Environment Policy of Bangladesh
Since independence of Bangladesh in 1971, GDP has more than tripled in real terms, food production has increased three-fold, the population growth rate has declined from around 2.9% perannum in 1974 to 1.4% in 2006 and the country is now largely food secure. (GoB, 2009). Over the last 20 years, growth has accelerated and the country is on track to become a middle income country by 2021 when it celebrates its 50 years of independence. In four out of last five years the economy has grown at around 6 %( GoB, 2008). The Percentage of people living in poverty declined from 59% to 40% and the country’s Human Development Index improved from 0.347 in 1975 to 0.547 in 2005. Child mortality has fallen substantially and gender parity in primary education has been achieved (UNDP,2007). Despite these successes, more than 50 million of the people still live in poverty. Climate change will severely challenge the country’s ability to achieve the high rates of economic growth needed to sustain these reduction indicators in poverty. During the last three decades, the Government of Bangladesh has spent over $10 Billion (at constant price of 2007) to make the country climate resilient and less vulnerable to natural disaster.
However in the global context, Bangladesh is considered to be one of the most critical countrieswhich is the victim of climate change in the coming decade. It is predicted that there will be increasingly frequent and severe floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges, and droughts that would challenge the survival of Bangladesh (GoB,2009). Bangladesh, with an area of 147,570 sq. km, lies between 20°34′ – 26°38′ N and 88°01′ – 92°41′ E. It is bounded by India to the west, the north and the north-east, by Myanmar to the south-east and by the Bay of Bengal to the south. The country enjoys a sub-tropical monsoon climate with a distinct dry season. In the winter (November-February) the temperature varies from 5° – 23°C, in the summer (March-June) the maximum temperature shoots up to 40°C while the monsoon starts in July and persists until October. The average annual rainfall varies from 1229 to 4338 mm (WARPO, 2000). Forests cover about 14% of the country and per capita forest cover is 0.016 ha. In the 1980s, the rate of forest destruction was 8,000 hectares per annum and the annual deforestation rate is estimated to be 3.3%. Consequently, per capita forest land has declined from 0.035 ha in 1969 to 0.02 ha in 1995 (BBS, 2004).
Bangladesh is situated at the unique juxtaposition of the composite, sprawling, interlinked Ganges- Brahmaputra-Meghna river systems, the second largest river system in the world, which drains an area of 1,086,000 square kilometers from China, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Becauseof this unique geophysical location, the country has been endowed with rich biological diversity, hosting a rich variety of species superbly evolved to populate the ecosystems of the country. However, due to various pressures of a growing population (with an already existing base of 145 million people), development interventions, gaps in policy and legislation, and conflicting institutional mandates, 95% of Bangladesh’s natural forests and 50% of its freshwater wetlands are lost or degraded. Bangladesh now has among the smallest areas of protected and intact forest in the world, consisting of 1.4% of its landmass. Many terrestrial wildlife species have been lost during the last 100 years. In addition, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 2000 classified 40% of Bangladesh’s freshwater fish species as threatened with national extinction. Bangladesh is recognized to be one of the most susceptible countries in the world, highly vulnerable to climatic manifestations (short-term and long-term impacts of climate change) due to its unique geographic location, hydro-geological characters like dominance of floodplains, low elevation from the sea and lastly the socio-economical characters like high population density, high levels of poverty, and overwhelming dependence on nature.
In the context of the environment, the Government of Bangladesh formulated an Environment Policy in 1992. The objectives of Environment Policy are to:
• maintain ecological balance and overall development through protection and improvement of the environment;
• protect the country against natural disasters;
• identify and regulate activities which pollute and degrade the environment;
• ensure environmentally sound development in all sectors;
• ensure sustainable, long term and environmentally sound use of all national resources; and,
• actively remain associated with all international environmental initiatives to the maximum possible extent.
2. Background of the Environment Policy formulation
In pursuance of the Stockholm mandate, the government of Bangladesh, like all other developing and developed countries, actively participated in the evolutionary process of protecting global environment. As a result, the first Water Pollution Control Ordinance was promulgated in 1973 followed by the promulgation of the Environment Pollution Control Ordinance in 1977. In 1985 Department of Pollution Control Ordinance was established which subsequently renamed and structured as Department of Environment (DOE). The idea of environmental protection through national efforts was first recognized and declared with the adoption of the Environmental Policy 1992. In the formation of Environmental Policy, different actors and factors played some direct and indirect roles. The actors were basically of two types, external and internal. Among external actors, United Nations General Assembly, international forum, international organizations, donor agencies (IDA, USAID, UNDP, ADB) were major players. Internal actors include, environmental NGOs (CARDMA, BCAS, IUCN, FEJB, ADAB) government agencies i.e. Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF), DOE, Planning Commission, concerned ministries, consultants, bureaucrats, civil society and so on. All the actors, whether external or internal, played very pertinent roles in the formulation of the Environmental Policy. An important step in this regard was the formulation of the national Environment Management Action Plan (NEMAP) by the Ministry of Environment with participation by some NGOs and other organizations.
