Roundtable on environment laws

Published on Saturday, 31 August 2013

Jointly organised by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and judiciary of Bhutan, the 2nd South Asia judicial roundtable on environment justice is discussing common environmental challenges in the region, share experiences, and discuss opportunities for cooperation between judiciaries to enhance environmental adjudication and enforcement.

They will also discuss on limitations of environmental policies and laws, environmental impact assessment, access to environmental justice and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and capacity constraints.

The two-day roundtable meeting will conclude on Saturday evening with discussions on the South Asia Memorandum of Understanding on environmental justice and finalisation of Thimphu Declaration 2013, according to a Bhutanese judge.

On Friday, they discussed on regional environmental challenges, climate change, conservation of natural resources and biodiversity and glacial lake outburst flood.

Inaugurating the judicial roundtable on environmental justice, Supreme Court’s chief justice Sonam Tobgye said that Bhutan has accorded high priority to environmental protection, conservation and advancement.

He said that 51 percent of country’s area is formally protected through a network of national parks, protected areas and biological corridors.

“Our people continue to make enormous sacrifices, both at the household and farm level, as well as at the national level,” chief justice Sonam Tobgye said.

“Further, the Constitution of Bhutan mandates 60 percent of national surface area to be maintained under forest cover in perpetuity. It is a unique provision, reflecting the strong commitment of our people to environmental conservation.”

The Chief Justice also said Gross National Happiness and sustainable development, through rational and prudent use of natural resources, form the basis of the government’s economic development strategy.

“The august presence of the legal luminaries at this conference reaffirms our undying faith in nature, unyielding human endeavour and enduring effort to preserve and protect our sacred environment,” he said.

During the 1st roundtable meeting held in Bhurban, Pakistan in March last year, it was agreed that the role of the judiciary is pivotal in resolving the environmental issues.

But also equally important was that all stakeholders play their assigned role in protecting the environment and institutions must be effective, particularly from the point of view of enforcement of orders and directions.

It was also declared that judicial decisions on environmental cases are shared within the Asian judges’ network on environment and made available to public and to establish green benches in courts for dispensation of environmental justice.