Presently, the necessity for efficient safeguarding of the worldwide Environment Protection is acute. Both national and international communities are actively seeking instruments that have the capacity to halt or at least decelerate Environment Protection degradation. At present, the prevailing human rights approaches towards environmental protection rely on public regulation through the imposition of duties.
However, a novel human rights approach is emerging, which establishes connections between Environment Protection and human rights by recognizing each individual’s right to a certain standard of living. An increasing number of nations and organizations have adopted the internationally recognized and domestic human rights guarantee systems as an efficient tool for Environment Protection.
Examining the application of contemporary national and international approaches to the relationship between environmental protection and human rights in Bangladesh is the objective of this article.
Environmental protection is an issue that Bangladesh is deeply concerned with. Environment Protection international law is a relatively recent addition to the field of public international law. It is an expanding area of law that establishes legal requirements for addressing a variety of global environmental issues.
An distinct corpus of legislation is dedicated to safeguarding the Environment Protection (Patricia & Boyle, 1992). The principal impetus for a universal commitment to combat environmental issues on a global scale originated with the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on Human Environment. Environmental issues have risen swiftly to the forefront of the global political and economic agenda over time.
However, a significant shift in the perspectives and methodologies of developed and developing nations has occurred since 1972. Environment Protection was considered by developing nations to be an unattainable luxury, exclusive to developed countries. They regarded eradicating destitution, meeting fundamental human requirements, and elevating the standard of living as their highest priorities.
Concerns regarding the environment were positioned at the base of their agenda. In contrast, developed nations advocated for “global action” in the realm of Environment Protection, despite being the primary causes of environmental degradation and desiring to sustain their progress through environmental degradation. Disagreements of this nature and broader variations in methodology defined the discourse at the Stockholm Conference in 1972.
The results of these discussions were the formation of the UNEP. In the present day, developing nations are also cognizant of the significance of environmental concerns, as climate change, soil erosion, and deforestation serve as conspicuous indicators.
They are also concerned about the Environment Protection impact of the accelerated population growth. Current environmental concerns, including the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, climate change, and biodiversity loss, possess the potential to exert global implications, or at the very least, repercussions that extend beyond the borders of individual nations.
The resolution of global Environment Protection issues necessitates the active participation of the international community (Anita, 1999). As Weiss astutely observes, “no single nation or even coalition of nations possesses the capacity to safeguard the environment in the long run through their individual, isolated endeavors” (Edith, 1993). Developing nations are increasingly acknowledging the indispensability of environmental protection in fostering sustainable economic growth, rather than regarding it as a substitute for it (Nazma, 1993).
Bangladesh, similar to numerous other developing nations, has recently acknowledged the imperative nature of prioritizing environmental concerns. Environment Protection issues in Bangladesh are diverse and encompass industrial and municipal pollution, deforestation, land degradation, and air pollution, among others.
All of these phenomena have emerged as a result of human-induced disruptions to natural and self-sustaining cycles, including but not limited to accelerated industrialization, urbanization, and population growth. However, the current regulatory structures and institutional frameworks designed to enforce these regulations are insufficient and ill-equipped to address the growing Environment Protection challenges in Bangladesh.
Right to a healthy and sound Environment Protection
The Constitution of Bangladesh does not explicitly safeguard the Environment Protection. State policies and fundamental rights make no explicit reference to the right to a healthful and secure environment. According to Article 31, each individual is entitled to safeguarding against “actions that are harmful to the life, liberty, body, reputation, or property, unless such actions are carried out in compliance with the law” (Article 31). Additionally, the document stated that both citizens and residents of Bangladesh are entitled to be treated in a lawful manner. In the event that these rights are revoked, restitution is required. “No person shall be deprived of personal liberty granted in accordance with the law,” as stated in Article 32.
The combined provisions of these two articles safeguard the right to life. The following inquiry that arises is whether the ‘right to life’ encompasses the right to a healthy Environment Protection and the ability to foster the development of a meaningful ‘existence of life’. The Appellate Division and the High Court Division both implemented a holistic approach in two renowned cases. In the case of Dr. Mohiuddin Farooque vs. Bangladesh, the Appellate Division stated, “Articles 31 and 32 of our Constitution safeguard the fundamental right to life.”
It includes the safeguarding and conservation of the Environment Protection, ecological equilibrium devoid of air and water contamination, and sanitation, which is essential for the sustenance of life. Any action or failure to act in accordance with this will constitute a breach of the aforementioned “protection of the right to life.” In the 1996 case of Dr. Mohiuddin Farooque vs. Bangladesh and others, the High Court Division established that the right to life encompasses not only the provision of clean air and water, but also a state of being beyond that of animals, wherein an individual can reasonably anticipate an extended lifespan (Habib, 2006).It is imperative to specify that both cases involved litigation in the public interest.
It would appear that the right to a healthful Environment Protection is now considered a fundamental right, as supported by case law. However, establishing environmental rights on par with fundamental rights was not a straightforward task due to the procedural disadvantage faced by our judiciary in enforcing such rights. Environmental cases were not adjudicated by the Supreme Court in Bangladesh prior to 1994. BELA filed the initial complaint of this nature in January 1994. Numerous PILs were subsequently submitted for environmental protection, public health preservation, pollution prevention, and other causes, but all remain pending decision.
‘Locus standi’ was never an issue in any of the situations. The issue of whether the right to a healthy Environment Protection qualifies as a fundamental right was initially raised in the renowned FAP case (Dr. Mohiuddin Farooque vs. Bangladesh, 1995), which contested the legality of a substantial FAP experimental structure project. The petition was initially denied by the HCD on the grounds that the petitioner (representing BELA) lacked “standing.” Following this, the petitioner filed an appeal with the Appellate division, which was granted permission to determine the locus standi in PIL.
