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Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently introduced in the Rajya Sabha, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024 aims to amend the existing Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • The proposed amendments seek to address various lacunae and enhance the effectiveness of the legislation in combating water pollution.

Key Features of the Bill

  • The bill proposes the appointment of specialized ‘adjudication officers’ who will be tasked with determining penalties for environmental violations.
  • The amendment introduces a provision to prescribe the manner of appointment for the Chairman of the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) by the Central Government.
  • Initially applicable to the states of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, the bill also provides provisions for other states to adopt the amendments through a resolution under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • One significant aspect of the bill is the proposed decriminalization of minor offenses under the existing Act. Instead of imposing imprisonment as a penalty for violations, the bill advocates for the imposition of fines, thereby promoting a more lenient approach towards minor infractions while still ensuring accountability.
  • The bill proposes to revise the penalties for certain offenses under the 1974 Act. For instance, the imprisonment penalty for failing to inform the State Board about water abstraction or the construction of disposal systems will be replaced with fines ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15 lakhs.
  • Another noteworthy provision of the bill is the empowerment of the Central Government to exempt certain categories of industrial plants from restrictions on new outlets and discharges.
  • The bill empowers the Central Government to issue guidelines pertaining to the grant and establishment of industries, particularly concerning their environmental impact.
About Water Pollution

Causes:

·       Water pollution is primarily caused by the discharge of untreated or inadequately treated waste from urban areas, accounting for a significant portion of India’s water pollution.

·       Industrialization and urbanization have further exacerbated the problem, leading to the emergence of large point sources of pollution.

·       Heavy metals contamination from various industrial activities also contributes significantly to water pollution, posing severe health risks to humans and ecosystems.

The detrimental effects of water pollution on human health and the environment are profound:

·       In 2019 alone, water pollution contributed to over 23 lakh premature deaths in India, making it the leading cause of premature mortality in the country.

·       Beyond its human toll, water pollution also degrades freshwater supplies and ecosystems, undermining biodiversity and ecological stability.

Measures to Control

·       To address the menace of water pollution, the Indian government has enacted various legislative measures, including the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986.

·       Additionally, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) plays a pivotal role in enforcing these laws and regulations, monitoring pollution levels, and coordinating pollution control efforts at the national level.

·       However, despite these efforts, effective implementation and enforcement remain a challenge, necessitating continuous vigilance and proactive measures.

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