The Government of Bangladesh has also adopted a number of supplementary policies where environment and development issues have been addressed. Important policy documents in this respect are the Forest Policy (1994), the Fisheries Policy (1998), the Water Policy (1998), the New Agriculture Extension Policy (1995), The Energy Policy (1995). Besides these sectored policies, the National Conservation Strategy (NCS) and especially the National Environment Management Action Plan, 1995 (NEMAP) have been formulated to provide action plans to respond to environmental issues and promote sustainable development.
The second Poverty Reduction Strategy has recognized environmental degradation as one of the most crucial factors that causes and perpetuates poverty in Bangladesh. The PRSP also sorted the need for a comprehensive strategic approach to address environmental challenges and issues. Although some of these policies are not judicially enforceable according to the constitution of Bangladesh, they are still potentially important in guiding and influencing the activities of the concerned Ministries and other governmental agencies.
The policies of the Bangladesh Government have been developed mostly from a sectored approach. However, the Water Policy, the Fisheries Policy and Agriculture Policy have rosssectoral approach and tried to address environmental issues. These policies call for a precautionary approach to minimize impact from other sectors like industry, transportation, urbanization, flood control etc. Policy documents generally refer to the principles that govern he action directed towards given ends. It provides a basis for plans, prescriptions and framework to maintain the dynamic growth of the sector.
3. Policy Formulation dynamics
In the formulation period, a number of external actors (i.e. outside the government) had played significant role. These actors include – bilateral and multi-lateral donor2 agencies, donor supported national and international consultants, NGOs dealing with environment and social ctivists3. Although the MoEF was responsible for drafting the policy, in reality it was drafted by an informally organized Task Force composed of the major actors. International donor agencies, experts from selected NGOs and some civil society bodies provided technical and back up support to the ministry. No separate funding was allocated for the drafting team of the Environment Policy. In fact it was going parallel with NEMAP, NCS, and other environmental projects of the government and which were financially supported by those projects. As a matter of fact the same group of actors was involved in the first draft of Environment Policy, NEMAP, and NCS. One expert observed that the “draft of Environment Policy was the by-product of the NEMAP project. in which the role of the ministry was far too limited in the technical aspects of the preparation of the policy. Another observer therefore noted that “Environment Policy was essentially a brilliant policy document produced by a collation of external actors who not only drafted the policy but also helped the government to get it operational” (Islam, 2007).
4. Major features of the environment policy
The policy covered all geographical regions and 15 development sectors like Agriculture, Industry, Health & Sanitation, Energy and Fuel, Water Development, Flood Control and Irrigation, Land, Forest, Wildlife and Bio-diversity, Fisheries and Livestock, Food, Coastal and Marine Environment,
Transport and Communication, Housing and Urbanization, Population, Education and Public
Awareness, Science, Technology and Research, Legal Framework and Institutional Arrangements. The policy mentioned the suitability of environmentally sound development on proper changes in production management and relations of production of agriculture sector to guaranteeing improvement of environment and sustainable use of its resources (Section 3.1). Moreover, the policy necessitated firmly to review Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on industries of public and private sectors and also encompassed the necessity of integrated environmental concerns that shaped into the National Health Policy (Section 3.2.2). The policy also recommends to ensure environmentally sustainable steps in the local, zonal and national levels of Bangladesh on flood control and its related matters such as construction of embankments, dredging of rivers, digging of canals etc and to make certain alleviated measures of adverse environmental impact on flood control projects and water resources development projects. The policy subsequently stated the formulation and application of national land use policy to ensure sound and balance environment and prevention of land erosion, preservation and increase in soil fertility, conservation of environmentally sound management of new accreted land, compatible land use system with various ecosystems, prevention of salinity and alkalinity on land (3.6.1 – 3.6.4). These uphold adaptation mechanisms on land use systems will compress the risks and disasters of climatic change. The policy emphasized the need for sustainable ecological balance on existing forests
conservation, expansion and development of forests to establish programmers on tree plantation in all relevant development schemes and took measures to stop shrinkage and depletion of forest lands and resources. The policy called for the protection viability of mangrove forests and eco-systems against adverse appliance of fisheries and livestock and suggested alternative fish culture upon environmental friendly conditions and environmentally sound conservation and development of coastal and marine eco-systems and resources (Section 3.8.3, 3.8.4, 3.10.1).
