Legal and Institutional Framework

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Legal and Institutional Framework

Introduction

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992 recognized the entitlement of human beings to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature . The threshold of the Rio Declaration was the recognition of right to development and more importantly sustainable development. With the adoption of Rio, the global community committed to integrate environmental issues into mainstream economic and social policy and reduce and eliminate unsustainable patters of production and consumption .

Commitments recorded in the Rio declaration call for legal and judicial activism. When commitment for sustainable development suffers judicial review can be sought on the basis of the Rio principles of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities' , ‘polluters pay' , ‘precautionary approach' and ‘EIA' . While the Rio declaration in Principle 11 requires the states to enact effective environmental legislation and standards, access to judicial and administrative review process becomes relevant to uphold people's rights that such laws would endure. Right to participation and access to environmental decision making process need express legal recognition that the judiciary can safeguard in appropriate instance.

The post-Rio developments in the legal and judicial area of Bangladesh have showed respect to the Rio commitments and also the framework of Agenda-21 that requires protection of fragile eco-system and resources.

This paper would highlight on the legal and judicial interventions in Bangladesh that have contributed in promoting sustainable development and environmental management as pledged by the global community in various international conventions, treaties and protocols (CTPs).

General Development and Environment Context of Bangladesh

Bangladesh with a total area of 147570 sq. km is home to some 140 million people of which 49 percent are women. The country's network of 230 rivers runs across 24140 km . Forests comprises 14 percent of the total land area.

Eighty percent of the population is rural. One half of the population lives in poverty and one third in extreme poverty. A further 20 percent of the population are tomorrow's poor; those who will join the ranks of the poor given the current trends of development and ecological degradation.

The agrarian economy of Bangladesh accounts for one-third of the GDP and employs two-thirds of the labour force . The fisheries sector employs about 1.2 million people while the employment in the forests sector is about 2 percent of the total labour force . Fish still remains the major source of proteins for 60 percent Bangladeshis.

Life and livelihoods in Bangladesh, especially for the poor, depends deeply on nature. Any undue interference with water, land, forest, fishery and other environmental resources would inevitably impact the lives of the people of whom 47.5 percent are income poor and 76.9 percent capability poor . The relationship of the people of Bangladesh with nature cannot be overemphasized and can be stated from the words of the Secretary General of the UN Mr. Kofi Anan.

"The great majority of Bangladeshis live in rural areas, on the frontlines of resources management, natural disaster and environmental awareness. For them the relationship between human beings and the natural world is a daily reality, not an abstract idea. Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that seems abstract sustainable development and turn it into a daily reality for all the world's people."

Over time, the gradual degradation of resources particularly land, contamination of water, loss of fisheries, traditional species and depletion of forests became visible in Bangladesh with adverse impact on life and livelihood. In the last decade or so, environmentalists in Bangladesh, the state organs and the citizens groups have rightly identified the...
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