Environmental Regulations and their Socio-Economic essay

Environmental Regulations and their Socio-Economic Impacts on Bangladesh Mission R. Suicide Abstract Only recently Bangladesh has started to undertake the task of creating necessary institutions for the protection of the environment in earnest. Like the modern democratic state, which first appeared in the West in response to popular demand for a role in the decision making process establishing parameters of collective living, the emerging environmental ethics is also a product Of a similar phenomenon.

Based mostly on an intuitive sense Of the inherent limits implied in the objective relation between human beings and tauter, the environment movement has led to the widely accepted view that all economic activities must account for their impacts, and that limits must be imposed on these actions if necessary to protect the natural environment. Since it is recognized that environment has no real boundary, the concerns are for both local and global environment. These concerns in developed countries are being transmitted to Bangladesh and other developing countries via the development assistance programs funded by the peoples of those countries.

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Thus, international development agencies now routinely moose requirements to consider and minimize the environmental consequences of all funded projects. This has also helped to create a growing environmental awareness among a segment of the local professionals and the public. However, the efforts to respond to the increasing demands to protect local and global environmental resources are taking place within the culture of the market economy based on the principals of laissez fairer as the means to guaranty life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Social living has never been free of conflict, and environmental concerns are giving rise to many new ones. The primary function of the state is to mediate the opposing interests of various classes and groups in the society. Laws and the institutions for their enforcement, including the state instruments of coercion, are essential tools in this role. Laws and the legal institutions can be dynamic, but they are always shaped by the current relative strengths of the conflicting classes and groups. Protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources are necessary in Bangladesh to ensure that it remains viable as a human habitat.

Yet, the environmental concerns have given rise to a new set of inflicts – both subjective and objective – in Bangladesh as well, and the need to set up appropriate legal framework has become apparent. An effort is underway to do so utilizing experience of other societies where advances have been made in this respect. A mediated solution invariably results in gains and losses by the parties involved. Thus, promulgation of environmental laws and their enforcement will have socio-economic impact. It will pose new challenges, but will also create new opportunities.

These and other related issues are discussed in this paper. Introduction Environmental laws and regulations in Bangladesh are not entirely new, neither are they what they need to be. To the extent laws reflect the needs of a society to set limits or standards for activities which involve a significant segment of the collective, environmental laws in Bangladesh are responses to such needs. They are components of the country’s superstructure, as laws, other social rules of conduct and institutions in general are understood to be.

Specifically, the existing “environmental laws and regulations” [1] are in fact past isolated responses to specific problems encountered in administration. In a contemporary sense, these came about in the absence of an ‘environmental awareness’ commensurate with the changed socio-economic conditions, local and global. In many countries this awareness is becoming a prominent force in shaping the political, social and economic agenda. In that sense the environmental laws of the past do not constitute a comprehensive set of laws, and more importantly, neither have they made any measurable difference in protecting the environment in Bangladesh.

Therefore, there is need to install legal structures as well as other institutions to protect the public from pollution and to preserve the integrity Of the natural resource base. The type of institutions as well as environmental awareness which emerge in response to environmental problems depend on the perceived significance of the changes introduced in the process of “development” which are taking place in the landscape, the natural resource base and its ability to support human beings.

These need to be strong and effective to meet the challenges of sustainable development, a goal adopted by the country. However, as components of the super-structure, these can only represent the existing eternal conditions. For now, the national environmental agenda is shaped largely by the country’s relations with the rest of the world, especially the developed countries, because, that is a major component of the dynamics and the material conditions. But the economic conditions, politics, method of governance, etc. As objective realties Of the country also play crucial roles in determining the nature of the environmental institutions, and can be expected to become dominant forces more and more. Since new environmental laws are yet to be promulgated and enforced, their impact is mostly a matter of speculation. But, a discussion of how environment is becoming a concern in the society, an analysis of the process within which related laws are being developed, as well as a consideration of the political, economic and structural forces in conflict with the process, can give some idea about the trends which are visible even at this formative period.

