Linking human rights, development and environment: Experiences from litigation in South Asia
Razzaque, J. (2007) Linking human rights, development and environment: Experiences from litigation in South Asia. Fordham Environmental Law Review, 18 (3). pp. 587-608. Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/11182
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Despite having several procedural routes to bring actions in the court, public interest litigation seems to be the often-used tool used by the community groups in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to protect the environment. In recent years, the decisions of the courts integrate both social and ecological concerns with particular attention to questions of distributive justice, community empowerment and democratic accountability. While public interest litigation is sometimes criticized as nothing more than 'tokenism', the judiciary in these three South Asian countries has taken a forward-looking approach by relaxing standing of community groups and applying international environmental principles. With the increase of large infrastructure projects (e.g. dams) and privatization of natural resources (e.g. water, gas/oil), it is pertinent to examine the role of litigation in the protection of environment. This paper discusses three issues: the growth of public interest environmental litigation in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; human rights, environment and development discourse; and the approach of the judiciary. The paper concludes that access to courts may not ensure a just substantive outcome. The substantive right to a healthy environment, as interpreted by the judiciary, needs to be strengthened with adequate information and participation of affected communities to protect the environment. Participation of affected parties is crucial to make the linkages between social, environmental and developmental concerns, and examples from all three countries show that a strong procedural regime is lacking.