It is not that we lack awareness about environment safety at a national or government’s policy-making level. We have a enacted law to protect the environment around two decades back. The Environment Conservation Act 1995 has been an effective law. There are three separate courts to try environment-related offences. Yet, environment-related crimes are not given due importance due to lack of implementation of the law. Those who are responsible for environmental pollution do not imagine that their actions are punishable according to law. Some of them often assume that they will be cleared of any charges by paying a little amount in fines.
According to report published in Prothom Alo, as many as 7,002 cases have been pending in three environment courts. Among them, only 388 cases were filed under Environment Conservation Act, which is only 5.5 per cent of the totals cases.
Courts have been set up to try environmental crimes but the number of cases is very low. It is clear from this data that the implementation of the laws enacted for the protection of the environment is very low. Not only that, the Department of Environment, which is in charge of environmental protection, has a tendency to file cases in the mobile court to collect fines. From 2015 to 2020, the Department of Environment has filed 8,756 cases in the mobile court, imposed fines of around Tk 530 million, of which Tk 465.4 million has been collected.
Instead of filing a case in the permanent court for environmental pollution related offences, the practice of charging fines on-the-spot by the mobile court has created an opportunity for the polluters to neglect this matter. The offenders often manage to get waivers of the fine announced by the mobile court through appeal. As a result, they assume that polluting the environment is not a serious crime that requires imprisonment, but can be waived through little amount of fines. As a result, their actions continue.
But this should not be allowed to continue. Proper trials of environmental pollution-related offences should be extended to a permanent court instead of a mobile court ad hoc system. The offenders will have to face imprisonment, fines, or both. Revocation of licenses of polluting establishments should be enforced.