The Seventh Schedule of India's Constitution distributes powers between the central and state governments to enact and implement laws on subjects according to their listing in the Union, State or Concurrent (shared) Lists. Environment as a subject has not been assigned to any of these lists; as a result, the division of roles on environmental matters is a dynamic, shifting space between the centre and state governments. As the chapters in this volume show, specific natural resources such as land, water and forests are assigned to one of the three lists and are regulated by corresponding institutions. But this distribution of power to govern natural resources is contested. The distribution of roles also makes it necessary for cooperation between the centre and states in the management and regulation of these resources.
Even though the powers to enact laws to manage specific resources are distributed between the centre and states, in effect, the drafting, implementation and enforcement of environment laws require substantial coordination between them. For instance, Entry 14 in the Union List is ‘Entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries’. Using this entry, the central government has enacted several laws such as Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986, and the Biological Diversity (BD) Act, 2002, as commitments under specific treaties and conventions. While the EPA, 1986, is a centrally administered law, the centre has delegated regulatory powers to several state-level institutions. These institutions are set up by the central government in consultation with state governments, and their functioning depends on the administrative and financial support from the state governments.
In this chapter, we discuss the main institutions involved in environmental governance in India at the central and state levels. Indian environment laws have also evolved through complex interactions between the parliament, the executive and the judiciary, and these interactions are reflected in the institutions set up to perform legal, policymaking and regulatory functions. This separate chapter on environmental bodies outlines the vast institutional landscape of India's environmental laws.