Believe it or not, the Dhaka Divisional Environment Court is now sitting idle for absence of environment-related cases although there are hundreds of instances of polluting our environment around us.
What baffles us is why did the Department of Environment (DOE) failed to file cases when there had been lots of complaints of gross violation of the Environment Act, enacted by the government in1995. Are all of the complaints were baseless?
Is it the only duty of the DoE to launch a few drives and take minor punitive measures against the offenders? The offenders are getting released from charges simply by paying mere fines.
The environmental court was set up in 2002, where officials of various designations including a public prosecutor, were also appointed to deal with environmental issues. case. But the whole purpose of establishing a separate judicial set-up to protect our surroundings has got lost.
Contacted, AKM Mizanur Rahman, the Director of Monitoring and Enforcement of the DoE, said to daily sun, “We conduct drives against the environmental offenders and release them after realising fines from them.” “In most cases, we release the offenders by realising fines. We avoid filing cases against them as it is a lengthy process. Moreover, we lack enough manpower,” he said.
Contacted, Special Public Prosecutor Md Firuzur Rahman Montu of the Environment Court told daily sun: “Since 2009, no environmental cases are coming to the court. We simply got a fewer cases on recovery of polyethylene during the period.”
“This is why, we totally depend on civil cases,” he informed.
“Only 18 cases were filed in the last three years,” sources in Environment Court said.
Despite conducting anti-pollution campaigns by environmental groups across the country throughout the year, only 467 cases were filed in last 12 years, said related experts. Most of the cases were filed under sections 9 (1), 12, 4 (Ka), 4 (Kha) and 6 of Environment Act 1995.
Of them, the Environment Court disposed of 373 cases while the remaining 94 cases are under trial.
It is now obvious that only increasing public awareness on the issue can bring about any significant change. Moreover, there should be more public interest litigation to safeguard our surroundings.
In 2002, the government established two environment courts in Dhaka and Chittagong. In 2005, the government set up another court in Sylhet. In 2002, the government established the Environment Appellate Court in Dhaka.
However, law stipulates for establishment of at least one court in each divisional headquarter.