This report covers the legal and other developments on different aspects of the environment in the year 2016. In previous reports, it was stated that the Bangladesh Power Development Board of the government of Bangladesh had decided to construct a 1,320 megawatt coal-fired power plant—the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant—at Rampal Upazila of Bagerhat District in Khulna, in partnership with India’s state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation. This proposed site is situated only 14 kilometres away from the Sundarbans, the world’s largest unbroken mangrove system and a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization world heritage site. Different stakeholders and civil society representatives from home and abroad have been requesting that the government reconsider the decision of setting up the power plant in that location due to the concern that this will create adverse effects on the Sundarbans. As a result, following the decision of the World Heritage Center (WHC) in Bonn in 2015, the WHC and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) undertook a reactive monitoring mission on 22–8 March 2016 in the Sundarbans to, inter alia, review the potential impacts on the Sundarbans’s outstanding universal value by the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant and the dredging of the Pashur River and to assess the current management system of the property and the wider Sundarbans Reserved Forest. The report submitted by the mission concluded that the power plant poses a serious threat to the Sundarbans and identified four areas of concern: pollution from coal ash by air, pollution from wastewater and waste ash, increased shipping and dredging, and the cumulative impact of industrial and related development infrastructure. Finally, the mission recommended cancelling and, thereafter, relocating the power plant project. The government of Bangladesh has submitted an extensive and thoughtful response to the WHC, and the government was further expected to provide a progress report to the WHC by 1 December 2016 on the state of conservation of the Sundarbans that will be examined by the WHC in 2017 (<http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/798/documents/>). Bangladesh has adopted the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were given emphasis in the seventh Five-Year Plan 2016–20 (FYP) of the government of Bangladesh. The FYP, while putting emphasis on the SDGs and setting up priority areas, has set national environmental targets and goals to move the country towards a more sustainable economy and society. Through this plan, the government has formulated economic growth strategies, keeping climate change adaptation and mitigation issues in consideration. Also, the plan demonstrates a strong commitment to harnessing a strong environmental and disaster management capacity enhancement process and adherence to green growth modalities. To monitor and assess the attainments of the targets of the SDGs, the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission in Bangladesh has conducted a data gap analysis for each of the 230 indicators suggested for SDG monitoring, including four goals closely related to climate change and the environment. The GED has also done the mapping of ministries/divisions by SDG targets—that is, who is to do what in terms of the targets—which includes directly linked ministries/divisions. The FYP proposes a significant increase in the Annual Development Programme (ADP) allocations against the sectors dealing with sustainable environmental management. Accordingly, by the end of the planning period—that is, 2020—ADP allocation against the Ministry of Environment and Forests will be raised to 9.6 billion taka from 4.1 billion taka allocated in fiscal year 2016–17 (<http://www.plancomm.gov.bd/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/7th_FYP_18_02_.pdf>). With over 37,000 deaths from air pollution-related diseases annually, Bangladesh was ranked third in terms of such deaths in the report entitled Ambient Air Pollution: A Global Assessment of Exposure and Burden of Disease, which was published by the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia Regional Office (<http://who.int/phe/publications/air-pollution-global-assessment/en/>). (1) Ratification of, and Accession to, Treaties Bangladesh signed the historic Paris Agreement on 22 April and ratified the agreement on 21 September. The agreement entered into force on 4 November. Bangladesh signed the Framework Agreement on International Solar Alliance on 15 November during the twenty-second Conference of the Parties (COP-22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech, Morocco, and, thus, joined the International Solar Alliance to promote solar energy to mitigate adversities of climate change. (2) Regional and Bilateral Relations In July, senior officials from Bangladesh met their counterparts from India, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka to share their national experiences and to update the Regional Oil and Chemical Pollution Contingency Plan for South Asia, in order to implement the International Maritime Organization’s treaty on pollution prevention in the South Asia region—that is, the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation and the Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances (<http://www.sacep.org/?p=2404>). The Supreme Court of Bangladesh and the Asian Development Bank jointly organized the fifth South Asia Judicial Conference on Environment and Climate Change on 25–6 November to promote environmental adjudication, enforcement, and justice in South Asia as well as to discuss the key environmental concerns and climate change challenges and required regulatory and judicial responses. Finally, the prime minister of Bangladesh joined the High-Level Segment of COP-22 to the UNFCCC on 15–16 November and proposed the creation of a fund to support the water and sanitation goals laid out in the SDG platform. (3) Legislation and Government Regulation Few laws and regulations on environment related matters were enacted in 2016. The Cox’s Bazar Development Authority Act, 2015 (Act no. VII of 2016) (<http://bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd/bangla_pdf_part.php?act_name=&vol=%E0%A7%AA%E0%A7%AC&id=1179>) was enacted to establish an authority to ensure planned development in the world’s longest unbroken natural sea beach, Cox’s