Pollution Control Board

All About The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981

calendar24 Jun, 2024
timeReading Time: 6 Minutes
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution)

The Air pollution is not just an environmental crisis. It’s a public health issue, from smog-filled cities to respiratory diseases. The consequences of polluted air are severe and far-reaching. In order to fight against this, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 was enacted in 1981. This act was later amended in 1987.

The act serves as a comprehensive legislative framework for the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution. The decision leading to the formation of this act was taken from the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm in June 1972, in which India also participated in order to amend all the necessary steps to protect the natural resources, which includes prevention of air pollution and preservation of quality air.

Aim of The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 is designed to achieve several critical objectives, which include the measures to be taken by industries and governments to prevent and limit the emission of pollutants into the air to safeguard the environment and the health of people that may be affected by this undesired outcome.

It imposes the creation of regulatory Boards whose duties are to oversee and ensure the execution of measures regarding air pollution.

Such Boards are vested with certain powers and responsibilities that facilitate their ability to address and control emissions and air pollution adequately. Also, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 provides guidelines that have to be adhered to so as to keep the quality of air, which is a part of nature, free from contamination by pollution.

Definition of Air Pollution

There are certain definitions related to Air Pollution that one must know. A few of the prominent ones are mentioned below-

Air Pollutant

Any solid liquid or gaseous substance, including noise, present in the atmosphere at a concentration that is harmful to humans or any other living creatures, including plants, animals, or even property or environment, can be defined as an air pollutant.

Air Pollution

The presence of pollutants in the air can be referred to as air pollution. Common air pollutants include Smoke, ash, noise, smog, carbon monoxide, etc.

CPCB: The Backbone of Air Quality Management

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which was created under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974, is also responsible under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981, for combating air pollution.

The Act builds upon the existing framework and institutional capabilities of the CPCB instead of creating a new entity, leading to better results than a complete overhaul of the water pollution management system, which would be necessary if the CPCB was established afresh. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981Act capitalizes on the work done by the CPCB to ensure that the management of both water and air pollution is efficient.

The expansion of tasks of CPCB includes providing recommendations to the Central Government in regard to air quality enhancement, implementing the nationwide programs, synchronizing the activities with the state boards, and offering technical support as well as in research and investigation of the air pollution.

The CPCB also undertakes the initiation of training sessions and engages in mass mobilization on issues of air pollution prevention. Furthermore, the Board is duty-bound to compile and disseminate technical & Statistical data on air pollution, formulation of air quality standards & probably establishment of laboratories to aid this body in its function.

State Pollution Control Boards

The State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) were established under the Water Act and have gained much importance in this field along with controlling air pollution. These Boards are required to establish appropriate programs for the control of air pollution, provide information to state governments, and gather and disseminate air pollution data.

They can work with CPCB on training exercises and mass awareness campaigns, undertake inspections of the industrial plants, and implement and monitor emission limits for pollutants from various sources.

The SPCBs are mandated to conduct meetings at least four times per year according to the guidelines under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules, 1982, though they can convene meetings for other matters as needed. Their functions also encompass inspecting air pollution control areas, evaluating the quality of air, and informing whether an area is suitable for industrialization to avoid pollution. Business owners who are looking to set up a plant or start any industrial project need to get NOC from the SPCB.

Empowering State Governments

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 empowers State Governments to prescribe air pollution control areas within the State the prohibited use of fuels and the mandatory use of specified appliances during the operation of industries within such areas.

These measures are important in containing pollution at local levels and are an example of the broad but all-inclusive approach of The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

State governments can also take samples of air or emissions to analyze the levels of pollution in the air and popularize the high standards set.

This provision helps the local authorities identify and stop the emission of pollutants into the environment, hence strengthening the Act’s operation on a national and regional level.

Challenges in the Enforcement of the Act

The significant challenges in the pathway of implementation and enforcement of The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 are mentioned below-

1. Issues related to Implementation: The first and rather critical challenge faced by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, is that of implementation, particularly across the states and the Union Territories. Resource availability and the political will of the various states cause enforcement levels to exhibit inconsistencies.

 2. Monitoring and Data Collection: Sufficient monitoring structures and data collection instruments are vital for evaluating the pollutants in the atmosphere and implementing emission requirements. Lack of funding, inadequate infrastructure, and technology in certain locations affect the precise detection of pollution.

