Environmental movements in Bangladesh have succeeded in attaining environmental justice for the people who depend on nature and mother earth for their survival.
Bangladesh Faces Challenges
Bangladesh is faced with many environmental crises. Due to its location, Bangladesh faces ecological challenges that originate both at the global and regional levels.The major environmental crises the people of this country must confront remain the challenges of climatic change and global warming, drying up of major rivers, derogatory land use, deforestation and pollution. It is due to the government’s chronic failures that environmental movements spurred in this country, to attain environmental justice for the commoners who are victims of environmental anarchies.
Move towards Justice
Environmental justice movements were organized in Bangladesh in the early 90s and are multifaceted. While some environmental groups workto raise awareness and organize communities around environmental issues, others are pursuing the causes of communities through administrative and judicial activism. It is encouraging to note that although political leaderships fall far below expectation in delivering against their environmental promises, the judiciary behaves contrarily and in most cases, helpactivist groups in upholding the people’s right to a sound environment.
The judiciary branch of Bangladesh has given some landmark decisions to halt ecological destruction. It has reduced air pollution in the City of Dhaka, which at one point was the second most dreadful in the world. Likewise the judiciary has directed the relocation of some polluting industries, shut down deadly economical pursuits, directed the installation of pollution fighting devices by industries, removed saline water shrimp farms from agricultural and forest lands, protected rivers through removal of encroachments, banned imports of toxic waste, recognized the rights of fishermen and so on. The High Court of Bangladesh came down heavily against powerful real estate businessesblocking their advertisements for the sale of plots for unauthorized housing projects. The importation of toxic ships to be taken apart on the beaches of Bangladesh has also been severely condemned and opposed by the Court, that decision was highly appreciated by global players with the exception of the exploitative global shipping industry. Judicial activism in Bangladesh has not only prevented environmental damage but it has also triggered the enactment of laws that are favorable to the environment. It is due to the judiciary’s strong stand that the government framed rules to regulate the ship breaking industry.
Beyond the Limits
Despite having a strong environmental legal movement and a generally supportive judiciary, the state of the environment is progressing very slowly in Bangladesh. This is due to a lack of political commitmentas money and muscle have more dominant roles in the political sphere than in the betterment and protection of the masses.
Despite their impressive achievements, environmentalists in Bangladeshare faced with fallacious claims that often portray their legitimate movements as anti-development movements. This makes the pursuit for environmental justice extremely difficult, and can only be countered with an organized society which eventually will ‘resist and transform’. Environmental movements in Bangladesh has started to proceed in that desired route and is likely to succeed in attaining environmental justice for its people who depend on nature and mother earth for their survival.
By S. Rizwana Hasan
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Advocate ofthe Supreme Court and Chief Executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA). She was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize 2009 for the Asia regionfor her efforts towards environment conservation policies.
* Editor’s note:
The Korea Green Foundation’s monthly newsletter will report environmental issues and visions that members of the Green Asia Forum highlight in the Asian region. The Green Asia Forum, founded in May 2012, is organized by recipients of the Goldman Prize from Asia and the Pacific. This network holds regular meetings to gauge the situation, exchange ideas and develop action plans on environmental issues in Asia.