environmental governance, South Asia, legacy of colonialism, constitutional provisions, judiciary, environmental rights, environmental protection
This paper covers important trends toward good environmental governance in the South Asia region comprising India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives. The region is home to over 1.6 billion people constituting about a quarter of the total global population. Much of the region is bound by a common history of British colonialism and generally inherited its legacy of the rule of law. Following the example of India, many countries in the region adopted written Constitutions after their independence. A common feature of some of these Constitutions is the elaborate formulation of fundamental rights including the rights to life, liberty, religion, association and speech that are ‘justiciable’; that is, enforceable through the judiciary. This combination of constitutional provisions and judiciary-enforced actions has provided the basic structure for good environmental governance in the region. It is a unique story where the region’s judiciaries have played a pioneering role to promote and protect environmental rights.
(2001) 6(1) Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law 1.
Good Environmental Governance: Some Trends in the South Asian Region
Public interest litigation, environment, human rights, south asia
Despite having several procedural routes to bring actions in the court, public interest litigation seems to be the often-used tool used by the community groups in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to protect the environment. In recent years, the decisions of the courts integrate both socialand ecological concerns with particular attention to questions of distributive justice, community empowerment and democratic accountability. While public interest litigation is sometimes criticized as nothing more than ‘tokenism’, the judiciary in these three South Asian countries has taken a forward-looking approach by relaxing standing of community groups and applying international environmental principles. With the increase of large infrastructure projects (e.g. dams) and privatization of natural resources (e.g. water, gas/oil), it is pertinent to examine the role of litigation in the protection of environment. This paper discusses three issues: the growth of public interest environmental litigation in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; human rights, environment and development discourse; and the approach of the judiciary. The paper concludes that access to courts may not ensure a just substantive outcome. The substantive right to a healthy environment, as interpreted by the judiciary, needs to be strengthened with adequate information and participation of affected communities to protect the environment. Participation of affected parties is crucial to make the linkages between social, environmental and developmental concerns, and examples from all three countries show that a strong procedural regime is lacking.
Fordham Environmental Law Review, Vol. 18/3, 587-608, 2007
Linking Human Rights, Development and Environment: Experiences from Litigation in South Asia
Parvez Hassan (Hassan & Hassan (Advocates), Lahore , Pakistan ) Azim Azfar (Hassan & Hassan (Advocates), Lahore , Pakistan )
Environmental rights, public interest litigation, access to justice, South Asia , Pakistan , India , Bangladesh
(2004) 22 Virginia Environmental Law Journal 215
Almost a decade ago the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered its landmark decision in Shehla Zia v. WAPDA, in which it held that the right to life guaranteed by Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan included the right to a healthy environment. 1 By means of this decision, the Supreme Court accorded environmental rights the highest status in Pakistani law – that of constitutional legitimacy. Such legitimacy is, of course, coveted not for its legal consequence alone, but also for what it represents – an almost sacred imperative that articulates the most fundamental values of a society.
Important as the result in this case was to the petitioners, the sense of accomplishment and hope that it generated was not tied to the outcome of the particular petition but to the expectation that a ripple effect may arise through the doctrine of precedent. After all, historic cases matter because they change the hierarchy of legal rules and set up default principles that apply to all future matters that come within its domain. The co-author of this article, Dr. Parvez Hassan was the counsel to the petitioners in this case and can convey the deep satisfaction felt by conservationists and human rights campaigners who realized that an important victory for public interest litigation in Pakistan had been realized. The value of the result in Shehla Zia can be better appreciated when it is borne in mind that the Constitution of Pakistan makes no specific mention of environmental rights.
Securing Environmental Rights through Public Interest Litigation in South Asia