II. Global Concerns for Environment and Bangladesh It is useful to understand the context in which Bangladesh is trying to develop environmental laws. Modern environmental movement began in the West in the early seventies as a consequence of the enormous burden of unbridled economic growth on the environment which started with the industrial revolution. The dramatic as well as subtle damages to the local and global CEO-systems, traceable to industrialization – including that of agriculture, and to the related social policies and cultural practices, simply could not be ignored.

The relationship between economic growth (in the developed countries) and development (in the developing countries) along with related economic theories and policies, and degradation of the environment and depletion of natural resources, loss of many species, etc. , started to be agonized The ensuing concerns became a part of the agenda of the social movements of the ‘ass and ‘ass (for civil-rights, against war in Vietnam, for peace, etc. ). And even at the time of the first Earth Day in the LLC. S. It was clear that the environment is a global entity. Also, the oil crisis of the seventies for the first time seriously challenged the traditional sass motion that natural resources are unlimited. Public pressure to Include environmental protection concerns in economic policy making in the West and in the Third World preoccupied with “development”, became strong. The action of sustainable development, now being propagated by many mainstream economists and 2 development agencies is a product of this action.

The other is the public demand (in the West) that funds from Western countries being spent on “development projects” must not exacerbate the already alarming environmental deterioration in the developing countries. This is the reason for the role the donor agencies have assumed in the developing countries visas- a-visas environment. The political dynamics of the period established the link between democratic rights and people’s right to participate in shaping environmental policies. Public pressures on Western governments to support similar rights became integrated with the general thrust for the expansion of democracy in the Third World.

And since a democratic society is above all a society governed by law, environmental laws came to be recognized as critical social instruments for protecting the collective patrimony against those who do or might destroy or impair it. The desire to protect the world’s environment and natural resources, to prevent further decline of the planet’s capacity to support life by thinking globally and acting locally, should be seen s a part of the evolving global environmental ethic. Like the idea of democracy, spreading of this ethic world wide has become a mission for many around the globe.

Because of this, pressures to link financing of development activities to pollution control and resource conservation by appropriate legal means will continue to be a part of the reality in Bangladesh. There is however a basic limitation of this effort. The question viability of the natural environment in the face of the onslaught of rapidly increasing consumerism, fueling promotion of the global market is less understood, and he contradictions between this and promises to protect the natural world are barely recognized.

At issue is the acceptance of endless human need as the norm, and the ability of the natural systems to support it endlessly. The idea of sustainable development (or growth) does not seem to solve this fundamental conflict Yet, attempts to protect the environment through laws and other mechanisms are taking place without any fundamental change in the paradigms on which the production and consumption relations are based. Therefore, the efforts of the donor agencies to persuade policy Akers in Bangladesh to protect the environment and natural resources, while promoting traditional economic policies often run into contradictions.

Bangladesh is heavily dependent on assistance of the developed countries. Over ninety percent [4, 5] of its development budget is funded by international donors. The consequent strong presence of the Western countries in Bangladesh directly and/or through the donor agencies is the vehicle for transplanting to Bangladesh environmental concerns. It also brings management approaches which have evolved in the West for dealing with these concerns. Indeed, donor agencies have indicated that Bangladesh must adopt comprehensive environmental laws [6].

It is necessary for Bangladesh to comply with many international conventions and agreements in which it participates. Social Context of Environmental Laws Broadly speaking, laws are one of the institutions which society creates and maintains to govern itself, and are reflective of the society’s need to set limits or standards for activities, presumably 3 to protect the greater interest of collective against the narrow interest of individuals or groups. Such new institutions are brought into being as the society extends its role in new areas where the need to exert collective authority becomes necessary.

The key to understanding of the social and economic dimension of any law is to analyze this ‘need’. This internal reason for the emergence of laws applies to environmental laws as well. The reasons for the emergence of environmental laws are actual environmental damages which cause or threaten to cause harm to public health or resources; anticipation of such consequences; and, changing values of the society. These considerations are leading to many activities being treated as undesirable or requiring control.

