Present national environmental laws around the world got their basis from various international conventions, treaties, and agreements. From all these, Stockholm Declaration in 1972 and Rio Declaration in 1992 are the most well-known conference which emphasised and addressed particular sources of pollution and the conservation of general and particular environmental resources. Actions are required to reduce the rate of environmental degradation, to improve the natural and man-made environment, to conserve habitats and biodiversity, to promote sustainable development and to improve qualitative indicators of human life. Later on, having been introduced with environmental matter and its need, many national laws have been adopted at national levels around the world. Bangladesh recognizes the vital importance of participating in global attempts to halt the process of environmental deterioration. Bangladesh was actively involved in the proceedings of the United Nations Convention on Environment and Development, signed the Rio Declaration and endorsed Agenda 21. This reflects the strong commitment of Bangladesh towards promoting and preserving the environment and biodiversity.
Biodiversity protection from international level:
International law for the protection of biodiversity is comparatively well developed. International biodiversity conservation policy has emerged from various sources. Legal rules have been adopted at the local, national, bilateral, regional and global levels to reduce the crisis that threatens biodiversity. Principle 4 of the Stockholm Declaration talks about the responsibility of man to save and manage the wildlife and its habitats wisely. Chapter 15 of Agenda 21 also addresses the conservation of biological diversity. Again, World Charter for Nature in 1982 affirmed that genetic viability on earth shall not be compromised and the survival of necessary habitats shall be safeguarded. In the international level, there are five most important conventions related to the protection of biodiversity:
- Convention on Biological Diversity: The objectives of this convention are conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from commercial and other utilization of genetic resources.
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species: It aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
- Convention on Wetlands (popularly known as the Ramsar Convention): It provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
- Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species: It aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.
- World Heritage Convention (WHC): It is to identify and conserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage, by drawing up a list of sites whose outstanding values should be preserved for all humanity and to ensure their protection through a closer co-operation among nations.
In these conventions, various steps are taken to protect the biodiversity from the international level and the signatory countries of these conventions are under many obligations to follow the conventions. Bangladesh is a signatory country of most of these international conventions.
National legal framework for biodiversity protection:
The environmental movement of Bangladesh is greatly influenced by the global movement, which achieved its momentum through Stockholm Declaration in 1972 and Rio Declaration in 1992. From the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country, many legislative measures have been taken to redress the environmental issues though it took a long time to create a full-fledged mechanism in our legal arena. Bangladesh adopted many national and special laws regarding the protection of national biodiversity. There are more than 200 laws aimed at addressing environmental issues in the country.
Before beginning with this, we need to know what it means by biodiversity. Cambridge Dictionary defines biodiversity as the number of plants and animals that are generally found in a fixed place or in the whole world. Wildlife Conservation Act 2012 defines biodiversity as genetic and species diversity of all species or subspecies of flora and fauna living in aquatic, terrestrial and marine eco-system. Now the question comes before us, what is an ecosystem? Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995 defines the Ecosystem as the interdepended balance complex association of all components of the environment which can support and influence the conservation and growth of all living organisms. It is submitted that biodiversity consists of flora and fauna which are interdependent complex components of the environment in a particular area or in the world generally.
From these laws some well-known laws can be analysed where provisions are incorporated for the protection of biodiversity:
Bangladesh Biological Diversity Act 2017:
Bangladesh has ratified Convention on Biological Diversity and consequently in 2017 adopted this law in the domestic legal system. Under section 4 of this act, a non-citizen or a foreign organization can’t collect or obtain any biological resource for research or commercial purpose without prior permission of the National Committee on biodiversity. Under sections 12,16,19,22 and 25 various Biodiversity Management committees are formed and they are mandated to assist the government to implement this law. No one can use and claim intellectual property right without prior permission of the National Committee under section 6. Areas consisting of biological diversity and endangered animals are being protected under sections 32 and 33 respectively. Strict punishment is provided under sections 39,40,41 and 42 for various illegal acts.
Wildlife Conservation Act 2012:
It is clear from the preamble of this act that the mandate under article 18A of our constitution is reflected in this law. Provision for the establishment of Wildlife Conservation Board is incorporated under section 3 to review and provide directions in the matter of conservation, development and management of biodiversity, wildlife and forests. Hunting wild animals without a license, as required under section 6, is barred. Determination of endangered and critically endangered species can be done (under section 7). Another great provision is any caught, rescued or seized wild animal shall be released in suitable natural habitat (under section 9). Declaration and protection of sanctuary are enshrined in sections 13,14,15 and 16. The government may declare any wetland, river, canal etc. as a special biodiversity area (section 22). The import and export of wild animals are strictly regulated under chapter VII of this act and hard punishment for violation of this act is adopted in this law.