The Appellate division reached a definitive decision in July regarding the issue of locus standi. The division ruled that any member of the public who is affected by a common wrong, common injury, or common infringement upon the fundamental rights of an undetermined number of individuals, as well as any citizen or indigenous association that exposes such cases, has locus standi. Numerous public-spirited individuals, including BELA, ASK, BLAST, BNWLA, Bangladesh Mohila Ainjibi Samiti, and Bangladesh Mohila Porishod, filed PILs with the HCD prior to and after that date in an effort to have the grievances of the disadvantaged segments of society addressed.
The HCD resolved a portion of the Public Interest Environment Protection Litigation in 1997, subsequent to the liberalization of locus standi in 1996. The right to a healthy environment has been elevated to the status of a fundamental right as a result of these PIEL decisions, and Bangladesh, similar to numerous other developing nations, can now enforce this right via PIL and other regulatory mechanisms. As previously stated, the Bangladeshi Constitution does not ensure the protection of the environment.
The 15th amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh, however, incorporated a provision regarding the development and conservation of the environment as a fundamental principle of state policy in response to the persistent efforts of civil society and environmentalists. This is undoubtedly an encouraging development. However, this provision (Article 18A) mandates that the State is responsible for safeguarding and developing the environment, as well as ensuring the security and preservation of natural resources, biodiversity, wetland areas, and wildlife.Therefore, it does not confer an individual’s right to a safe environment; instead,
it designates it as one of the foundational principles of state policies (Article 8.2) that serves as a guide for interpreting the Constitution and other laws of Bangladesh, as well as for informing the legislative process and providing the framework for state operations.
This constitutional obligation to safeguard the environment may be assumed by the government, its agencies, private citizens, or legal entities. The opportunity to incorporate the right to environment as a fundamental right, which has been established by judicial interpretation, was overlooked by the government of Bangladesh.
Legislation Regulating Environment:
The People’s Republic of Bangladesh, similar to other developed countries, has embraced several environmental instruments to safeguard and preserve the environment in fulfillment of its environmental responsibilities (Hossain, 2004).Since the 19th century, environmental laws have been in existence in the country, albeit with limited enforcement and awareness among the general public and responsible public agencies.
BELA has identified approximately 200 laws thus far (excluding rules and ordinances) (Environmental Regulatory Regime in Bangladesh, 2004).Despite the presence of numerous public agencies and the existence of these laws, the intended outcomes of the legislation were not realized for the nation. However, numerous laws and mechanisms that were at our disposal remained unused, unexplored, and only marginally elaborated.
The Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh actively engaged in the progressive evolution of global environmental protection in accordance with the Stockholm mandate. Subsequently, in 1977, the Environmental Pollution Control Board was established and the initial Environmental Pollution Control Ordinance was issued. The governing body that ultimately assumed the name “Department of Environment” succeeded this council.
Existing Avenues of Environmental Justice:
These tribunals would hear and adjudicate all cases pertaining to the conservation of environmental contamination, as mandated by the Environmental Conservation Act. Regardless of whether other legislation specifies specific courts for litigation or mandates action on environmental issues, any case pertaining to such matters may also be brought before the Environmental Court (Razzaque, 2004).
In the realm of environmental law, all legal proceedings pertaining to the prosecution, compensation, or both, of an offense are required to be initiated directly at the Environment Court. The Environment Court Act of 2010 was recently passed into law, mandating the establishment of an Environmental Court at the district headquarters of each municipality.
Powers & Jurisdiction of Environmental Court:
Environmental Court jurisdiction extends to both civil and criminal matters. When determining and adjudicating compensation matters, the court functions as a civil court in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908.
Any individual may be ordered to comply with preventative and remedial actions in the event that an offense or incident occurs that has caused or has the potential to cause environmental damage. In conducting this inspection, it may establish a deadline for the order’s implementation and request a report from the Director General or another appropriate authority. Additionally, it has the authority to issue interim orders, transitory injunctions, and status quo orders.
Weakness of the Court:
The justices of the Environment Court lack specialized scientific or legal expertise in the field of environmental affairs. However, proficient judgment is particularly necessary when assessing the extent of contamination that may violate environmental legislation (Faruque, 2007).
The court lacks the authority to independently investigate a matter pertaining to environmental contamination.
- NGOs have submitted the majority of environmental cases in Bangladesh as PIEL.
- For instance, BELA has initiated over forty cases pertaining to environmental concerns.
- However, access to the environmental court is denied to NGOs. Recognizing the expertise of numerous non-
- governmental organizations (NGOs) in the environment can significantly bolster the court’s efficacy.
- Insufficient resources, expertise, and logistical support are available within the Department of Environment.
Public Interest Litigation:
The recent evolution of Public Interest Litigation represents a substantial deviation from the conventional judicial system. In Bangladesh, it is one of the most frequently employed and crucial legal strategies for achieving environmental liberties. A writ petition is utilized to petition the High Court Division in order to contest the conduct of public entities or individuals who are in violation of Environment Protection legislation.
The notion that the right to a sound and healthy Environment Protection is fundamental to human dignity has not yet been firmly established in our legal system. Despite the existence of numerous legislative measures, the potential for environmental justice to be achieved is impeded by provisions that are uncertain or ambiguous.
Once more, within our nation, disparate regulatory entities seem to be at variance with one another as a result of their inability to communicate and lack of comprehension. Environmental justice has also been compromised by the Environment Court’s inherent flaws. It is self-evident that in order to truly experience environmental human rights, the environmental court must be amended to hold offenders accountable.
Simultaneously, however, it is imperative to augment the Department of Environment’s capabilities, resources, and logistical support, streamline the intricacies of Environment Protection court procedures, and broaden the reach of public interest environmental litigation.