the Central and State Water Pollution Boards, Service Conditions of the members, the constitution of various committees etc.

Central Pollution Control Board: Constitution and functions

Constitution or the Central Pollution Board:

Section 3 of the Water Act, provides for the constitution of Central Board. The Central Govt. within 6 months from the commencement of the Water Act, by notification in Official Gazette, may appoint, constitute a Board called as the Central Pollution Control Board in the States of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tripura, West Bengal and in the Union Territories. It exercises such powers and functions as provided for under the Water Act (Sec. 3(1)).

According to Sec. 3(2), the Central Board shall consist of:

  1. A full-time Chairperson, an expert in environmental matters, nominated by the Central Government;
  2. Such number of officials not exceeding five to be nominated by the Central Govt. to represent the Central Govt.;
  3. Not more than five members, nominated by the Central Govt. from amongst the members of the State Boards, of whom not exceeding two from amongst the members representing local authorities;
  4. Not exceeding three members, nominated by the Central Govt. to represent the interests of agriculture, fishery or industry or trade or any Other interest;
  5. Two persons to represent companies or corporations, owned, controlled or managed by the Central Govt. (to be nominated by the Central Govt.);
  6. A full-time member-secretary, possessing qualifications, knowledge and experience of scientific engineering or management aspects as pollution control to be appointed by the Central Govt.

The Central Board shall be a body corporate by the same name, having perpetual succession and a common seal with power subject to the provisions of the Water Act.

Powers and Functions of Central Board:

The main function of the Central Board shall be to promote cleanliness of streams and wells in the State. According to Sec.16 (1), the Central Board may perform all or any one of the following functions:-

  • To advise the Central Govt. on any matter, concerning prevention and control of water pollution;
  • Coordinate the activities of the State Boards and resolve disputes among them;
  • Provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Boards, carry out and sponsor investigations and research for prevention and control of water pollution;
  • Plan and organise the training of persons engaged in programmes for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution;
  • Organise through mass media a comprehensive programme for prevention and control of water pollution;
  • Perform such of the functions of any State Board as may be specified in an order made under Sec. 18(2);
  • To collect statistical data relating to water pollution and to take necessary steps for its effective prevention;
  • Lay down, modify or annul in consultation with the State concerned the standards for a stream or well;
  • Plan and cause to be executed, a nationwide programme for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution;
  • Perform such other functions as may be prescribed (Sec. 16(2)).

In addition to the above, the Board may also establish or recognise laboratories for analysis of samples of water from any stream or well (Sec. 16(3)).

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