In 1992 the National Environmental Policy was drawn up with the aim of providing protection and sustainable management of the environment. The National Environment Policy 1992 embraces a number of related sectors including agriculture, industry, health, energy, water, land, forest, fisheries, marine, transport, housing, population, education and science. The central theme of the Environment Policy of 1992 is to ensure the protection and improvement of the environment. It requires the Government of Bangladesh to ratify international convention and protocols in view of its suitability. The National environment policy has introduced a number of salient environment principles like precautionary approach and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It also assigned the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) with the responsibility of coordinating the implementation of the policy.
The policy has provided guidelines for the following sectors:
Agriculture: Environmentally sound agricultural practices are to be encouraged and ensured for attainment of self-sufficiency in food. Among the various specific measures, use of natural fertilizers and insecticides is encouraged as opposed to the application of agro-chemicals and artificial materials exerting adverse impact on the environment.
Industry: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for new industries, corrective measures for polluting industries, ban on establishment of polluting industries and development of environmentally sound and appropriate technology is required for sustainable and efficient utilization of natural resources.
Health and Sanitation: Healthy environment for rural and urban area, prevention of activities, which are harmful to public health and healthy workplaces for workers are to be ensured.
Energy and Fuel: Reduction of the use of fuel-wood and agricultural residues, exploring alternative energy resources, precautionary measures against potentially harmful use of nuclear energy and nuclear radiation, conservation of forest fuel and development of improved energy saving technology are recommended options for the sector. Apart from these, EIA has been made mandatory before implementing projects for exploration and
extraction of fuel and mineral resources.
Water: Environmentally sound water resource management is suggested in utilization and development of water resources, construction of irrigation network and embankments, dredging of watercourses and in taking measures against river pollution. EIA is required before undertaking projects related to water resource development and flood control measures.
Land: Activities that cause or result in land erosion, salinity and alkalinity, and loss of soil fertility are prohibited. Compatible land use systems for different ecosystems and environmentally sound management of newly accreted land are recommended. Forest, Wildlife and Bio-diversity: Conservation and expansion of forest zones, conservation of wildlife and biodiversity and conservation of wetlands are recognized as priority areas for action.
Fisheries and Livestock: Conservation of fisheries and livestock, mangrove forest and others ecosystems and prevention of activities that diminish the wetlands and natural habitats for fishes are the basic objectives in this sector. The need for an inter-ministerial co-ordination is indicated by requiring evaluation by the concerned agencies, of the existing projects on water development, flood control and irrigation, in order to minimize their adverse impact on fish growth and their habitat.
Food: Hygienic and environmentally sound method of production, preservation, processing
and distribution of food and measures to ensure prohibition of import of harmful food items
Coastal and Marine Environment: Coastal and marine eco-systems are identified as potential areas for intervention, where all internal and external polluting activities should be stopped. Fishing in coastal and marine environment within regeneration limits is recommended.
Transport and Communication: Road, rail, air and water transport systems should be operated without polluting the environment. EIA is required before undertaking any projects in these sectors.
Housing and Urbanization: Environmentally sound planning and development of housing and urban centers is required. Existence of water bodies in the cities is recommended for maintaining environmental and ecosystem balance in the urban areas.
Population: Planned and proper utilization of manpower including ensuring the participation and mainstreaming of women in all spheres is targeted for environmentally
sound development activities.
Education and Public Awareness: Eradication of illiteracy through formal and non-formal education, building and raising public awareness of the environmental issues, dissemination of environmental knowledge and information are the policy guidelines for the conservation, improvement and sustainable use of natural resources.
Science, Technology and Research: Research and development institutes are required to consider the incorporation of the environmental issues in their research programs. To reinforce the policy, the Government of Bangladesh Environmental Conservation Act in 1997
that was subsequently amended in 2000. For the implementation and leadership, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) was assigned to play the role of lead agency. A National Environmental Committee was created with the Prime Minister as the as the Chairperson to give overall direction for implementation of this policy. The policy emphasized that the MoEF would take timely steps for appropriate amendment and modification of this policy on the backdrop of changes in the state of environment and socioeconomic and other needs of the country.