In the past owners and operators of industries who discharged toxic material into the air or the nearest stream were rarely prosecuted; indeed, they were considered to be doing nothing but good to the society by providing employment and producing commodities which sold in the market to generate profits. At worst the damages to the environment were seen as the necessary evil of progress. Such perceptions are undergoing radical changes. The inherent heterogeneity of interests which are embedded in all societies and is the source of tension in the collective, also influence the nature of environmental laws.

Promulgation of these laws are often viewed as an effort to limit gains from legitimate economic activities by those who are engaged in them, and questions are raised regarding cost and benefits of such laws. Because of their role in the economy as owners, producers and consumers, etc. , there are both commonalities as well as divergences of economic interests among social groups. This is the reason why there is need, demand and opposition to environmental laws, all at the same time. It is always a us object of political discourse. The impacts of environmental laws on different segments of the community ray.

The tool for minimizing undesirable impacts of these laws on specific economic interests is political power, and may be derived from the powers that are engaged in economic activities which are targets for legal control. The influence of these forces may be reflected in the form and content of the laws, and may be exerted indirectly through class interests, and directly through intervention via connections among powerful groups, political parties and the state machinery. The recent reversal of a decision to ban production of plastic bags in Bangladesh is a case in point.

Further, the effectiveness of he laws can depend on how the instruments of coercion at the disposal of the state needed for enforcement are manipulated. Ideally, as an outcome of efforts to reconcile contradictory interests in the society, environmental laws are compromises, and which way a compromise tilts is directly a function of the relative strength of the dominant groups. IV. State of the Environment and Need for Environmental Protection Laws in Bangladesh It should not be construed from the role of the donor agencies that there are no compelling environmental and natural resources related problems in

Bangladesh which constitute an objective basis for concern. In fact, natural resources management problems in many ways are far more complex [3] here than usually recognized. The situation has been made ominous by the 4 urgency for economic development to improve the lot of the vast majority of its rapidly growing population; sever shortage of resources; and, specific but poorly understood vulnerabilities of the entire CEO-system, fundamental to the economy in general and agriculture in particular, to the pressures of development.

Delays in the development of democracy and its institutions eve created additional hindrances. According to some experts, the most serious threat to the environment comes from changes in a segment of the economy which is central to the country’s survival: the agriculture. In brief, adoption of cultivation methods requiring application of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, aerodonetics, etc. , to boost production has steadily expanded in a country which Seen repeated food shortages.

This however occurred in ignorance Of the physical characteristics of the country, and, of the logic behind the traditional methods of agriculture: a system of production in a tropical talent nation based on the principals of recycling and reuse of organic by- products generated in the process. Increase in toxic substances in food, water, air and the environment in general, deterioration of quality of soil, relative decline of productivity, loss of product variety, decline in fisheries, etc. , are all suspected to be related to these practices.

At the same time, pollution due to industrial discharges is on the rise There are localities (e. G. , Hazarding in Dacha) which are examples of environmental disaster. Changes in the transportation system, increase in power generation, and there trappings of an emerging modern economy, escalating volume Of waste both in the processes of production and consumption, all of which are stressful to the environment, are rapidly becoming significant in their ramifications for the environment in Bangladesh. Deforestation has reached an alarming stage.

Losses of a considerable number of species of flora and fauna have already been recorded and the actual list may be much larger There is concern regarding deterioration of the plant genetic pool, loss of biodiversity, increased resistance of insects harmful to agricultural products, and public health. The problems of food and drug adulteration, although not new, take lethal turns more often because of easy availability of a wide range of chemical substances in a society where literacy is very low, laws and regulations are weak, and enforcement agencies are virtually ineffective.

