Blog / 4 September 2013

Clean up the dirt with environmental law.

Clean up the dirt with environmental law.

Environmental law rapidly gaining ground 
The first speaker on our meeting on Sunday was Professor David Boyd who had prepared a video message since he was not able to attend in person. He is a renowned environmental lawyer in Canada and author of the book 'The Environmental Rights Revolution' and gave us a clear overview of (international) environmental law. Currently, more than eighty countries have already adopted environmental law in their constitution, and many more have implemented environmental legislation on a lower level. Environmental law is one of the fastest growing areas of law. This is very necessary, for when after World War II people started talking about human rights, no one could have foreseen the dazzling speed at which we would be destroying our habitat. This is the reason why many efforts are being made to officially get the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment recognised. Both ENDS has been working on this recognition for many years as well.


Riachuelo, an open sewage becoming a river
Ana di Pangracio,vice president of Argentinian organisation of lawyers,  was our second speaker, taking us to the Riachuelo river in Argentina. Here, the constitutional right to a clean environment was implemented years ago, after health worker Mendoza stood up for the marginalized people who were living next to heavily polluted river and were having serious health problems. The Riachuelo is one of the ten most polluted rivers in the world. The court decided in favor of Mendoza and ordered three governments ( the municipal, state and national government) to clean the river and take measures to prevent further pollution.


A lawsuit with major consequences
The verdict of the Argentinian judge had enormous effects: illegal waste dumps were cleaned up, companies were summoned to purify their wastewater, sewers were built, a water purification plant was opened, and tons of waste were removed from the river. However, the river still is not clean. Illegal dumps are still taking place because enforcement is inadequate. FARN has developed a website which allows anyone to report illegal discharges, waste dumping and other pollution through a simple ‘app’. Incoming messages are recorded and processed. Altogether to me this is a wonderful example of how environmental legislation can really lead to cleaner water.


At this point our panel discussion was far from over yet: I save part 2 for my next blog about the World Water Week in Stockholm.


Thirza Bronner


Read more about this subject