5. Bangladesh’s Environmental Laws
The majority of environmental laws in Bangladesh were passed under substantially different population and development conditions. For example, the Factories Act of 1965 and some other health protection laws were designed before industrial pollution and hazardous substances became serious concerns. The Environment Policy of 1992 of Bangladesh has recognized the need for a better and comprehensive approach to address environmental issues. Very few of the elements of the Environment Policy, however, are yet to be translated into laws. The only legislation which specifically deals with environment issues is the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act (ECA) 1995. The Act was passed for conservation and improvement of environmental standards and for controlling and mitigating environmental pollution. It however, provides very few substantive obligations relating to environmental management of industries. Industries and projects would require environmental clearance from the Department of the Environment, and any person affected or likely to be affected by such activities can apply to the Director General seeking remedy of environmental pollution or degradation4. The major limitations of the Act are its silences on the standards, parameters, emission levels and management elements based on which the environmental clearance should have been applied and obtained.
The Environmental Conservation Rules, 1997, were promulgated in furtherance of the objectives of the ECA, 1995. Regarding management of toxic and hazardous substances, the Rules have broadly defined guidelines for disposal of waste from different categories of industries. But unlike the Environmental Protection Rules of India, The Environmental Conservation Rules, 1997 have not specified the permissible extent of emissions or the obligations of corrective actions (IUCN,2000).
Among Bangladeshi scrotal laws, environmental issues are seldom referred to, and when they are there, those are of no real substance. For example, Article 6 of The Bangladesh Petroleum Act, 1975 provides that it shall be the duty of any person engaged in any petroleum operation to ensure that the operation is carried out i) in proper and workmanlike manner and in accordance with good oil-field practice, ii) in a manner that does not interfere with navigation, fishing, and conservation of resources of the sea and sea-bed, and to consider factors connected with the ecology and environment. The Act has not defined what the factors ‘connected with the ecology and environment’ are and what management elements a company should establish and maintain to discharge its obligations under the Act.
6. General institutional arrangement
Formal responsibilities of overall environment sector are vested with the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). However, many other institutions, directly and indirectly, are involved in managing or shaping the environment sector. These embrace public sector, private sector and civil society institutions. Major institutions involved in the development and implementation of plans and policies are the Planning Commission, Department of Forest, Department of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Housing and Public Works etc.
At the higher level, National Environment Council (NEC) headed by the Prime Minister and
Executive Committee of National Environment Council (ECNEC) headed by the Minister for
Ministry of Environment and Forest provide guidance to the sectoral Ministries/Agencies on matters of national environmental management. At the Divisional level, Divisional Environment Committee chaired by the Commissioner with representation from all other government are supposed to deal with environmental issues at the local level. However, these institutional arrangements are yet to be fully functional.
The MoEF bears the responsibility for working with other ministries to ensure that environmental concerns are given due recognition in their development program. The Ministry has an active role to play in policy advice and coordination of the implementation of action plans across all sectors. MoEF is also responsible for reviewing and monitoring the impact of development initiatives on the environment across all sectors. Each of the Ministries has their own policy and program frameworks which provide a basis for addressing fundamental issues of environmental management and protection in Bangladesh. Institutional capacity of all the concerned ministries for implementing the various action measures identified still remains weak. It was acknowledged in the NEMAP document that neither the fledgling Ministry of Environment and Forest nor its Department of Environment has developed the institutional capacity to substantially tackle problems of environmental
management and protection.
The Department of Environment (DOE), as the technical arm of the Ministry, is responsible for environmental planning, management, monitoring and enforcement. The mandate of the
Department includes: assessment and monitoring of tasks such as on-site surveillance of environmental improvement components of development projects; promoting environmental awareness through public information program; and controlling and monitoring industrial pollution; environmental impact assessment, and in formulating guidelines for line agencies involved in activities affecting air quality, soil and water conservation, afforestation, wildlife, critical habitats, fisheries and other natural resources issues. DoE has the legal authority to declare any ecosystem as Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) and so far 8 ECAs have been declared. However, management issue of declared ECAs has not been resolved. DOE has been unable to consistently respond to its complaints largely due to lack of well positioned field resources.
