โ€ข India is the first country in the world to have made provisions for the protection and conservation of environment in its constitution. On 5th June 1972, environment was first discussed as an item of international
agenda in the U.N. Conference of Human Environment in Stockholm and thereafter 5th June is celebrated all over the world as World Environment Day.

โ€ข Soon after the Stockholm Conference our country took substantive legislative steps for environmental protection. The Wildlife (Protection) Act was passed in 1972, followed by the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and subsequently the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Constitutional Provisions:
โ€ข The provisions for environmental protection in the constitution were made within four years of Stockholm
Conference, in 1976, though the 42nd amendment as follows:

โ€ข Article-48-A of the constitution provides:
โ€ข โ€œThe state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forest and wildlife of the

โ€ข Article 51-A (g) Provides:
โ€ข It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife an to have compassion for living creatures.โ€

โ€ข Thus our constitution includes environmental protection and conservation as one of our fundamental duties. Some of the important Acts passed by the Government of India are discussed here.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972:

โ€ข The passing of the Wildlife Act of 1972 constitutes an important landmark in the history of wildlife legislation in the country.

โ€ข This is because of the fact that the โ€œForestโ€ including โ€œWildlifeโ€ was then a State subject falling in Entry 20
List II of Seventh Schedule, Parliament had no power to
make law on the same except as provided in Articles 249,250 and 252 of the constitution.

โ€ข Having regard to the importance of the matter, the Act has been adopted by all the States except that of Jammu
and Kashmir which has a similar law enacted for the purpose of wildlife protection. The operation of the Act
is mandatory in the Union Territories too.

โ€ข The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 provides the basic framework to ensure the protection and management of wildlife. The Act was amended subsequently in 1982,
1986, 1991 and 1993 to accommodate provision for its effective implementation.

The rationale for passing Act as stated in its Statement of Objects and Reasons are as follows:
โ€ข The rapid decline of Indiaโ€™s wild animals and birds, one of the richest and most varied wildlife resources of the country has been a cause of grave concern.

โ€ข Areas which were once teeming with wildlife have become devoid of it and even in sanctuaries and National
Parks the protection afforded to wildlife needs to be improved.

โ€ข The Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act, 1935 has become completely outdated.

โ€ข This existing laws not only have become outdated but also provide punishments, which are not commensurate with the offence and financial benefits that occur
from poaching and trade in wildlife produce. Further such laws mainly relate to control of hunting and do
not emphasize the other factors which are also the prime reasons for the decline of Indiaโ€™s wildlife namely
taxidermy and trade in wildlife and products there from.

Salient features of the Act:
โ€ข The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is a product of process which started long ago in 1887 for the protection of a
few wild birds and after addition of wild animals in 1912 and specified plants in 1919 it covered almost all the wildlife resources which need protection and management.

1. The rating of the Schedules I to V is in accordance with the risk of survival of the wildlife (fauna) enlisted in them. Animals included Schedule are provided for total protection from hunting and the trade and commerce related to such animals are strictly regulated. The schedule VI has been added to include the specified plant species to be protected by the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 1991.

2. An expert committee, constituted by the Indian Board of Wildlife considers amendments to the Act, as and when necessary.

3. With the amendment of the Act in 1991, powers of the State Governments have been withdrawn almost totally. Now the State Governments are not empowered to declare any wild animal a vermin. Further by addition of provision, immunization of livestock within a radius of 5 km from a National Park or sanctuary has been made compulsory.