Feb 21, 2022

Goa protests: How does Indian law protect the environment?

Thousands of Goans gathered at Chandor village in South Goa to protest against the State government’s move to expand the railway network between Margao and Sanvordem. There are three major infrastructure projects that threaten the forests in and around the regions of Mollem National Park and Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary. Residents have claimed that the expansion will destroy Goa’s ecological biodiversity.

In this context, let us look at the major environmental laws involved:

Environment Protection Act, 1986

This law provides for the protection and improvement of the environment. Under this law, the Central government has the power to take all necessary steps to prevent and control environmental pollution. The government can also impose restrictions on industrial operations in certain areas. If permitted, industries may have to put in certain safeguards while carrying out industrial activities in an area.

Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972

This law provides for the protection of wild animals, birds, and plants. Under the Wildlife Protection law, people are not allowed to destroy, exploit, or remove any wild life (including forest produce) from a national park or sanctuary.

Without official permission, no person can destroy, damage or divert the habitat of any wild animal or affect the flow of water into or outside the national park/sanctuary. To do any of these activities, the person should first get a permit from the Chief Wildlife Warden. The Warden will grant the permit only if the State government is convinced that the removal of wildlife or the change in water flow is necessary for the improvement and better management of wildlife.

Indian Forest Act, 1927

This law governs the law relating to forests and forest produce. Under this Act, State governments have the power to declare any forest-land or waste-land as a ‘reserved forest’, if that land is the property of the government. In a ‘reserved forest’, no right can be acquired over that forest land without the permission of the government, or a person to whom the government has granted a specific right in the forest.

Powers and duties with regard to the environment

The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, 1950 divides responsibilities between the Central and State governments with respect to various subjects. ‘Environment’ is not specifically listed as a subject in the Schedule. However, forests, and the protection of wild animals and birds falls under the Concurrent List, which means that both Central and State governments have the power to govern these areas.

For example, there are environmental legislations that are specific to Goa, like the Goa Biological Diversity Rules, 2017. You can find the full list here.