Forest Department (FD) is entrusted with the primary responsibility of managing all the government owned forests of Bangladesh. The Forest Department, following the recent reorganization, has 8,681 positions, headed by a Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF). Under the CCF, it has 4 Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests, 9 Conservator of Forests, 44 Divisional Forest Officers, and other officers and staff of various ranks. The manpower in the FD is far below the actual need. The manpower aspect is further aggravated since many of the positions are lying vacant since long and due to FD’s large scale involvement in participatory forestry activities.
Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO) is the major institution involved in water resource management. WARPO was established as the secretariat to the National Water Resources Council (NWRC). NWRC is the water sector apex body chaired by the Prime Minister that has the authority for formulating water policy and ensuring inter-agency coordination. WARPO’s mandate is supported by the National Water Policy, 1999 and National Water Management Plan (NWMP). WARPO is responsible for national water planning; monitoring; formulation of water legislation and regulations; inter-scrotal coordination of water plans and maintaining central data system.
The Department of Fisheries (DOF) is the primary institute engaged in managing fisheries resources. DOF was created with strong focus on enhancing the production. DOF has been steadily fulfilling its mandate mostly through aquaculture extension. The National Fisheries
Policy, 1998 address all aspect of fisheries. Policy statements related to inland fisheries predominantly concern production, culture and enhancement but also emphasizes on the ecological balance and maintenance of biodiversity. DOF is on the process of developing a fisheries development plan to implement National Fisheries Policy.
7. Key Constraints for effective implementation of Environment policy
Bangladesh has been able to create an enabling policy regime for better management of its environment and natural resources. The policies have adopted in principle the concept of sustainable development and it has also recognized the importance of economic development that goes hand in hand with the control of environmental pollution and maintaining ecological balance. The formulated Environment Policy although fairly rich in content is not supported by necessary actions of implementation. Various research studies have noted that the implementation of the Environmental policy and the Environmental Protection Act have been bogged down due to some institutional and functional limitations (Khan, and Belal 1999, Hanchett, 1997).
• Various operational rules for effective implementation of the Policy and Act would require complementary and detailed operational rules, many of which have not yet been formulated. Furthermore, floods and cyclones are major concerns for environmental management in Bangladesh but the Environmental Protection Act still have limited concern and intervention for such disasters.
• Implementation of the Policy and Act demands a significant amount of funding and investment, which is hardly placed in the revenue and or development budget of Bangladesh.
• The DOE, the principal implementing agency severely lacks human and physical resources to respond to the demanding tasks and responsibilities of both the Policy and the Act.
• Lack of Inter-agency coordination is one of the major causes of poor and inefficient use of the existing policy outline and rules on environmental protection and management. Neither the policy nor the law presents clear operational guidelines for such inter-agency coordination and synchronization of approaches.
• Empirical studies also noted that involvement of the effective engagement and participation of the community in various environment management and operational interventions have narrowed down the functional effectiveness of the policy and the Act. Some of the other constraints in terms of institutional, legal, policy framework for an effective implementation of environmental policy are discussed below.
7.1 Inconsistency with other policies: The policies of the Bangladesh Government have been developed mostly from a sectoral approach. Although the Environment Policy emphasizes on maintaining ecological balance and overall development through protection of the environment, ensuring environmentally sound development and sustainable use of natural resources but some other sectoral policies are not consistent to achieve these objectives. The environment policy provides that environmentally sound agricultural practices are to be encouraged. The use of natural fertilizers and insecticides is encouraged as opposed to the application of agro-chemicals. The agriculture policy itself recognizes that chemical fertilizers and pesticides used for increased crop production may lead to ‘environmental pollution’ but does not explain how increased use of HYV seeds would not involve increased use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well. The agriculture policy is silent about the need for assessing the impact of the use of agro-chemicals on soil, water bodies, fisheries and overall biodiversity. The said policy though mentions the need for crop diversification; specific emphasis is put only on rice, wheat and maize. Its omission in addressing the guidelines for non-traditional crops is not being helpful towards preserving the biodiversity of crops of the country. The Fishery Policy also has failed to properly address the issue of small and indigenous fish species, which are gradually disappearing. The policy should have dealt with this aspect more seriously as the growth of small fishes has had very positive implication for maintaining biodiversity in rural aquaculture apart from supplying fish protein to the poor. Although the release of untreated effluents from the industries into the water bodies is very much harmful for the environment, the Industrial Policy has neither explicitly spelled out the consequences of harmful effluent release into the open water bodies nor provided any guideline for impact assessment in this connection.
