Bangladesh’s Environmental Legal Framework

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Application of International Environmental Law

The environment is a global issue at present. Environmental hazards are gradually increasing day by day in different ways and different sizes all over the world as well as in Bangladesh. Without an effective regulatory system and adequate implementation, it would be impossible to meet the pressing environmental needs. In the context of Bangladesh’s legal system, this article briefly outlines some of the major legislation that addresses to what extent the international principles of environmental protection are being applied.

The Environment Conservation Act 1995

The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act of 1995 was adopted to achieve three main goals: environmental conservation, Improvement of the standard of the environmental component, and the control and mitigation of environmental pollution. Upon approving this act, the government established the Department of Environment and the Department of Environment will be headed by a Director General (ECA’95). The Director-General can set up any rules and measures that he may consider will help conserve the country’s environment and may improve the environment’s standards.
under section 4 several subsections are the functions of the DOE, each of the acts shows that the main focus of each law is on the prevention of pollution and mitigation of the following issues. Particularly, the principle of Preventive Action is being reflected very well. Under the Principle of Preventive Action, if DOE wants, they can take necessary preventive measures before an accident or major pollution happens. But nowhere in these laws is there any action or discussion on conservation
Section 6(A) of the act supports the concept of preventive action. Plastic bags consisting of polythene or polypropylene, all of which are toxic to the environment, have been restricted. These bags, on the other hand, are permitted to be produced and stocked if they are made for export. And, it is a direct violation of the ‘no harm principle’ developed by the 1992 Rio Declaration and by the 1972 Stockholm Conference which is enforced by international courts and punishable by international customary laws.
Surprisingly, section (5) is only talking about the conservation of the environment. Besides, nowhere in the whole conservation act is there any talk of conservation. However, the areas are conserved by declaring ecologically critical areas under section 5. And this conservation process includes several principles of international environmental law such as the Principle of Sustainable Development, Principle of Preventive Action, Principle of Precautionary Approach, and Principle of Co-management. And Particularly, the Principle of Co-management is working in a very effective way to regulate the ECA areas of Bangladesh. The DOE is regulating the ECA areas through Village Co-management (VCG). The village community is being given the responsibility to maintain those areas. Then there are also many cases of negligence and improper application of the law. In research from Akil (2021) stated that “ECAs like Turag-Buriganga, Shitalakshya rivers, and the Jaflong-Dawki river due to human intervention and industrial pollution. The area where the Rohingyas were resettled is also an ECA. They have also been given shelter by cutting down the hills there. The ECA rules and regulations to protect the ECAs and penalize breaches of the law fall short of protecting the environment”.
If we do a critical analysis of the Conservation Act 1995, the principles of Preventive Action, Principle of Polluter Pay, have been observed in this Act. On the other hand, there is no direct application of sustainable development and the precautionary principle. Also, there has been no implementation of the Principle of No Harm. Unfortunately, there are many loopholes in this conservation act, although the preamble of this Act also states that the main objective of this Act is to achieve three main goals but it does not say anything about conservation, only section 5 mentions conservation, rest none of the section talking about it.

The Environment Conservation Rules, 1997

Under Section 7 of the ECR’97, the DOE has the power to regulate (through giving an environment clearance certificate) an industry or any project of government or any development activities that can harm the environment. The environmental clearance process of this law is very important to prevent the devastating pollution of the environment. Ironically, one of the environmental jurisprudence fundamentals and procedural concepts that is the concept of no harm principle in the decision-making process were not found by the ECR’97. During this process, preventative measures are being taken to protect the environment. This is in accordance with the principle of preventive action. Unfortunately, there are troubling flaws in this preventive monitoring, which has been categorized through four categories e.g. because of their environmental effects, shipbreaking and assembling batteries should be categorized as Red rather than Orange-B, and public toilets should be categorized as Orange-A rather than Orange-B.
The discharge of liquid waste and gaseous pollution has been set to a limited standard under section 12, ensuring that the environment is not affected by excessive emissions of liquid waste or gases. The Stockholm Declaration addresses the establishment of standards under principle 23. So, principle 23 is represented in this legislation.

The Environment Court Act, 2000

Unfortunately, owing to some inbuilt and functional restrictions, the Environment Court Act of 2000 was unable to meet the need for sustainable development. And, while the aims of established environmental courts for speedy trials of environmental violations and other issues but environmental jurisprudence’s fundamental and procedural concepts, such as the concept of no harm principle, the precautionary principle, the principle of sustainable development, and the principle of participation in the decision-making process, were not recognized by the ECA in 2000.

The Forest Act, 1927

As the forest Act 1972 is the mother law of forest conservation in that case it has a wide extent of application and implementation. But the most frustrating part of this law is that this act is not concerned about conservation of the forest whether it is more interested in how to generate income throughout the forest produce, leviable timber and other forest products, and how to transit Which makes the law very weak in terms of the legal framework of the environment.
Under this Act, protective measures are being taken for the conservation of forest resources, which are implemented in those four types of forests. Then particularly, the implementation of the polluter pay principle is seen quite strongly. Because Section, 26 of the law states that offenses involving reserve forests carry tougher punishments, including imprisonment, confiscation of private forest produce, equipment, vehicles, and cattle, among other things, as well as the recovery of amounts equal to the forest destruction as compensation. Then, this law under section 28 shows the implementation of large-scale co-management (participatory approach to forest management) which is a reflection of the principle of co-management. Contrary nowhere in this law is there any application of the principle of the precautionary approach and the No Harm Principle.
Although Bangladesh’s government consciously participated in the evolution of global environmental protection as part of the Stockholm mandate and the Rio Declaration and committed all international law to be implemented in the legal framework. But even then, the legal framework of the existing environment in Bangladesh is very weak because the application of a few specific principles can be noticed here, especially the principle of preventive action, co-management, polluter pay, sustainable development. Although there is no direct application of sustainable development and the precautionary principle. The constitution of Bangladesh should properly implement at least some major guiding principles of international environmental law, like many other modern constitutions around the world, besides that, the recommendation is that Bangladesh reforms current environmental laws and adopt new legislation that incorporates these standards to adapt to the evolving circumstances of the international regime.

Sanjida Chowdhury
Student of Environmental Science and Management
North South University