Bazar. The law makes provisions for the establishment of the Cox’s Bazar Development Authority (section 3) with responsibilities to undertake a number of activities to attain the objectives and purposes of the law (section 6). The law provides punishment for a number of offences—for example, for the construction or renovation of any building, for digging any pond or wetland, and for sand mining or hill cutting committed within the Cox’s Bazar area under the scope of the law (section 24). The Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation Act, 2016 (Act no. VIII of 2016) was enacted, repealing the previous law in this regard—that is, the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation Ordinance, 1976 (Ordinance no. LXXXVIII of 1976). Within the scope of the law, the existing Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation, as it was established under the Ordinance no. LXXXVIII of 1976, shall remain in operation and will be responsible to continue their duty in relation to: the importing, refining, and processing of crude petroleum; the blending of lubricants; the import, export, and marketing of petroleum products including byproducts and lubricants (but excluding natural gas); and also the performance of other responsibilities under the Bangladesh Petroleum Act, 1974 (Act no. LXIX of 1974). The existing Coast Guard Act, 1994 was updated through the enactment of the Bangladesh Coast Guard Act, 2016 (Act no. IX of 2016). The law makes provisions for the establishment of a paramilitary force called the Bangladesh Coast Guard (section 4), which will be responsible for, inter alia, observing, monitoring, and preventing environment pollution-related activities (section 10 (h)). The existing Petroleum Act, 1934 was updated by enacting Petroleum Act, 2016 (Act no. XXXII of 2016) in order to consolidate and update provisions on import, transport, storage, production, refining, blending, or reclaiming by means of recycling, distribution, and marketing of petroleum and other inflammable substances in Bangladesh. The law bans anyone from importing, transporting, storing, and distributing Class 1-type petroleum without a license or without observing the conditions mentioned in the license (section 4). The law further provides that licenses will not be required for the storage or transport of up to 2,000 litres of Class 2 and 3 petroleum. Similarly, up to 25 litres of Class 1-type petroleum can be stored, transported, or imported for purposes other than sale (section 6). The Ecologically Critical Area Management Rules, 2016 were framed through Statutory Regulatory Order no. 291-Law/2016 under the Bangladesh Environment Protection Act, 1995. The rules include provisions for the establishment of the National Committee (rule 3), the District Committee (rule 6), the Upazilla Committee (rule 9), the Union Co-ordination Committee (rule 12), and the Village Conservation Team (rule 13). The rules specify functions and responsibilities for these committees: the National Committee (rule 4), the District Committee (rule 7), and the Upazilla Committee (rule 10). The rules provide that prior to declaring any place an ‘ecologically critical area,’ the draft of the notification must be published on the websites of the respective ministry and department and in two Bengali newspapers seeking the opinions of stakeholders and interested persons at least sixty days before the issuance of the notification (rule 17). The rules further provide for a list of restricted or banned activities in the ecologically critical areas (rule 18); restriction on change in classification of land types (rule 19); site-specific management and development planning in ecologically critical areas (rule 21); public-private coordinated management modalities (rule 22), and so on. The Ministry of Environment and Forest has framed the Guidelines for the Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Engineered Plants containing technical or scientific terms and terminologies to be followed by the scientists/researchers and biosafety regulatory officials, as outlined in a gazette published on 9 December. These guidelines were framed as the existing Biosafety Guidelines of Bangladesh, which are framed under the Bangladesh Biosafety Rules 2012 and contain no reference on the elements necessary to conduct an environmental risk assessment for an open release (for example, for commercial cultivation) of a genetically engineered plant. Therefore, these guidelines were developed to provide a practical elaboration to the risk assessment framework by detailing the types of information that will be informative for environmental risk assessment of genetically engineered plants, both imported and domestically developed, in the country (<http://www.dpp.gov.bd/upload_file/gazettes/19550_73108.pdf>). In order to protect biodiversity, the government has banned the cutting of trees in protected and natural forests from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2022 through a gazette notification dated 24 November. However, to protect the core zone of the forest, the social afforestation program will continue in the buffer-zone area. Through the gazette notification issued on 23 March, based on the decision of the seventh meeting of the National Committee on Biosafety, the government has permitted the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology of the University of Dhaka to carry out research activities relating to contained research work of the genetically modified rice at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI). It is further notified that certain conditions are to be followed: (1) the research can only be carried out in the contained greenhouse available at the BRRI; (2) for the handling and transportation of the rice seeds under research, the rules contained that the guideline no. 184.108.40.206 of the Biosafety Guidelines of Bangladesh on procedure regarding handling, transport, packaging and identification of genetically modified organisms/living modified organisms and the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Cartagena Protocol) to the Convention on Biological Diversity should be followed; (3) precautionary measures should be taken to prevent the rice seeds used for such research from coming out and the relevant person or institution shall be held responsible and remedial measures taken; and (4) a report must be submitted every fifteen days regarding biosafety measures