Bangladesh has a good number of environmental laws and policies but none of them are implemented properly, environment experts and activists have said at a seminar.
Although there are more than two hundred laws to protect the environment, they remain on paper only, the speakers said at the seminar, organised by the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa) at Cirdap auditorium in the capital on Saturday.
Presenting the keynote paper, Mohammad Golam Sarwar, assistant professor at the Department of Law, University of Dhaka, said environmental rule of law is considered critical for the protection of the environment, promotion of the right to live in a healthy environment, and attainment of sustainable development goals (SDGs).
"Environmental rule of law deserves significance as it will not only lead to a proper enforcement of laws but also facilitate the promotion of sustainable development," the professor said.
Environmental rule of law is built upon three critical components- strong legal frameworks; effective political, administrative, and judicial institutions; and access to information and justice, he said.
Sarwar also highlighted the significance of environmental rule of law to address Covid-19 induced challenges concerning least developed country (LDC) graduation to middle income country, which requires a robust human rights-based protection mechanism, including environmental protection.
Speaking as chief guest at the seminar, Md Abul Kalam Azad, special envoy of Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) Bangladesh and Commissioner of the World Economic Forum and Biodiversity Commission, said, "The more law there is in the country, the more corruption there will be. Lawmakers will benefit from the weaknesses of the law."
"As Bangladesh's capacity increases, so does its climate vulnerability. Developed countries are more responsible for this. Bangladesh accounts for only 0.5% of the world's carbon emissions," Abul Kalam said.
Speaking as the guest of honour, Dr Saleemul Haque, senior fellow of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), said, "International law is usually formulated in a voluntary process where countries commit to how much work will be done in the field of environment. It is assumed that all countries will act according to their promises, but there is no provision of legal penalty."
Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyer Advocate Dr Sayeda Nasreen said, "Oftentimes we have to back down while taking legal steps on various issues as no law of the country puts the environment first. Thus, it is important to amend the laws with an 'environment first' approach to make a real impact."
Sharif Jamil, general secretary of Bapa, and MS Siddique, executive member of Bapa, also spoke at the seminar, chaired by Professor Mustafizur Rahman, convener of the Committee on Finance, Trade and Sustainable Development of Bapa.