- It deals with the removal of pollutants or contaminants from environmental media such as soil, groundwater, sediment, or surface water.
- Despite the absence of a concise environmental regulatory framework with respect to soil and groundwater contamination in India, progress in protecting the environment has been made through application and expansion of existing environmental laws, use of proactive concepts including the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle, and aggressive use of public interest litigation (PIL).
- Contamination is identified and evaluated subjectively based on actual impact, potential impact, or risk to natural resources (soil quality and productivity, surface water, groundwater, etc.) and human health.
Disclosure of Environmental Contamination
- Disclosure in the event of environmental contamination may be a regulatory requirement in India.
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, states that “forthwith information” is to be given to the pollution control board in cases of discharge (or apprehension of discharge) of any poisonous, noxious, or polluting matter into a stream, well, sewer, or land. The duty to disclose is the responsibility of the person who is in charge of the facility that caused the pollution.
Soil and Ground Water Monitoring
- Annual soil and groundwater monitoring reports are required to be submitted to the state pollution control boards (SPCBs) if a facility falls within the purview of the Hazardous Wastes (Management & Handling) Amendment Rules, 2003.
Environmental Case Law examples
The “right to a healthy environment” as a fundamental right of Indian citizens has emerged from PIL-based judicial action. Some of the salient principles and norms evolved by the judiciary to assess environmental liability situations include
- Absolute liability of hazardous industries;
- Polluter pays principle;
- Precautionary principle; and
- Constitutional “Right to Safe Environment.”
Polluter Pays Principle
- The principle of absolute liability in cases of environmental injury has further found judicial validation in the polluter pays principle, which has become the law of the land through Supreme Court judgments.
National Mission for remediation of legacy polluted sites
- The development objective of World Bank assisted Project on “Capacity Building for Industrial Pollution Management” is to remediate ten highly polluted sites two in Andhra Pradesh and eight in West Bengal on pilot basis, to develop a National Programme for Rehabilitation of Polluted Sites (NPRPS) as well as to build human and technical capacity in selected Pollution Control Boards
- Despite the absence of a concise regulatory framework to deal with polluted sites in India, PILs have given the judiciary enormous scope for intervening in environmental matters and passing severe penalties against companies that have been found guilty.
- However, much still needs to be done by the government in this arena. As a result, the government has recently launched special courts for environmental issues, such as the National Green Tribunal, and is soliciting comments for setting up a National Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Authority (NEAMA).
- These developments have also generated interest among insurance companies in India, who are offering coverage to industries that include damages due to environmental pollution.