taken during the contained research work. Through a gazette notification dated 23 March, based on the decision of the seventh meeting of the National Committee on Biosafety, the government has permitted the contained field trial of Pro-Vitamin A-rich GR-E BRRI Golden Rice 29 at the BRRI. It was further notified that certain conditions are to be followed, inter alia: (1) the trial has to be conducted maintaining the highest precautions as per the rules and regulations contained in the Cartagena Protocol and international standards and (2) all types of transboundary movement, handling, transport, and packaging activities should be conducted according to the Biosafety Guidelines of Bangladesh and the Cartagena Protocol. The government has finalized the updating of the draft National Forest Policy 2016 to replace the previous Forest Policy of 1994. The principles objectives of the policy are by 2035, inter alia, to intensify efforts to ensure that 20 percent of the country is under forest and tree cover—including 100 percent of state forests, 80 percent of hill land areas, 30 percent of terrain land areas, and 10 percent of plain land areas—through afforestation, reforestation, social forestry, and ecological restoration and sustainable forest management programs involving the stakeholders. The Department of Forest started the Tree and Forest Survey 2016, which will continue from November 2016 to March 2017 in 1,858 sample plots in order to develop a National Forest Inventory that can be used to understand national forest and tree resources. In regard to water, initiatives were taken to finalize the Water Policy to comply with the provisions of the Bangladesh Water Act 2013. The government has established the Bangladesh Haor and Wetlands Development Department, attached to the Department of the Ministry of Water Resources, through the gazette notification dated 7 February, in order to ensure the coordinated development and proper management of unlimited natural resources in wetlands of the country. Bangladesh has updated the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan in light of the Convention on Biodiversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–20 (Aichi Biodiversity Targets). This action plan, which was developed in line with Article 18A of the Constitution of Bangladesh, is declared as ‘a guiding framework for biodiversity conservation, ensuring sustainable use of its components along with fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of utilization of genetic resources.’ The action plan includes fifty activities under twenty headlines to conserve biodiversity (<https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/bd/bd-nbsap-v2-en.pdf>). After the endorsement of the World Conservation Strategy, several initiatives were taken to develop the National Conservation Strategy document for Bangladesh. The Forest Department, with the technical support from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Bangladesh (IUCN Bangladesh) and financial support from the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund, has taken initiatives to develop the National Conservation Strategy (2016–31). It is anticipated that the strategy, once finalized, will foster development in the country through the conservation, development, and enhancement of natural resources within the framework of sustainable development. Moreover, it is expected that it will create a conducive policy environment and strategy for conservation, development, and enhancement of natural resources in the country (<http://www.ncsbd.info/>). (4) Case Law The Appellate Division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court, in the case of President, Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) v Bangladesh (Civil Petition 1162/2013), has ordered the demolition of the BGMEA Complex. BGMEA has constructed a fifteen-storey commercial complex on the BegunBari Khal and Hatir jheel Lake, which are natural bodies of water. These water bodies are connected with the River Burigang through canals, which play a pivotal role, like many other water bodies in and around the historic Dhaka City, in keeping the capital safe from waterlogging and flooding during heavy monsoons. According to section 8(2) of the Waterbodies Act 2000, the class or the nature and character of waterbodies cannot be changed, and, therefore, the court ordered BGMEA to demolish the building at once at its own cost. It is pertinent to mention here that a Division Bench of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court issued a Suo Moto Rule on 3 October 2010, based on a news report published in the English daily New Age on 2 October 2010. Even though the illegal and improper allocation of transfer and possession of said land was the main issue in the case, the Apex court of the country has really considered once again the importance of preserving water bodies to keep the city safe from flooding and, thus, to protect the ecosystem and biodiversity. (5) Wildlife After fifteen years, IUCN Bangladesh has updated the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Bangladesh, including two invertebrate groups: crustaceans and butterflies. A total of 1,619 animal species belonging to seven groups—mammals (138), birds (566), reptiles (167), amphibians (49), freshwater fish (253), crustaceans (141), and butterflies (305)—have been assessed over thirty months. A total of 390 species are categorized as threatened, while fifty-six are found as critically endangered, 181 are endangered, 153 are vulnerable and, sadly, thirty-one species have been classified as regionally extinct (<https://www.iucn.org/news/bangladesh/201607/bangladesh-red-list-reports-31-regionally-extinct-and-390-threatened-animal-species>). The Wildlife Crime Control Unit involving the police, Customs Office, the coast guard, and the Department of Forests, which was established for controlling the illegal killing and trafficking of wildlife, seized a total of 37,039 wild animals and birds from June 2012 to November 2016. Of the total seizure, 19,359 were reptiles, while 16,979 were birds. A total of 374 wildlife offences were recorded in those five years, and only 566 offenders, mostly small traffickers, were taken into custody (<http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2017/03/02/wildlife-trafficking-still-high/>). © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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