Environmental impact of major development projects such as the Flood Action plan (FAA), having the potential for introducing major geophysical changes, are also creating much consternation among many. The impact of pollution on public health, direct and indirect, is extensive. In the urban areas, it is common practice, among those who can afford, to boil table water which is often contaminated.

Sources such as ground water aquifers are polluted by raw sewage from deteriorating sewer systems, and most nearby surface water sources are similarly affected by discharge of planned and unplanned raw sewage and other municipal wastes, and in some cases by industrial discharges. Use of leaded gasoline in motor vehicles, the numbers of which are increasing rapidly, is the norm. It is exacerbated by the absence of any effective control of exhaust emissions. Vegetables and other produce in the market are often coated with a layer of some kind of chemicals.

Improper handling of industrial agro-chemicals without any protection exposes the rural population to these chemicals. The adverse impacts of these substances are 5 becoming visible in increased cases of skin disease, tumors, respiratory problems, etc. Most alarming is the strong indications of rising incidents of cancer in Bangladesh, both among the rural and the urban population. The predominant role of external forces in environmental issues should not lead one to surmise that public awareness of environmental problems is absent in Bangladesh.

Aided by the on-going information revolution, availability of information and knowledge transmitted across the boarders with unprecedented speed help in growing public awareness of the detrimental impact of many of our individual and collective practices on the environment, and of the link between local environmental problems and their global impact. An example is the strong public perception in Bangladesh, as in other places, that there is a relation between toxic chemicals in the environment and food, and health problems, e. G. Cancer; and between greenhouse-gases and global warming, possible rise in sea-level and potential ass of a good part Of coastal Bangladesh Local news media has also increased coverage of environmental problems in the country, and is contributing to a heightened public awareness about these issues. Thus the growing pollution problems as well as people’s concerns about these are creating pressures for adopting a comprehensive set of environmental laws. Environmental Laws in Bangladesh and Current Focus What are known as environmental and/or resource conservation laws now, in the past were societies rules for the commons.

Examples would be use of rivers, chalks, bells and village ponds, for transportation, cultivation, fishing ringing water, etc. , which required a set of rules, mostly unwritten, but widely known and accepted, to protect and propagate uses designated for these resources by the members of the society. These rules evolved over a long period of time, mostly from experience, and reflected the mode of living which necessitated the protection, and other considerations such as geomorphology, climate, cultural habits, religious customs, etc. They reflected an indigenous environmental ethic.

Changes in the economy, society and culture brought in with the wave of modernization and radical shifts in the tauter of the social relations have made the traditional ‘social norms’ for conflict mediation ineffective. A survey conducted in 1 992 [10] in connection with the environmental impact assessment efforts of FAA identified a large number of laws, regulations and ordinances which have been “on the books”, some for a long time. These were initiated by individual Ministries, Departments, programs, etc. , to address problems within their jurisdictions, and are referred to as the “sector” laws.

Without the benefit of a perspective on the intricate link between various human actions in the odder world and viability of the natural systems to sustain those activities and an effective means to control them, these efforts were haphazard patchwork of laws and have very little relevance now. The inadequacy of existing laws has been noted by many [1 1], and efforts began to deal with regulatory issues in late seventies. The present Department of Environment (DOE) came into being in 1 985 with a staff of 70, mostly brought in from other agencies.

In 1991, DOE adopted 6 the “Environmental Quality Standards (SEES) for Bangladesh. [1 2]” It listed a large number of physical parameters and chemicals which are considered Laotians, but without any indication of what was to be done with these so called standards. In 1992, the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MOB under which DOE falls, published a document entitled “Environmental policy 1 992 and Implementation Plan”, which recommended pollution control activities to be undertaken by various government agencies; but it had no enforcement provisions.

