This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, 'Legal Counsel', which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment
I travel to work from Amin Bazar to Dhaka on a regular basis using the water way. I have been using the same route for about last 25 years and over the time I have noticed the deterioration in the condition of the river. Pollution has reached to such an extent that the water is toxic and the river reeks. The toxic water is impacting the surrounding environment and all living beings. I wish to know what measures are there for constantly occurring pollution and environmental damage.
Shanjb Chowdhury, Savar
Thank you for your question Mr. Chowdhury. Since the dawn of civilisation water has been the lifeline for any city and Dhaka is no exception. Environmental pollution is as old as the civilisation itself. Pollution is the hefty price that we are paying for urbanisation and our ignorance has made the situation even worse. It has become a major concern in the last few decades.
Water pollution is creating a serious health hazard for the inhabitants of this country. The dumping of municipal wastes, hospital wastes and toxic discharges from most industries pollute both surface and ground water sources.
Article 18(A) of the Constitution of Bangladesh clearly states: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to preserve and safeguard the natural resources, bio-diversity, wetlands, forests and wild life for the present and future citizens.” There are a number of laws including Bangladesh Water Act 2013, National River Protection Commission Act 2013, and the Environment Conservation Act 1995 (as amended in 2010) which have provisions for the protection of the environment, and control and mitigation of environmental pollution. The Environment Conservation Act 1995 was itself enacted for fulfilling three major objectives namely: conservation of environment, improvement of environmental standards and the control and mitigation of environmental pollution.
The primary reason of river water pollution is the surrounding industries like chemical industries, dying industries, tanneries etc. In section 2(b) of the 1995 Act, "pollution" is broadly defined and includes contamination, or alteration of the physical, chemical or biological properties of any air, water or soil or other forms of life etc. The Director General of Department of Environment is given the power to take all such measures that she/he deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting the environment along with abating environmental pollution, and issue necessary directions in writing to any person.
The Director General not only has the power to prevent, investigate and carry out programmes, she/he can inspect any place, premises, plants, machinery or substances for the purpose of tackling pollution and give appropriate orders or directions to authorities or persons competent for prevention, control and reduction of environmental pollution (section 4 of Environment Conservation Act 1995). In order to ensure adequate protection of the environment all industries are required to obtain an environmental clearance from the Director General. Under section 15, the Environment Court can impose the maximum penalty of 10 lac taka both for natural and juristic persons for environmental offences.
The Environment Court Act 2010 is aimed to establish one or more Environment Court/s in each district with a Joint District Judge and the said judge shall in addition to his ordinary function dispose of the cases that fall within the jurisdiction of an Environment Court. On average 100 cases are filed in every year in the Environment Courts of Bangladesh which can exercise jurisdiction in any matters arising out of the Environment Conservation Act 1995. Under this existing law, complainant has to prove his/her case and s/he has to bring evidences on behalf of the case and a speedy trial is the main objective behind the establishment of Environment Court.
The protection and improvement of environment is intimately related with the protection of people's lives and livelihoods. To ensure eco-friendly sustainable development for the present and future generations Environment Courts and Acts are working intensely. Even after all these productive measures the responsibility lies on each and every one of us, as citizens of Bangladesh to do our part for the environment and its protection.
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