IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


20th February, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: https://southernforests.org/2022/10/18/half-a-century-since-the-clean-water-act-amendments-the-success-story-of-forestry-best-management-practices-in-the-southeast/

Context: The Indian government has recently passed amendments to the Water Act, 1974, with the aim of streamlining processes, decriminalizing minor offences, and centralizing control over state pollution control boards (SPCBs).


  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, has been amended through the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act, 2024, marking a significant overhaul of the legislation originally enacted 50 years ago.
  • The amendments come in response to criticisms of the Water Act's perceived weaknesses and the need for reform. The legislative changes aim to address these concerns and enhance the effectiveness of water pollution prevention and control measures in the country.

Key Highlights of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Act 2024



Applicability of the Amendment

Initially, the amendment will apply to Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and the union territories. Other states have the option to extend its applicability by passing resolutions.

Consent Exemptions for Industries

Prior consent from State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) is required for industries discharging sewage.

The amendment allows the central government, in consultation with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), to exempt certain industries from this consent requirement.

Chairman of State Board

The amendment grants the central government the authority to prescribe the nomination process, terms, and conditions of service for the chairman of an SPCB.

Discharge of Polluting Matter

SPCB can issue directions to restrain activities causing the discharge of noxious matter.

The amendment removes imprisonment for violations, imposing penalties between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15 lakh instead.

Penalty for Other Offenses

The amendment replaces imprisonment for offences with penalties ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15 lakh.

Failure to pay penalties may result in imprisonment of up to three years or a fine up to twice the penalty amount.

Adjudicating Officer

The central government can appoint adjudication officers for penalty determination.

Appeals can be made to the National Green Tribunal, depositing 10% of the imposed penalty.

Cognizance of Offences

The amendment expands the entities that can initiate legal proceedings to include the adjudicating officer, not just the CPCB or SPCB.

Offences by Government Departments

Heads of departments are deemed guilty if government departments violate the Act.

Penalties for departmental violations include an amount equal to one month's basic salary for the department head.

Key Difference between the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill 2024


Original Act (1974)

Amendment Bill (2024)



Applies to all states and UTs

Initially applied to Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and UTs. Other states can opt in.

Limited initial application, the potential for wider reach.

Consent for Industries

Mandatory for SPCB to establish industries discharging sewage

Central government can exempt certain categories from consent. Central guidelines for consent processes.

Reduced burden for some industries, potential for lax oversight.

Chairman of SPCB

Nominated by state government

Central government prescribes nomination and service terms.

Increased central control over state boards.

Discharge of Pollutants

Imprisonment for violating standards

Fine between Rs 10,000-15 lakh.

Decriminalization, potentially weaker enforcement.

Other Offences

Imprisonment or fine up to Rs 10,000

Fine between Rs 10,000-15 lakh.

Decriminalization for most offences.

Penalty Determination

By courts

By central government appointed officers.

Centralization of penalty decisions.

Offence Cognizance

By courts on complaint from CPCB, SPCB, or notified person

Also on complaint from the adjudicating officer.

Broader scope for initiating legal action.

Government Offences

Head of department liable with proof of due diligence

Penalty equal to 1 month's salary for head of department.

Stricter accountability for government departments.


  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024 introduces significant changes aimed at streamlining processes and reducing the burden on industries. However, concerns exist about the potential weakening of environmental protection due to decriminalization, increased central control, and exemptions for certain industries. The effectiveness of the amendments in achieving a balance between economic development and environmental sustainability remains to be seen.


Q. India is experiencing rapid groundwater depletion, with some regions overdrawing aquifers at alarming rates. What are the long-term consequences of this trend? How can India promote sustainable groundwater management practices and incentivize recharge programs? Should stricter regulations or market-based mechanisms be implemented?

Answer Structure:

Briefly explain the current situation of groundwater depletion in India, citing some relevant facts and figures. Mention the main causes and drivers of this trend, such as population growth, urbanization, climate change, agricultural demand, etc. Highlight the significance and urgency of addressing this issue for India's water security, food security, and environmental sustainability.

Discuss the long-term consequences of groundwater depletion in India, covering the following aspects:

How will groundwater depletion affect the livelihoods, health, and well-being of millions of people who depend on it for domestic, agricultural, and industrial use? What are the potential risks of conflicts and disputes over water resources among different users and regions?

How will groundwater depletion impact the productivity and profitability of various sectors of the economy, especially agriculture, which accounts for about 80% of groundwater use in India? What are the direct and indirect costs of groundwater depletion for the national and state budgets, as well as for individual households and farmers?

How will groundwater depletion affect the quality and quantity of surface water resources, such as rivers, lakes, wetlands, etc.? What are the implications of groundwater depletion for the ecological balance and biodiversity of various ecosystems?

Summarize the main points and arguments made in the body. Provide some recommendations on how India can promote sustainable groundwater management practices and incentivize recharge programs. Discuss the pros and cons of different policy options, such as stricter regulations or market-based mechanisms. Emphasize the need for a holistic, participatory, and adaptive approach that involves multiple stakeholders and considers local contexts and conditions.