An Overview of Environmental Laws of Bangladesh
The Environment Conservation Act 1995
This Act is the basis upon which the Department of Environment is formed, the Director General (DG) is appointed, Environment Impact Assessment is carried out and Ecologically Critical Areas are determined. The Environment Conservation Rules are laid out under the Act, outlining the standards of the air, water and other components of the environment. The Act has faced criticisms for allotting extremely wide powers to the DG, leaving, not laying out the necessary technical qualifications of concerned officials, inadequate sentencing and for leaving the loopholes of “national interest” and “good faith”.
The Environment Court Act 2010
The Act aims to create a speedy disposal of cases relating to environmental harm. However, the effectiveness of the courts are hindered as people cannot directly approach the court; instead the investigator appointed by the DG of the Department of Environment must file a report upon which cognizance can be taken. The aim of the Act to establish an environment court in each district has remained largely unfulfilled. That, and the failure to ensure that the officials of the environment court are sufficiently edified on the requisite knowledge have been roadblocks in the path to environmental justice.
The Forest Act 1927
The Act was originally promulgated with the objective of regulating the transit of forest produce and the taxes on such. Yet, it does contain protective measures which can be implemented for the conservation of forest resources. It lays down activities which are prohibited in reserved forests and penalises violations of the provisions. The Act also envisions the creation of village forests, which would be an effective way to ensure people’s participation and community rights. Unfortunately, this provision has not really been practiced.
The Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act 2012
This more recent law was passed with a view to conserving the biodiversity, wildlife and forests of the country. The Act allows for the declaration of sanctuaries, national parks and community conservation areas and lays down the permissible activities within such premises. An impressive aspect of the Act is that it recognises national heritage, memorial trees or sacred trees while respecting the traditional or cultural values and norms of the communities. This is a big step towards the recognition of the rights of indigenous communities.
The Brick Manufacturing and Brick Kilns Establishment (Control) Act 2013
With a view to the regulating the brick manufacturing process this Act was passed in 2013. The Act places multiple restrictions regarding the areas near which brick kilns can be established- these have been criticised as being too ambitious and to an extent, unfeasible. The Act also outlines the prohibitions regarding the use of raw materials from sources such as agricultural land, hill or hillock and the use of wood as fuel. Sadly, the reality reflects almost no compliance with these provisions.
The Bangladesh Biodiversity Act 2017
The Act was passed in line with Bangladesh’s constitutional mandate under Article 18A and international mandates under Convention on Biodiversity. The Act regulates who may have access to biological resources and traditional knowledge and how such resources and knowledge may be lawfully transferred. It delegates the duties for granting permission to such access on the National Biodiversity Committee, who shall also determine the equitable sharing of benefits accrued from biodiversity, biological resources and traditional knowledge.
Apart from these Acts, there are many other laws which indirectly address environmental concerns. For example, the Consumer Rights Protection Act of 2009, The Animal Welfare Bill- all of these contain provisions which have environmental impacts. Urban planning has been addressed in the Playgrounds, Open Spaces, Parks and Natural Reservoirs and Preservation Act 2000 and air pollution is specifically targeted in the Clean Air Bill. For the protection and conservation of water resources, The Bangladesh Water Act 2013 was also enacted.
The writer works with Law Desk, The Daily Star.