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Summary of The Water (prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1974

The Act came into force in 1974 and is applicable to the states of Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Tripura, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Kerala, and the union territories. The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 is a comprehensive legislation that regulates agencies responsible for checking on water pollution and ambit of pollution control boards both at the centre and states.

It was adopted by the Indian parliament with the aim of prevention and control of Water Pollution in India and to restore and maintain the wholesomeness of water for the establishment. The Act also confers some powers to the established bodies such as the central board and the state board to control pollution of the water bodies.

Objectives of Water Act

  • To provide for prevention, control and abatement of water pollution
  • For maintenance or restoration of the wholesomeness of water.
  • For the establishment of pollution control water boards.
  • To assess pollution levels and punish polluters.


Section 2:

(d) Occupier- It means the person who has control over the affairs of the factory or the premises, and it includes the person in possession of the substance.

(dd) Outlet- It includes any conduit pipe or channel, open or closed, carrying sewage or trade effluent or any other holding arrangement which causes, or is likely to cause, pollution.

(e) Pollution- It 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 acquatic organisms.

(g) Sewage effluent- It means effluent from any sewerage system or sewage disposal works and includes sullage from open drains.

(j) Stream- It includes river, water course (whether flowing or for the time being dry), inland water (whether natural or artificial), sub-terranean waters, sea or tidal waters to such extent or, as the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf.

(k) Trade effluent- It includes any liquid, gaseous or solid substance which is discharged from any premises used for carrying on any [industry, operation or process, or treatment and disposal system], other than domestic sewage.

Agencies for controlling Water Pollution:

There are two agencies set up as per the Act for controlling and preventing water pollution
  1. Central Board- Central Pollution Control Board:
    • Constitution and Composition (Section 3)
      The Central Government through a notice in the official gazette has the power to assign or set up a Central Board named as Central Pollution Control Board. As far as the composition of the board is concerned the Central Board is to contain the following members:
      • A chairman who has the knowledge or has practical experience in dealing with cases relating to environmental protection. The chairman is to be appointed by the central government only
      • Not more than 5 officials to represent the central government.
      • Not more than 5 members to be nominated by the central government from the members of the State Board.
      • Maximum 3 members appointed by the central government to represent the interests of agriculture, fisheries, trade or any other interest as the government may seem fit.
      • 2 persons to represent the companies or corporations owned, controlled or by the central government.
      • A full-time member secretary having complete knowledge, experience and qualification of scientific management and prevention of environmental pollution.
    • Functions of Central Board (Section 16):
      • Advise the Central Government on any matter concerning the 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 relating to problems of water pollution and prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.
      • Plan and organize the training of persons engaged or to be engaged in for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution on such terms and conditions as the Central Board may specify.
      • Organize through mass media a comprehensive program regarding the prevention and control of water pollution.
  2. State Board- State Pollution Control Board:

    • Constitution and Composition (Section 4)
      The state government through an official notice in the Gazette has the power to assign or set up a state board named as State Pollution Control Board. The composition of the state board is as follows:
      • A Chairman who either has the knowledge or some experience in dealing with cases relating to environmental pollution.
      • Not more than 5 members appointed by the state government to represent the government.
      • Not more than 2 persons by the state government who are functioning as members of the local authorities within the state
      • Not more than 3 persons nominated by the state government to represent the interest of fisheries, agriculture, trade and any other interest as the government may seem fit.
      • 2 person from companies, corporations which are either controlled, owned or managed by the state.
      • A member secretary who has the knowledge, qualifications, and experience in dealing with cases pertaining to environmental pollution.
    • Functions of State Board (Section 17):
      • To plan a comprehensive program for preventing and controlling the pollution of the wells and streams in the state and to secure its execution.
      • To advise the State Government on matters relating to prevention and controlling water pollution.
      • Collaborating with the central board to train persons employed or to be employed in preventing, controlling water pollution.
      • To lay down, modify the effluent standards of sewage and trade effluents and for the quality of receiving water resulting from the discharge of effluents and to classify waters of the state.
      • To evolve methods of utilizing the sewage and suitable trade effluents in agriculture.
      • The state Board has the authority to set up laboratories to enable the board to perform its function efficiently, including collecting samples of water from any stream or sewage or trade effluents.

        Joint Board
        An agreement may be entered into by the state government of one state with the state government of another state to set up a joint Board. Similarly, the Central Government and the government of other union territories can also enter into an agreement for constituting a joint board.

    • Composition of Joint Board (Section 14):

      • A chairman who has the knowledge, experience, and qualifications in matters relating to prevention and controlling environmental pollution.
      • 2 members from each state government nominated by their respective state to represent the state.
      • A nonofficial appointed by each state to represent the interests of agriculture, fisheries, trade or any other interest of the participating state.
      • 2 members from the companies, corporations nominated by the central government which is owned, controlled or managed by the participating state.
      • A full-time member secretary who has the required skills, experience and qualifications in science, engineering or management aspect of controlling and preventing pollution to be appointed by the central government.

Disqualification of Members (Section 6)

  • A person who is judged insolvent or has not paid his debts or has compounded with his creditors cannot become a member.
  • A person of unsound mind or who has been convicted of such an offense which according to the central government or state government may involve moral turpitude.
  • If a person is holding any office of profit or is a salaried employee of any company, firm which is connected with the board in that situation also he can be a member of any board.
  • If a member has misused his powers by virtue of being a member or holding any position in connection with the board, then the central government or for that matter the state government may disqualify that member in the general interest of the public.

Meetings: (Section 8)

The Board shall meet at least once in three months.

Appointment of Committees: (Section 9)
It empowers the Board to constitute/appoint as many committees as it may think fit.


  • If any person fails to comply with the orders of the board under subsection 2 and 3 of Section 20 then in that case on conviction he is punishable for imprisonment for 3 months or fine or both.
  • If the person fails to comply with orders of the board under clause e of subsection 1 of Section 32 or with subsection 2 of Section 33 then, in that case, the person would be punishable with imprisonment for 6 months extending to 6 years or a fine or both.
  • Apart from the above-mentioned penalties. Section 42 mentions penalties for different kinds of Acts namely:
    • If any person removes, destroys or pull down any notice put up by the board.
    • If someone obstructs the member of the board or any other person who is Acting under the board.
    • If a person fails to produce any information as required by the member of the board for the performance of his duties.
    • Or if he gives any information to the members which he knows to be false.
Then In all the above Acts if the person is convicted he would be punishable by imprisonment for a maximum period of 3 months or fine that may extend up to 10,000 rupees or both.

Water pollution is a big issue in India and controlling and preventing it is another big issue, till now we are not able to create awareness among the people regarding the importance of conserving water bodies, this Act certainly provides various agencies that will look to prevent and control water pollution, the Act lays down various procedures for filing a complaint and the powers of each and every board.

However more needs to be done and the Act should be made more comprehensive, more participation should be given to the locals and punishments should be made stricter so that it Acts as a strong deterrence. Above all these more emphasis should be given on the implementation aspect as just by making laws you cannot control pollution, proper implementation is also required.


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