Role of BELA in Establishing Environmental Justice

To promote environmental justice, a wide range of environmental disputes and challenges were taken by BELA to court in the form of Public Interest Litigations (PILs). These resulted in
  1. opening up the horizon of PIL in the country;
  2. expanding ‘right to life’ to include the right to sound environment;
  3. ensuring ‘complete justice’ by directing payment of compensation and restoration;
  4. judicial recognition of ‘right to water’ and ‘sustainable development’;
  5. prevention of extraction of groundwater;
  6. mandatory EIA for shrimp cultivation;
  7. directions for freeing identified rivers from pollution and encroachments;
  8. directions for demolishing the illegal BGMEA building;
  9. directions for proper maintenance of city parks and playgrounds;
  10. shutting down of Hazaribagh tanneries, the fifth most polluting industries of the world11, and relocation of the tanneries to the industrial zone;
  11. shutting down of brickfields/sawmills;
  12. framing of rules on shipbreaking;
  13. prevention of deforestation/cutting of hills;
  14. prevention of filling up of wetlands and restoration of the same;
  15. prevention of destructive mining (sand, gas, white clay, stones) and directions for payment of compensation;
  16. prevention of conversion of agricultural land;
  17. mega housing projects declared illegal;
  18. direction for the demolition of illegal constructions in the fragile coral island;
  19. protection of rare species of turtles, and so on.

BELA’s Experience in Dealing with Public Interest Litigation (PILs)

BELA has a very rich work experience and has had outstanding successes in this arena. It was due to BELA’s intervention that the horizon of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was opened up by the higher judiciary (1997) by attaching liberal interpretation to the constitutional requirement of “aggrieved person” to file litigations. Again, it was in a BELA case that the constitutional “right to life” has been broadly interpreted to give people right to sound environment. Since then, BELA has filed around 350 Public Interest Environmental Litigations (PIELs) on issues involving:
  • vehicular pollution; 
  • river pollution; 
  • river encroachment; 
  • grabbing and pollution of wetlands;
  • unplanned urbanization; 
  • industrial pollution; 
  • trans-boundary waste movement (regulating ship breaking); 
  • destruction of ecology; 
  • destructive mining (sand, gas); 
  • protection of agricultural lands; 
  • preventing indiscriminate commercialization (shrimp cultivation);
  • compensation and damages against pollution; 
  • loss of biodiversity, and so on.

The Outcome of Favorable Judgments of PIELs

Due to favorable judgments in PIELs followings have been resulted:
  • Access to justice and implementation of environmental laws have been facilitated;
  • Constitutional/legal provisions on environmental protection and powers and limits of powers of public functionaries have been defined; 
  • Principles of sustainable development and polluter pays have been upheld; 
  • New strategies for implementation and monitoring have evolved (continuing mandamus; impartial fact-finding/implementation committees formed); 
  • New institutions have been created (e.g. the National River Protection Committee); 
  • Rules (ship breaking), policies and management practices have been framed, 
  • And above all, the status quo in the culture of impunity has been put to a challenge.

Major Achievements of BELA’s

Some of the major achievements of BELA are listed below:
  • Environment courts setup in 2000 under the Environment Court Act, 2010
  • Public consultation in EIA made mandatory in 2010 under section 12 of the Environment Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2010
  • The specific law on wetlands enacted in 2000 (Act No. 36 of 2000)
  • Pro-people social forestry Rules framed in 2010
  • Two sets of Rules framed in 2011 to regulate ship breaking and trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes (the Ship Breaking and Recycling Rules, 2011 and the Hazardous Wastes and ShipBreaking (Wastes) Management Rules, 2011)
  • Brick Manufacturing and Klin Setting (Control) Act, 2013
  • River commission set up in 2013 under the National River Protection Commission Act, 2013
  • Proposal of privatization of water removed from the Water Bill, 2013
  • Sound Pollution Rules framed in 2006 under the Environment Conservation Act, 1995 (Noise Pollution Control Rules, 2006)
  • The court directed regulation of Hydraulic horns
  • Lead-free petrol introduced and CNG stations set up due to Court orders in BELA cases
  • Detailed Area Plan (DAP) prepared under the Master Plan with sustainability goal for the Dhaka City approved in 2006
  • Court issued interim order to consider the framing of Rules on village forestry (a model of community forest management) and protection of forest rights
  • Non-transparent leasing of 61 fisheries canceled and settled with fishermen cooperatives
  • Court giving interim order directing consideration of declaring areas as Water Stress (2015)
  • Protecting farmers’ lands in Narayanganj from forced grabbing for setting up private economic zone;
  • Legal action resulting in judgment for the demolition of BGMEA building built on swamps
  • Relocation of polluting tanneries from Dhaka to Savar Industrial Estate
  • Court directions for demarcation of banks of Dhaka rivers
  • Flood flow zones of Dhaka protected from land grabbing by real estate developers for developing so –calledModhumoti, Jamuna, Ashiyan townships
  • Recovery of Dhaka City public parks and playgrounds from grabbers
  • Illegal structures in St. Martin Island directed to be removed
  • Jaflong rivers declared Ecologically Critical Area and mining of stones directed to be stopped;
  • Stone crushing machines from Jaflong directed to be removed;
  • Restoration of Jaflong reserve forest;
  • Environmentally and socially wrongful shrimp cultivation stopped in Cox’s Bazar; directed to be preceded by Environmental and Social Impact Assessment in Khulna and elsewhere to safeguard farmers from forced salinity intrusion;
  • 51 acres reserve forest in Cox’s Bazar protected from planned government housing;
  • Hill razing by Uttaran Housing Project in Cox’s Bazar halted;
  • Extraction of white clay in Netrokona by 14 ceramic industries stopped;
  • Critically endangered turtles of Bayezid Bostami Shrine in Chittagong protected