Bhurban Declaration 2012 adopted at the South Asia Conference on Environmental Justice
10 April 2012 | News story
A fortnight into the successful completion of South Asia Conference on Environmental Justice, it is already being considered a new chapter in the environmental history of Pakistan. With its Bhurban Declaration, unanimously adopted and agreed upon by the Chief Justices from the region and beyond, the conference is a pivotal step in the wake of environmental degradation that plagues the region.
Some of the most ground breaking decisions include; establishment of green benches at the Supreme Courts of Pakistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir and all High Courts of Pakistan and the proposed constitutional amendment to declare “Clean Environment” as a fundamental human right in the Constitution of Pakistan. Organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the two-day conference took place on 24-25 March 2012 under the auspices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan with support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
South Asia is a developing region comprising 3% of the world's land mass and inhabited by 23.6% of the world’s population. Due to its geographical expanse, it’s full of natural and cultural wonders. However, rapid population growth and various development initiatives have caused immense degradation to its ecological diversity. The challenge of sustainable development and scarcity of natural resources are common to the whole region, giving rise to similar environmental concerns. Bhurban Conference managed to provide the common platform, much needed by the stakeholders to bring urgent attention to these serious and complex issues.
The Chief Justices and their designees from the highest courts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia; along with other eminent experts and dignitaries gathered in Bhurban to take up the cause of the environment and ensure expedient environmental justice.
The Conference progressed sequentially from inauguration to issue framing through presentations and discussion on (1) Environmental law and policy, (2) Environmental adjudication and (3) Environmental education and capacity building in three concurrent thematic sessions; and presentation of recommendations and the way forward in the closing session.
The participants agreed to play their role more aggressively, meaningfully and holistically to develop an Action Plan for Environmental Justice, Governance, the Rule of Law and Sustainable Development in SAARC countries in line with the Vision Statement adopted by the South East Asian Judiciaries.
The participants observed that the role of the judiciary is central in resolving environmental issues, but it is equally important that all stakeholders play their assigned role in protecting the environment as well as ensuring that the institutions must be effective, particularly from the point of view of enforcement of orders and directions. Further, the participants agreed to share the vision of this Conference with other judicial members in their respective countries.
It is expected that the Bhurban Declaration will pave the way forward for signing a memorandum of understanding to foster cooperation amongst the South Asian judiciary, which may lead to a South Asia Convention on Environmental Justice.
After the Conference, a commemorative tree plantation was undertaken by the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan, senior judiciary and foreign dignitaries to mark their commitment for the preservation of environment in the South Asia region.