Environmental Policy does not conform to the narrow objectives of the Export Policy. For example, the Environment Policy stresses the necessity of “encouraging land use systems compatible with various ecosystems”. It emphasizes the adoption of measures to “prevent spread of salinity and alkalinity on the land”. On the contrary, the Export Policy 1993-1995 emphasizes the rapid expansion of traditional/semi-intensive cultivation of shrimp to increase export.
7.2 Lack of inter-sectoral coordination: Inter-sectoral coordination in dealing with cross-cutting issue like environment is a major issue in Bangladesh. The natural resource sectors such as water, fish, forests, etc. are the worst sufferers in this context. Polices are thus often criticized for their lack of directions for cooperation, coherence and coordination among the interested parties involved there in. The management responsibilities of different environmental components are divided into different sectors and ministries. This hinders smooth operation and execution of sustainable management regime. Coordination between the DOE, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and line ministries is weak. Under the national Fisheries Policy, the MoFL is expected to “control all aspects of fisheries sector”. However, no reference was made to the required linkage with the numerous agencies and ministries those manage different aspects of fisheries. Though the policy states that coordination will be established, but the mechanism for that has not been spelled out. Although the Department of Fisheries is responsible for the improvement of the fisheries sector, but legally the owner of the water bodies are other government bodies. Access rights to jalmohals larger than 3 acres are controlled by the Ministry of Land and Ministry of Youth and Sport. The Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for haor development. Only recently a small number of selected jalmohals have been handed over to DOF to develop community based fisheries management. Often activities of the Water, Communication or Local Government Ministry cause damage to the fisheries sector as well as to the natural ecosystems. These give rise to inter-sectoral conflicts, mainly due to lack of coordination. In the process, the subject of protecting the resources and the ecosystems does not happen to be treated with appropriate urgency and priority and thus creates inconsistencies.
7.3 Lack of regulatory and Institutional capacity: Institutional capacity for implementing the
various action measures identified by the environment policy is still weak. Coordination between the DOE, MOEF and line ministries is fragile. Most of the concerned ministries and departments including the MOEF lack institutional capacities in terms of human, technological and financial resources needed for proper implementation of the policies. It lacks essential baseline data on resources and areas of environmental concern. Although it now acts as a “clearing house” for all development projects put forward by the different line ministries, it lacks the necessary basic technical expertise to effectively assess and monitor projects for their environmental impact and it suffers from a shortage of basic facilities, equipment and logistic support. Besides due to the absence of an overall monitoring authority of MOEF, no progress or suggestions for the improvement in this area has yet been achieved. The Department of Environment and Forest faces similar weaknesses. They have a shortage of adequate and trained manpower. There is lack of an information management system supported by a strong data bank to back up planning, policies and monitoring activities. DOE is a regulatory and enforcement department but it is highly centralized and lacks significant presence at regional and local level.
7.4 Limitations of the environment laws: Following the environment policy the Environment Conservation Act 1995 was adopted for the conservation, improvement of environmental standard and controlling the pollution of environment. In addition Environment Conservation Rule 1997 was passed to supplement the Act. Another milestone in this regard was the Environment Court Act, 2000. This Act was passed for the purpose of trying cases involving offences regarding violation of environmental laws. However still there are some limitations of these environmental related laws. Evaluations of the legislation of environmental impact assessments show that the law has not been adequately implemented. Transparency and public consultation have been lacking in EIA implementation (ADB,2004). Under section 7 of Environmental Conservation Act “if it appears to the Director General(DG) of DOE that any act or omission is causing harm to the ecosystem the he may determine the compensation and direct the person to pay it. However though punishment has been prescribed for violation of the direction in this section but the Act or Rules of 1997 has yet to be spelled out the procedure in which to calculate environmental damage for the purpose of paying compensation. Section 12 of Environmental Conservation Act imposes restriction upon free establishment of industrial unit or project. Section 7 gives a detailed account of the procedure to be followed in issuing environmental clearance certificate. For the set up of these industrial unit or project, the application must be accompanied with no objection certificate of the Local government authority. But the Conservation Act or Rules do not provide any procedures to be guided by the local government authority in issuing such no objection certificate5. Such this provision of public hearing has not yet been incorporated in the environment conservation Act or rules. The current EIA system in Bangladesh is inadequate even to ensure environmental sustainability at the project level let alone promote environmental consideration at the strategic level. The major inadequacies are in legislative control of the EIA, procedural appropriateness of current EIA system, institutional capacity and public participation. There is no specific guideline for conducting and reviewing the environmental assessment of non industrial project , for which currently , environmental assessment done by the project sponsor are sent to the DOE for environmental clearance by the sectoral line agencies of the govt. In fact the DOE is still following an adhoc based procedure for giving environmental clearance of non industrial project.
