Explained: Functioning of CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board)

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There are entities, apart from banks and financial institutes that help in boosting the pace of economic growth of a country which often go unnoticed by the masses. It is important to note that maintaining sustainability of the environment is also a necessary step towards environment protection. The Central Pollution Control Board is one such organization which ensures that the environment is preserved and protected so as to enable the current and the future generations to benefit out of it.

Along with massive growth in the industrial sector of India, the problem of environment degradation has also seen a drastic increase in its pace. It is important to address this issue at the earliest because achieving economic growth and development will be even tougher if nature starts to revolt. Although the Government of India had been framing various laws and policies concerning environment protection but the key to success has always been the implementation aspect of the same. The Central Pollution Control Board was established, bearing in mind, the urgent necessity of effective implementation and routine follow ups of the matters involving environment degradation.

It is pertinent to note that this statutory organization, recently, surmounted the headlines due to the findings compiled by it, which asserted 128 sites in India to be contaminated with toxic substances. The state of West Bengal tops the list with 27 sites, followed by Odisha with 23 sites and it is horrifying to know that combining the number of previously listed sites and the recent additions to the same, the total number of contaminated sites sum up to 324. The Central Pollution Control Board, in its report, has laid down Oil Contamination to be one of the major factors that has led to this contamination. It is important to note that it is due to these reports that steps towards reparation for the damage caused can be undertaken.

In the light of increasing importance of environment protection, any study conducted by the CPCB should be taken into due consideration. In depth study of the work ethics and structure of the organization is vital in order to ascertain the reasons behind the veracity of their study along with the consequential reports that are disseminated to the masses.

Background of the organization

Article 252 of the Constitution of India lays down the power of the constitution to legislate for two or more states by consent and adoption of such legislation by any other state. It is due to this power that the Pollution control boards were established at both the Centre and the State levels. It is pertinent to note that the Central Pollution Control Board was established as a part of Section 3 of The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, ratified under Article 252 of the Constitution of India. Section 3 of the Water Prevention Act lays down that the Central Government shall constitute a Board operating at the Centre which will be known as Central Pollution Control Board.

CPCB officially became operative on 22nd of September, 1974. One must know that the Central Pollution Control Board is essentially an amalgamation of the Water and the Air pollution prevention Acts respectively. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 was majorly established to aid in prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. Considering that this organization was a consequence of the joint efforts of two Pollution control Acts, it is important to note that it was established explicitly with the aim of encouraging clean streams and other water bodies along with an effort to curb air pollution. Thus, it can be contended that the Central Pollution Control Board is a multi- disciplinary organization that operates under the Ministry of Environment and Forest, particularly advising for the issue concerning abatement of pollution in the country.

Powers & functions of the board

It is interesting to note that Sections 16, 17 and 18 of the Water (Prevention & Control) Act, 1974 lays down the functions to be performed by and powers conferred on the Central Pollution Control Board respectively. As per Section 16 of the Act, the primary function of the board will be promoting cleanliness of streams and wells in different States. Along with this, the Board shall perform several other functions aiming towards environment sustainability. As per the same section, the board shall:

  • Advice the central government on issues pertaining to the issue of water pollution.
  • Attempt to develop coordination among the state pollution boards thereby solving any disputes that might arise amongst them.
  • Provide the State boards with any sort of technical assistance and conduct frequent investigations ensuring effective prevention and abatement of pollution within the states.
  • Arrange for appropriate training sessions for the employees engaged in the pollution control programmes to ensure proper implementation by the State pollution control boards.
  • Strive to arrange programmes via mass media in order to spread awareness regarding the issue of pollution amongst the masses.

Furthermore, Sections 18 to 33 of The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 lays down the powers conferred on the State and the central pollution boards in the areas pertaining to the issue of Water pollution. As per these sections, CPCB is entitled to:

  • Give directions to the State board in writing pertaining to matters that are a part of the functions of the board under this act.
  • Perform the functions of the State boards when directed by the central government in circumstances where the State board has failed to carry out their functions as directed by the central government.
  • Analyze the report on any sewage samples and the trade effluent compiled by the laboratory established by the CPCB.
  • Monitor all the functions performed by the State pollution boards laid down under chapter V of the Act.

The State Pollution control Board performs a plethora of functions in pursuit of environment protection and it is pertinent to note that the CPCB often performs on behalf of the state board if the need arises. Accordingly, the CPCB is conferred with all those powers that the State boards have, apart from the ones particularly mentioned.

Achievements and recognitions

The Central Pollution Control Board has always been active in curbing instances of environment degradation since its very inception. It has keenly participated in introducing measures to reduce pollution in the country. It is interesting to note that as of 2015, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards consisted of 12 pollutants, and three dangerous pollutants were successfully monitored by CPCB across 612 particular locations in 254 cities or towns. Moreover, CPCB has effectively been able to classify industries into ‘red’, ‘orange’, ‘green’ and ‘white’ categories based on their potential of causing pollution and resource consumption. The classification helped the board in granting consent to carrying of operations along with choosing sites for the same. This eventually led to reduction in pollution thereby causing minimal disturbances to the surrounding inhabitants.

Furthermore, it has also undertaken steps to enhance green cover. Two major schemes under this initiative namely, Nagar Vana Udyan Yojana and School Nursery Yojana were launched with the aim of establishing at least one forest in each city and collaborating students with nature respectively. It should be understood that CPCB has carried out various operations while pursuing the ultimate objective of achieving a sustainable environment. Over a period of years, it has been able to adopt different ways of operating within the country by either studying foreign manners of environment protection or by experimenting new methods within the geographical boundaries of India.


The Government of India is striving to achieve economic growth so as to enable the country to face the cut throat competition imposed by the foreign powers. Ensuring environment protection is an important step towards growth of economy as a whole. One must bear in mind that Central Pollution Control Board has operated as supporting machinery behind India’s successful battle with environment degradation issues. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has been able to secure many projects pertaining to environment conservation due to its past records of successful implementation of several initiatives. CPCB has been closely associated with all these initiatives by the ministry.

CPCB is merely an organization that gains its existence from the employees working for it. In order to ensure effective implementation on part of the organization, it is important that the Government of India extends recognitions to the employees so as to boost their morale thereby resulting in constructive operations within the organization.

Author: Meghna Bhatt  from NMIMS School of Law, Mumbai.

Editor: Ismat Hena from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.

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