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Sustainable Development

Environmental Justice

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      Over the past decades, there has been an increase in movements for environmental justice. These are based upon the information confirming that the impacts of environmental degradation and pollution to the people’s health and well-being are disproportionately differentiated between the rich, the minority, and the poor. This implies that the minority lacking access to rights and equality bears greater negative consequences of environmental degradation. The concept of environmental justice was thus originated during 1980s by the people of color in the USA in order to demand for such rights.

     The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

     Although the environmental degradation has affected everybody without any exception and the victims are dispersed composing of both the rich and the poor, the marginalized, the poor, the minority or the ethnic groups acquire less opportunities in solving the problems or take longer time for judicial access. This is resulted from social gaps, inequality and injustice such as the cases of air pollution in Map Ta Put Industrial Estate, the discharge of waste water contaminated with lead into the Klity Creeks, and other damages of environmental injustices to human’s health and physical safety. The sickness of workers and villagers living around industrial estates, for instance allergy and cancer due to air pollution or Pakayor ethnic group in Klity village with high lead poisoning in blood due to the consumption of lead contaminated water discharged from waste water plants, etc is prevalent.

 

      Environmental justice is a global issue and thence the environmental judicial process must be legally enforced in order to cultivate justice for fair and systematic natural resource and environmental access. Taking into account ecological justice, constitutional environmental rights which the constitutions of many countries have recognized the people’s right to clean and healthy environment, as well as the concept of environmental democracy such as the right to know, the right to information on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Health Impact Assessment (HIA), the right to state’s decision-making, the right to judicial process, and participative justice, the environmental judicial process is then a new form of knowledge in which ASEAN judicial system must learn to develop in compliance with the dynamics of such process in an international system.

     At the international level, several countries prioritize people’s participation in solving environmental problems which is specified in the agreements among state parties to engage people into the government’s operation such as in the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in 1998. Currently there are 44 state parties to this Convention however none of them is ASEAN members.

     This Convention is based on an idea of connecting environmental protection and conservation with fundamental human rights. In principle, all people are entitled to live in good environment and at the same time responsible to protect and maintain the environmental quality in such state.

     Environmental injustices always cause regional conflicts in ASEAN. The existing judicial processes and mechanisms are unable to manage as many of the conflicting issues are not resolved by appropriate entities and as the demands for justice usually occur on the ground. Most of the conflict resolutions are ad hoc and consequently people are not confident in the existence of environmental justice.

 

     It is timely that ASEAN seriously prioritizes environmental justice so that both current and future generations can reside in a better environment than the presence, towards the world of sustainable development which means “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

 

 

 


Source : 

  • http://www.measwatch.org/writing/2988
  • http://prachatai.com/journal/2013/03/45962
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