The environment court enjoys the exclusive jurisdiction for trial of an offence or for compensation falling under the Environment Conservation Act and other environmental laws to be specified by the government in official notification. But the government has not declared any other law to be dealt with by the environment court. Moreover environment court is a special type of court and the court must have separate rules to be followed for the proper adjudication of environmental cases. Nevertheless, the government has not yet framed such rules to spell out the procedures of the said court.
7.5 Outdated environmental laws as well as ignorance about these laws: All the important
policies including the National Environmental Policy of 1992 have been formulated in the last decade and only a very few of them seem to corroborate well with the older legal instruments of the given sector. Although the need of amendment of existing laws and formulation of new laws
were the main cause of having many of the policies revised or declared a fresh, only a very few laws like ECA of 1995, ECR of 1997, ECA of 2000 etc could be tabled in this regard6.
Some of the environmental rules and related laws are outdated laws and others are improperly and incompletely updated are neither adequate to meet the present day needs of the country nor consistent with the changing environmental scenario of the world. Such laws cannot play any effective role in combating environmental pollution in today’s Bangladesh, where overpopulation, poverty and illiteracy are aggravating this crisis every day. For example, Agricultural and Sanitary Improvement Act, 1920; Water Hyacinth Act, 1936; Embankment andDrainage Act, 1952; The Town Improvement Act, 1953; Shops and Establishments Act, 1965- important environmental laws – have not been updated yet. These laws, having been passed two to five decades back, cannot possibly have incorporated the modern concepts of sustainable development or environmental protection which are outcomes of very recent concerns about environment.
A research on the regulatory regime (Farooque and Rizwana, 1996) shows that there are around 200 laws that have bearing on environment directly and causally. These laws provide for measures relevant for environment conservation, offer protection against various environmental offences and by prescribing or prohibiting certain activities, lay down rights and duties. A great bulk of these environmental legislations were existent in the country right from the 19th century although they remained either unenforced to a large extent and are hardly known to the publi agencies. Moreover, lack of consciousness amongst the implementers and the general public as to the very existence and scope of these laws made those functionally ineffective.
7.6 Non-punitive approach of laws: The existing laws can be criticized for their non-punitive approach. Only a few legislations like The Penal Code, Tea Plantation Ordinance, Wildlife (preservation) Order etc. provide for punishment, but these are also too marginal to influencepeople’s attitude. For example, the maximum punishment under the Penal Code for fouling water is only three months’ imprisonment and that for making atmosphere noxious is only Taka Five hundred ( US$7) in fines. Under the Agricultural Pest Ordinance, 1962, punishment for transport or sale of infested crop is a maximum Tk 500 (US$7) fine and that under the Agricultural Pesticides Ordinance, 1971 is a maximum Tk. 1000 (US$14).
7.7 Politician- Polluter nexus: Available evidences suggest that in most cases the environment polluters are very powerful both financially and politically. There is an unholy nexus among asection of public bureaucracy, leading political elites and the polluters. Recent evidences alsoreveal that in formal meeting with a cabinet minister, a leading spokesman of the Real Estate Association threatened the government to withdraw the Detail Area Plan of the Capital city (which along with others emphasized the protection of natural water reservoir bodies), as it was not in line with the expectation of the developers.
8. Way out
Given Bangladesh experiences, some of the immediate policy and procedural interventions can be suggested to address the proper implementation of the Environmental Policy and supplementary Acts and Rules.
8.1 Need for a Sectoral Policy Approach: The level of vulnerability of Bangladesh is likely to increase as a result of severe land degradation, soil erosion, lack of appropriate technology and sea-level rise (Huq, 1996). The main impacts of climate change will be on the water resources and water-level changes, food security and agriculture, ecosystem and natural resource management and biodiversity, and human health. A subjective ranking of key climate change impacts and vulnerabilities for Bangladesh identifies water and coastal resources as being of the highest priority in terms of certainty, urgency, and severity of impact, as well as the importance of the resources being affected (Alam, 2005). Therefore, policies should be formulated to balance conflict of interest between livelihood requirements of the people and sound environmental resource management. The provisions of sectoral policies should therefore be critically analyzed to synchronization and ensure synergy.