Clearly, the government has been struggling with the issue of environmental laws and regulations for some time. In late 1 992, the DOE had produced a draft “Bangladesh Environment Preservation Ordinance”, which, according to the staff was being reviewed by a committee of the Cabinet Secretaries. An effort was made to understand the limitations of the existing laws and regulations in the process of developing ‘A Proposed Environmental Regulatory Framework for Bangladesh” [13] in 1992. It was concluded that a number of major regulatory initiatives are necessary. Specifically, alai,n. S and regulations are needed for pollution control; natural resource conservation; and, food and drug quality control. Laws for work place safety are also needed. They are related legislation and some overlap is possible; but, there s need for specific laws and regulations in each area. However, in most cases basic information for a systematic approach to developing these laws to pursue regulatory actions are lacking. For example, a major problem in natural resources conservation work is that a reasonable inventory of the resources have not been completed yet to determine what is to be protected.

There are projects, funded by organizations such as the International Union of Nature Conservation (ICON, in French), UNDO, etc. , for collecting the necessary information, but much more is needed before a natural resources conservation policy and related laws can be adopted. There is severe shortage of competent staff and other structural hindrances in the MOPE and DOE to draft most of these needed laws. But promulgation of environmental laws is possible now to begin to address some of the major pollution problems in the country.

The initial emphasis of the environmental laws in Bangladesh can be expected to be on point source control. Technological resources and management experience in end of pipe control available in developed countries are transferable to Bangladesh. This is true for treatment of domestic sewage in urban areas, municipal solid waste disposal, as well as industrial effluent discharges to air, water and soil. It is true for urgently needed reliable drinking water supply systems in urban areas also. But there are obstacles too in utilizing the know how to enforce environmental laws in controlling pollution from these sources.

Among these are paucity of data and to determine the volume, constituents and concentrations of pollutants in the discharges; lack of enforceable standards and other effluent limitations; a system for permit issuance; and, trained personnel to carry out this work, etc. This calls for innovative environmental laws. A combination of encouraging laundry compliance with the laws and provisions to impose stiff penalties for failing to achieve the desired control might be fruitful. And pollution prevention should be a primary feature of environmental laws in Bangladesh.

Indeed, the need for the imposition of sanctions can be 7 reduced a great deal by adopting and implementing a national pollution prevention policy. It can be effective if government agencies, Engross (environmental non-government organizations), and consultants can provide leadership through education, technology transfer, and training to make it a major focus in all aspect of social and economic activities. Use of recyclable indigenous material, especially agricultural products, in manufacturing and consumption should be encouraged through incentives.

Other environ- friendly innovations should be rewarded. A great deal of environmental work at the present has to do with the environmental impact assessment (EIA). This is occurring without any legal requirement, and is being carried out under various policy guidance. This however also limits the scope of these activities. Primarily introduced in connection with specific projects being funded by various donor agencies, Alas are being made a requirement before project implementation by these agencies, under pressures from within the donor countries.

So far this appears to be more a formality, since the Seas are routinely “cleared”. The purpose of Alas to protect the environment, either by not allowing the project to take place because of the adverse impact, or requiring inclusion of mitigation measures in the project to minimize the damages are ignored, ostensibly because of economic considerations. In a document listing its achievements, DOE listed among its activities issuance of “no objection certificates”; there is no mention of any project has been topped or any mitigation measures recommended [7]. Unless there is a radical change in perspective, it is not clear that environmental laws will change the current practice. The most challenging problem, controlling pollution in the agricultural sector is not on the agenda for environmental laws being contemplated. Control of nonprofit sources of pollution, i. E. , run- off of sediment due to erosion, excess nutrients and other agro-chemicals not used-up by plants, into unintended areas of the landscape, are inherently more complex as such. It is next to impossible in a country which for all racial purposes becomes one big wetland at least some time during the year.

As stated earlier, the significance of the problem is not recognized by most policy makers, and those who do, are at a loss to address this problem, legally or otherwise, without recourse to alternative agricultural practices which can feed the growing population. Thus, the primary solution to the environmental problems created by agricultural practices, i. E. , source control, will not be in environmental laws, though these can play a supportive role, but only if a major reorientation in agriculture is possible.