The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974


This Act – which Parliament passed on March 23, 1974 – provides for preventing and controlling water pollution and establishing Boards for the same, as well as maintaining and restoring the ‘wholesomeness’ of water. The Act also contains penalties for contravening its provisions.

‘Pollution’ refers to the contamination of water, the alteration of its physical, chemical or biological properties, or the discharge of any sewage, trade effluent, or any other substance into water, which may render such water harmful to public health or to the health of animals, plants or aquatic organisms.

This 30-page law applies to all union territories, and the states of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tripura and West Bengal. Other states may adopt the Act by passing a resolution to that effect.


  1. What boards does the Act aim to establish?

    The Act directs the central and state governments to establish a Central Pollution Control Board as well as State Pollution Control Boards through notifications in The Gazette of India.

    Two or more governments of contiguous states may agree to constitute a Joint Board for a specified duration. The central government representing a union territory, and one or more governments of states contiguous to such union territories, may also agree to establish Joint Boards.

  2. What are the Central Board’s functions?

    The main function of the Central Board shall be to promote the cleanliness of streams and wells, says the Act. The Board may advise the central government on the prevention and control of water pollution; coordinate the activities of State Boards and resolve disputes among them; provide technical assistance and guidance to State Boards; carry out and sponsor investigations and research related to water pollution; organise training sessions for persons engaged in programmes for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution; collect, compile and publish technical and statistical data related to water pollution; prepare manuals, codes or guides for the treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents; and plan and execute nation-wide programmes for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.

    The Central Board may establish or recognise a laboratory or laboratories to perform the Board’s functions, such as analysing water samples.

  3. What are the functions of State Boards?

    The functions of State Boards – as listed in Section 17 of the Act – include planning comprehensive programmes for the prevention, control and abatement of water pollution in streams and wells; collecting and disseminating information related to water pollution and advising state government about such matters; encouraging, conducting and participating in investigations and research related to problems of water pollution and its prevention; inspecting sewage, trade effluents and sewage treatment plants; reviewing water purification plants; and establishing or modifying effluent standards for sewage and trade effluents. The State Board may establish or recognise a laboratory or laboratories to perform the Board’s functions.

    Section 25 of the Act mandates that the State Board’s consent is necessary to set up any industry, operation or process, which is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluents into a stream, well or sewer, or on land. Such consent is also necessary to begin any new discharge of sewage or bring into use any new outlet for the same. Every State Board shall maintain a register containing information related to sewage outlets and effluents.

  4. What emergency measures can State Boards make implement?

    State Boards may take emergency measures in cases where it appears that – due to an accident or other unforeseen act or event – a poisonous, noxious or polluting matter is present in a stream or well, or on land, and the Board considers it necessary to take immediate action. The Board may implement measures to remove and dispose of the matter and to remedy or mitigate the pollution, and issue orders restraining or prohibiting persons from discharging such pollutants.

    Focus and Factoids by Nalinaksha Singh.


Ministry of Law and Justice


Government of India, New Delhi


23 Mar, 1974