Scanning the Constitution, environmental laws and election manifestos of major political parties in Bangladesh: Is “Green Party (Germany)” model a solution? -01

সোমবার, ফেব্রুয়ারী ৩, ২০২০ ১২:৫০ AM | বিভাগ : English


Although Part II (Fundamental Principles of State Policy) of Bangladesh Constitution deals with progressive issues like participation of women in national life (article: 10), democracy and human rights (article: 11), principles of people’s ownership over instruments and means of production and distribution (article: 13), emancipation of peasants and workers (article: 14), provision of five basic necessities (article: 15), rural development and agricultural revolution including rural electrification and development of cottage industries (article:16), nowhere it mentions anything about preservation or conservation of our environment or ecology.

It is to bridge this gap in our constitution on the question of environment that Bangladesh government has enacted Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act (BECA) which is set of laws enacted by the government of Bangladesh in 1995 to conserve the nation's environment. Its main goals were to "provide for conservation of the environment, improvement of environmental standards and control and mitigation of environmental pollution."(Bangladesh Environmental Conservation Act, 1995).”

Former environmental laws in Bangladesh include the Bangladesh Wild Life (Preservation) Order of 1973, the Marine Fisheries Ordinance of 1983 and the Brick Burning (Control) Act of 1989. Other major preservation laws enacted before the independence of Bangladesh include the Public Parks Act of 1904, the Agricultural and Sanitary Improvement Act of 1920, Forest Act of 1927, and the Protection and Conservation of Fish Act of 1950.

Bangladesh Environmental Conservation Act, 1995-96, however, provides operational definitions of terms that historically did not exist, including ecosystem, pollution, waste and hazardous substance. Seven areas in Bangladesh are defined as Ecologically Critical Areas under this law. Despite the Act and its supporting laws and policies, the environmental degradation of Bangladesh continues principally under the population pressure. This Act followed the establishment of the Ministry of Environment and Forest in 1989 and the National Environment Management Action Plan (NEMAP) in 1992, as well as the Forest Policy in 1994 and the Forestry Master Plan (1993–2012) in 1993. The act was put in place on 30 May 1995.

Though the act was established in the year of 1995, Bangladesh has not seen much improvement environmentally. In the year of 2011, the capital city of Bangladesh – Dhaka – had been ranked as the world's 2nd least liveable city in the world only beating Harare in Zimbabwe with an overall ranking difference of 1.2%. Though the scenario changed in 2012, when Dhaka was ranked 140 – the last among the liveable countries in the world. Though the overall ranking of livability did not change (was constant at 38.7%), but it did not improve like the other cities like Harare did, which was announced the 4th least livable city unlike the previous year. The humidity/temperature level of Dhaka was rated as 'uncomfortable' and so was the quality of water. Overall it achieved a rating of 43% in terms of culture and environment (100% being ideal) and a 27% in infrastructure (100% being ideal). This proves the inefficiency of the establishment of the environment law.

Being the least livable country in the world and the capital of the country, Dhaka obviously is on the top of their list. But it is easier said than to be done. One of the laws in the act includes, "Restriction regarding vehicles emitting smoke injurious to health." This law is nearly impossible to establish since Dhaka alone is the home to 7 million people given the fact that the area of the city is only 1463.60 km2.

It is against the backdrop of the huge gap within environment laws and their practices that the environment movement in Bangladesh has made significant strides in the past two decades. But, the aim of ending environmental degeneration has been proved to be elusive. Many critical spheres of our environment and ecology still are in need of sufficient policies and regulations. Areas that possess ample policies lack stringent implementation.

In 2015, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (BAPA)-Bangladesh Environment Movement Network (BEN) staged a conference on Environmental Law and Policy Implementation. It revealed that lack of political will and determination for environmental protection and weak oversight at the national level were among the root causes for lack of enough success in protecting environment. The proposed conference aims to discuss ways of increasing political effectiveness of the environment movement.

The Bangladesh environment movement has so far adhered to the “non-party model.” Non-partisan environment movement keeps aloof from partisan politics, although it attempts to implore the prevailing political parties to adopt pro-environment stance and principles. It has the privilege of evading competition and animosity with political parties. However, one crucial drawback of the model is that the environment movement has to rely on other political parties for undertaking protection measures in terms of environment.

International experience shows that in many countries, environmentalists are following the “party model.” Under this model, environmentalists build their own political parties, contest in polls at various levels, and even join the government, if just and plausible. In many developed countries, this model has brought positive result. For example, in Germany, the Green Party participated in government several times and played an important role in adoption and implementation of pro-environment policies, such as the policy of phasing out the nuclear power plants. Similarly, presidents of both Austria and Latvia are now from the Green Party, so is the Prime Minister of Iceland.

Another model that can be noted in many countries is the “political faction or caucus model.” In this model, environmentalists formulate a faction or caucus within a larger political party and try to influence the policies of that party. For example, in the U.S., both the Democratic and Republican parties have environmental caucuses. The same is true for the Labor and Conservative parties in Britain.

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