Brick Manufacturing and Brick Klin Establishment (Control) Act 2013:
Strict provisions are incorporated to protect the plants from being burned (section 6). Not only the plants but also the air is also being protected from pollution by using the qualified coil as fuel in the brickfields. Establishing brickfield in ecologically critical and so on, as provided under section 8(2), is prohibited to protect biodiversity. The power to take action instantly is given to the Mobile Court under section 19.
The play-ground, Open space, Park and Natural Wetlands Conservation Act 2000:
It is clear from the preamble that this law has been enacted to protect the playground, Open space, Park and Natural Wetlands of megacities, divisional and district cities as well as municipal areas of the country. According to section 5 of this law, no one shall be allowed to alter the nature of these places without the permission of the concerned authorities. Violation of this provision is made punishable under section 8.
Environment Conservation Act 1995:
This is the law that widely encompasses environmental issues. For proper administration of environmental issues Department of Environment has been established. DG of DoE has been given massive power to protect the environment and biodiversity. To protect the areas where flora and fauna are under threat can be protected by declaring these places as ecologically critical areas (section 5). Polythene bag or article made of polythene is adverse to biodiversity and the government can absolutely ban using this polythene (section 6A). Provision for protecting biodiversity from future danger is also added in this act. If anyone wants to establish any project or industry, one shall have to obtain Environmental Clearance Certificate from DoE as required under this law.
Environment Court Act 2010:
In pursuance of agenda 21 of the Rio Declaration 1992, the first Environment Court Act was passed in 2000 but to meet the challenge of time and to ensure proper functioning the environmental laws of Bangladesh’s new Environment Court Act has been passed in 2010 repealing the old one. According to section 4, Joint District Judge has been empowered to be the judge of this court. Primarily this court has jurisdiction over the matters arising from the Environment Conservation Act 1995. But section 2 has given the government the power to add more laws to be exercised by this court. Under this act two types of court have been established, special magistrate court and environment court. The establishment of a special court for environmental issues is a milestone for the protection of the environment and biodiversity in Bangladesh.
As mentioned earlier, there are more than 200 laws regarding environment and biodiversity protection in Bangladesh among which I have analysed a few of them which reveal the abundance of provisions that ensure various types of measurement and steps on the point of protection of biodiversity in Bangladesh.
Problems with implementation:
Our domestic laws have widely addressed the protection of biodiversity. But the question is, are they implemented properly and functioning? One of the most satisfying answers may be found on the point of access to justice or access to the court. In most of these laws, the court has no suo moto power to take cognizance of the case without prior written permission from DoE or the concerned authority. DG of the Department of Environment has been given a wide range of power without any liability and scrutiny. The number of cases in environment court is not worth mentioning because of the complex relationship between the DoE and Court. Most of the laymen don’t have full knowledge of these laws and so why they are violating these laws continuously. The interrelationship between the various concerned authorities is not so much strong as a result it creates a haphazard situation.
To make these laws well functioned some recommendations are given-
- There are more than 200 hundred laws on this issue but they are scattered. A uniform system can be taken in the same manner as labour code.
- Public awareness should be increased and these laws should be circulated widely.
- As early as possible government should add more laws under section 2 of Environment Court Act 2010 for better judicial access and remedy.
- Power of the DG of DoE should be controlled by making rules and regulations.
- Conflict between DoE and Court on taking cognizance should be removed.
- National Green Tribunal of India is a role model around the world. Ours should be reformed in light with NGT of India.
- Inter-relationship between the concerned authorities should be increased.
- Manpower of concerned authorities should be increased.
The Supreme Court of Bangladesh in many cases has been performing a proactive role to redress the biodiversity issues. Activities of the Environment Court and the concerned authorities, as established by the laws, are not fully visible due to multidimensional lacking. It is already submitted that Bangladesh has huge laws on the present issue but the proper functioning of these laws is hindered due to the lacunas and conflict among the laws. If these visible problems are solved, proper functioning is ensured Bangladesh will be a role model in the history of Greening justice.
 Philippe Sands QC, Principles of International Environmental Law (2nd edition, first published in 1995) page 25
 Sharif A. Mukul, ‘Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development in Bangladesh: An overview of the present status, management problems and future prospects’ < https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237832682_Biodiversity_Conservation_and_Sustainable_Development_in_Bangladesh_An_overview_of_the_present_status_management_problems_and_future_prospects> accessed 12 July 2021
 Mohammad Golam Sarwar, ‘The legal framework on biodiversity conservation’ The Daily Star https://www.thedailystar.net/law-our-rights/news/the-legal-framework-biodiversity-conservation-1911401
 Alexandra Clemett, ‘A Review of Environmental Policy and Legislation in Bangladesh’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/57a08c2fe5274a31e0001058/R8161-Section2 accessed 12 July 2021
 Biodiversity meaning in Cambridge Online Dictionary < https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/biodiversity>
 Md. Khaled Miah, ‘Effective functioning of Environment Court’ The Daily Star https://www.thedailystar.net/law-our-rights/effective-functioning-environment-court-131956
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