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Each district to have environment court

Move taken to amend Environment Court Act

Published : 11 Dec 2021 11:03 PM | Updated : 12 Dec 2021 02:00 PM

The government is planning to set up environment court in every district in Bangladesh. The provision was mentioned in the initial draft of the ‘Environment Court Act, 2010 (Amendment)-2021’.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has prepared the draft. It was uploaded on the website of the ministry for public opinion. The final draft will be prepared after reviewing the public opinion. Later, the amended law will be passed in the Parliament after completing the necessary proceedings.

Talking to Bangladesh Post on Saturday, Dr Md Monsur Alam, a deputy secretary of the ministry, said that after bringing amendment to the law, each district would have one or more special court called ‘Environment Court’ to deal with the environment related issues. Many remain reluctant to go to the environment court to avoid hassle which arises for poor number of court. The fresh law will play a vital role to shun the hassle and any complexity, he added.

A specialized environmental court system was introduced in Bangladesh in 2003 after the enactment of the Environment Court Act, 2000. The fresh Environment Court Act was passed in 2010. The ‘Environment Court Act’ was enacted with the aim of establishing Environment Court to deal with the environment related issues.

According to the proposed ‘Environment Court Act, 2010 (Amendment)-2021’, a Joint District Judge will be appointed for the court who will dispose of the cases that fall within the jurisdiction of an Environment Court alongside his ordinary function.

The environment court will be set up in district headquarters. However, if the

government deems it necessary, the court may be set up at any place in the district, while more than one environmental court may be set up at any place in a district.

The proposed law also provides for the establishment of one or one more Special Magistrate Court with any Metropolitan Magistrate or Chief Judicial Magistrate in each district. The Director General of the Department of Environment (DoE) or his representative or any individual can file case to the court or police station directly for the offenses punishable under the environmental laws.

Muhammad Anowarul Hoque of Save Our Sea said that it is a positive side that common people’s access to the environment courts is ensured in the proposed amended law.

Mohammad Muslem Uddin Munna, Chairman at Oceanography department of Chittagong University (CU), told Bangladesh Post that the plan of setting up environmental court in every district is a good initiative. But it should be fruitful, not just in name. “We hope that the law will also focus on marine-centric environment issues. We call upon the authorities concerned to set up environment court as well as marine eco-centric environment court in every upazila of 19 coastal districts of Bangladesh,” he said.

Muhammad Anowarul Hoque echoed the same as the faculty member of CU, saying that Bangladesh being a littoral nation depends on the Bay has great potential in the field of blue economy, which stands for the sustainable use of marine resources. “However, our sea is being polluted for irresponsible tourism. The law should cover the issue with proper importance and one more environment courts should be set up in the coastal districts to save the sea from pollution,” he added.

Gaous Pearee, director at WBB Trust, said that environmental pollution happens in our country in many ways. A significant number of deaths in Bangladesh are due to environmental pollution every year. Establishment of environment court in every district will play a vital role to prevent environmental pollution. There is a need to raise awareness for environmental protection as well, she added.

She further said that alongside complexities in the existing environmental laws, people are not well informed of the environment court due to lack of awareness. “Alongside the government, we should carry out awareness campaigns in this regard,” she added.

According to the existing environmental laws, common people or environmental

organisations can’t file cases directly with the environmental court. They have to file a complaint with the DoE first. If the matter is not resolved, then they can go to court.

However, if the DoE DG feels that a person or organisation has violated the law, the DG may calculate the damages and issue directives for compensation. If the compensation is not paid, the DG may file a case with the court.

Bangladesh is among the few countries that have special court on the environment.

However, the only four courts sit idle due to lack of cases, although environment

activists claim that the number of anti-environment activities is on the rise across the country.

Experts said that although environmental laws and separate courts exist and the number of anti-environment activities is increasing day by day in the country, complaints are not filed with the courts because the courts are out of reach of common people and the officials concerned. The absence of any provision to file cases directly to the environment court is another key reason behind the number of few cases.

There are only four Environment Courts in Dhaka, Chatttogram, Sylhet and Habiganj. The environment court in Habiganj was set up recently. “How could only four courts deal with the anti-environment activities across the country? Alongside common people, the law enforcing agencies’ officials and government officials concerned are not willing to go to the court to handle environment issue to avoid hassle as the courts are out of their reach, while there is legal complexity to file case to the environment court,” said Muhammad Anowarul Hoque, secretary general of Save Our Sea, an environmental platform which works to save the Bay of Bengal.

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