 3. Industrial Compliance: Mandatory compliance of industries with emission standards and investments in pollution control technologies remains a perpetual issue. Sometimes, economic justification and enforcement issues result in non-compliance.

4. Public Awareness and Participation: As for awareness, the population has continually been informed about the health effects of air pollution; however, mobilizing people to participate in pollution prevention measures and compliance reporting activities is challenging.

Penalties and Offences

The penalties and offences pertaining to the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 are depicted below-

  • Causing air pollution beyond prescribed limits

Industries may not emit air pollutants beyond what is acceptable as stipulated by the State Pollution Control Board. When an industry goes beyond these limits, the person in charge is supposed to promptly notify the board and reimburse the cost of any corrective measures taken by the authorities to reduce the impact of these emissions, as prescribed by the polluter pays principle.

The State Pollution Control Board can also approach the Court (which shall not be inferior to a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class) to Prevent the offender from causing further emissions. Also, the polluter bears the responsibility to finance the expenses of departments in charge of containing the pollution.

  • Setting up and Operating Industrial Plants without proper permission

Failure to obtain the required license from the State Pollution Control Board to run an industrial plant combined with an emission level beyond the prescribed limits, or a lack of adequate pollution control equipment is a criminal offense.

The punishment includes imprisonment extending from one and a half to six years and a fine. If it is a repeat offence, the new penalty is an additional fine of up to Rs. 5000 per day of violation, and where the violation has been committed for more than one year, the penalty ranges from two to seven years imprisonment with a fine.

  • Use of Vehicles in Unsafe Conditions

It is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle in a public area that emits excessive noise and Violates air and noise pollution standards. The penalty involves a fine of Rs 1000 for the first time and Rs 2000 in cases of repeat violations.

  • Violation of PUC (pollution under control) Certificate Requirements

Users of motor vehicles must carry a valid PUC certificate issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The penalty for not carrying a valid PUC certificate is a fine of Rs.10,000.


The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1981 is one of the starting milestones in the legal provisions in India against air pollution. The Act was passed on 29th March 1981 in reaction to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm with the objectives of protecting the health of the public and the environment against the harm that results from air pollution.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 highlights the need for cooperation from the industries, governmental organizations, and the community in the preservation of air quality to safeguard the well-being of all citizens. It, therefore, underscores the need to remain vigilant and enforce the provisions of the Act besides encouraging the public to embrace the provisions of the Act in order to overcome these challenges and realize the goals of the Act of a cleaner and healthier environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. When did The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 come into effect?

    The Act was first enacted in 1981 and underwent significant amendments in 1987 to strengthen its provisions and effectiveness.

  2. What's the main purpose of this Act?

    At its core, the Act aims to safeguard the air we breathe. It does this by establishing regulatory bodies, setting air quality standards, and providing guidelines for industries and governments to follow in order to reduce air pollution.

  3. How does the CPCB fit into this Act?

    The CPCB plays a crucial role under this Act. It advises the Central Government on air quality matters, implements nationwide programs, coordinates with state boards, and even conducts research and training on air pollution prevention.

  4. What do SPCBs do under this Act?

    State Boards are the Act's frontline implementers. They set up local air pollution control programs, inspect industrial plants, monitor emission levels, and keep the state government informed about air quality issues in their region.

  5. How does this Act empower state governments?

    The Act gives state governments significant authority. They can designate air pollution control areas, ban certain fuels, require specific pollution control equipment in industries, and even take air samples to check pollution levels.

  6. What are some obstacles in implementing this Act effectively?

    Despite its comprehensive nature, the Act faces several challenges. These include inconsistent enforcement across states, inadequate monitoring equipment, resistance from some industries, and a lack of public awareness about air pollution issues.

  7. What happens if a company pollutes more than it's allowed to?

    If a company exceeds its pollution limits, it must immediately inform the authorities and pay for any cleanup costs. The pollution control board can also take the company to court to stop further violations.

  8. Are there consequences for running a factory without proper environmental clearances?

    Yes, operating an industrial plant without the right permissions is a serious offence. Violators can face imprisonment for up to six years and hefty fines. Repeat offenders face even stricter penalties.

  9. Is it mandatory to have a Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate?

    Yes, all motor vehicle owners must carry a valid PUC certificate. Failing to do so can result in a substantial fine of Rs. 10,000.

Read our article: Responsibilities Of SPCB In India: Explained

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