South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Two bills were placed in parliament yesterday seeking to increase power and number of environment courts to take stern actions against polluters and also to establish a trust to tackle adverse impacts of climate change.

State Minister for Environment and Forest Hasan Mahmud placed the bills, which were sent to the parliamentary standing committees on environment and forest ministry for scrutiny.

The bill to enact new law aims to expedite trial of environment related offences and offers setting up environment court at every district headquarters with expanded jurisdiction to take stern actions against all sorts of polluters.

A judicial officer of the rank of a joint district judge will be appointed as the judge of the environment court to conduct trial of environment related offences alongside his general jurisdiction.

The bill also proposed for setting up one or more special magistrate’s courts at district level with the authority to hold trial of environment offences and issue order to confiscate goods and other materials as punishment.

It proposed repealing the existing Environment Court Act, 2000 which allows the government to form court only at divisional headquarters. According to the existing law, a person might be jailed for maximum three years or fined Tk 3 lakh for polluting environment.

But the proposed legislation increased the jail term up to five years and the fine up to Tk 5 lakh.

Both the special magistrate’s court and the environment court will enjoy authority to realise fines from the offenders. Besides, the courts may order to meet expenses for conducting cases and give the money in compensation to the affected individuals or organisations.

In defence of the new legislation, the state minister said the special magistrate can only run mobile courts under the existing laws to take actions against only production, import, marketing, stocking of polythene shopping bags and against vehicles responsible for polluting environment by emitting smoke.

“The special magistrate’s court cannot take actions against serious environment related offences under the existing law,” he said in a brief statement tagged with the copy of the bill.

Under the proposed law, all sorts of cases involving environment pollution can be filed with the special magistrate’s courts, Hasan Mahmud added.

The proposed legislation on climate change trust says the government will constitute a 17-member trustee board as soon as possible after enactment of the law for tackling adverse impacts of climate change for which the government has already allocated Tk 1,400 crore.

The ministers of finance, agriculture, food and disaster management, foreign, women and children affairs, water resources, shipping, health and family welfare, and LGRD, and secretaries of the cabinet division, finance division and the central bank’s governor are, among others, members of the trustee board to be led by the minister for environment and forest.

The bill also proposed formation of a 12-member technical committee comprised of government officials and climate change experts to assist the trustee board to perform its functions.

The board will work on climate change adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer, finance and investment and take necessary actions for conducting research.

It will have a “climate change trust fund” which will be consisted of funds received from the government, donor agencies and countries and different sources approved by the government.

In defence of enactment of the legislation, the state minister said Bangladesh has been recognised as the most vulnerable country regarding the effects of climate change.

The government has already taken various measures including approval of Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan 2009 and also formed a climate change trust fund to tackle possible adverse impacts of climate change, he said.

Source: Daily Star – 21.09.2010