8.2 Addressing Policy Gap: The examination and analysis of the existing provisions ofsectoral policies in the line with adverse impacts of climate change and potential future impacts, it is found that existing policy directions don’t offer effective mechanisms to deal with climatic change. It is worthy to mention here that, even environment policy did not mention explicitly the term climate change and its adverse impacts. However, provisions incorporated are very useful to mitigate and adapt with climate change, but need to be reformed with the climatic vulnerability considerations. Experiences from other countries might be useful for policy reforms. Necessary reform initiatives should be taken for effective policy intervention by responsible public agencies through a coordinated effort among all the responsible agencies. To ensure the feasibility of all national policies relevant to climate change, concerned policy makers should take measures on mitigation and adaptation process to build up central database and Management Information System (MIS). Input into the policies of data on geomorphological, meteorological, ecological, biological and hydrological data can make them better informed to understand the causes and effects and interventions.
8.3 Regional and Bilateral Approach: Clear policy direction is required to solve the transboundary water issues with India. Existing Ganges Treaty should be reviewedcomprehensively to establish that its governing principles are in line with UN Water
Convention. However, Efforts need to be undertaken to promote a regional treaty to include all other international rivers shared by the SAARC and other regional countries.
8.4 Public awareness campaigns and community involvement: Raising awareness and information dissemination in order to have the stakeholders involved and concerned. These campaigns would also give the opportunity to understand what the perception and views of the public on climate change and adaptation are. Finally, user’s networks would be established to ensure the follow-up and exchange of experiences between different stakeholders.
8.5 Changes in institutional, administrative and organizational arrangements would be necessary to enhance the effectiveness of political decisions. This would be preceded by an examination of the existing bodies in charge of climate change issues: national climate change committees, their degree of representativeness and corresponding power and functions. Better coordination/integration of the different sectoral departments would be encouraged and institutionalized.
8.6 Strengthening the legal system: Since many environmental problems are partly due to nonenforcement of existing laws, the legal system would be strengthened. There is an immediate need for the amendment of the environment related laws to make those meet the demand of the time. Taking examples from the region, Bangladesh should seriously consider the inclusion of provisions in the Constitution to provide broad guidelines to environment protection.
8.7 Strengthening fiscal measures: The introduction of public policies to encourage and support adaptation of individuals and the private sector, particularly through the establishment of fiscal incentives or subsidies, would be used as an option.
Case study of Bangladesh Environment Policy reveals some institutional learning and features: a. the Policy was drafted by a very distinguished panel of experts drawn from civil society, NGOs, academics, national and international consultants. However, the involvement of Ministry of Environment and its officials were more of supportive than active engagement and taking leadership – which ultimately had cost the political ” ownership” of the Policy; b. with frequent changes in the leadership positions of the Ministry and Department of Environment, the pace and process of the implementation of the Policy not only bogged down but also seem to have changed the directions and priorities; c. to begin with there were some “political enthusiasm”, but with the change of regime, political commitment seems to have faded out; d. due to lack of inter-ministerial coordination, the Policy has not been translated fully in action or supported by supplementary rules, regulations and necessary amendments of other rules and policies; e. there has always been some form of tacit and open resistance to the Policy from the politically powerful lobbies and vested interest groups, f. general understanding and awareness of the public officials directly involved in the implementation of the Policy have been very much limited and vague. g. like many other policies, the Environment Policy of Bangladesh was over ambitious and did not take into account the mind-set of political leaders and bureaucracy, and the institutional capacity and processes of public administration system; and, h. finally the Policy to begin with also to a great extent failed to involve local government bodies at the grass roots. The implementation of the Environment Policy is handicapped by some institutional limitations and thus appears to be less effective in responding to the demand side of the service and interventions. If such institutional issues are not rightly addressed, the Policy and the Act therefore, as one observer noted that it served the “rhetoric purposes only for the central politicians and bureaucratic leadership” (Khan, 1999). The National Environmental Policy does not clarify the measures needed for integrated efforts for environmental protection. It also fails to address the need for policy guideline concerning issues like, bio-safety, intellectual property right, watershed management and transboundary movement of hazards and environmental problems. However with some modifications the National Environment Policy of Bangladesh can still be considered as a good foundation to bring about necessary changes to address and mitigate the major challenges of environment and to further improvement. Therefore, a broad based consensus among various stakeholders to implement the Environment Policy with necessary modifications, will be crucial- with highest political will, as a pre requisite.
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