With the effects of El Nino taking its toll on the country and many of our rivers now polluted with waste chemicals, Bangladesh Environment Lawyers' Association (BELA) laid emphasis on the expansion of the activities of the Department of Environment (DoE) on the 5th of June, the World Environment Day. It is the latest in a series of calls intended to raise awareness about the ailing state of the environment which has, at long last, come to the attention of the government as well. The Finance Minister, in the budget for FY2015, has imposed a one percent environmental surcharge on polluting industries and has provided a tax holiday for non-polluting brickfields.
Policies implemented by the executive branch have to be backed up by a stringent measure of scrutiny by the judiciary. Therefore, the call for making environment courts around the country active is a very valid one. As per the Environment Court Act 2010, all districts must have environment courts. But the activities of only three district courts are visible at the moment- Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong. The rest have been inactive and we hope that the DoE take note of the people's call and make the environment courts active. Environment courts must be given the impetus of acting instantaneously against environment-related offences as we enter into the final furlong of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Therefore, the DoE should utilize resources properly and assign adequate number of staff to environment courts in all districts.