Environmental rights can only be secured through the collaboration of citizens and the government working together.

Human rights are indivisible, interconnected, and universal, and it is the government’s responsibility to ensure the protection of all aspects of these rights. The authority to formulate and implement policies lies exclusively with the government. The right to a healthy environment, guaranteed by the constitution, is not merely a symbolic gesture but a commitment to be upheld and made accountable to citizens. Despite environmental rights being recognized as fundamental rights in the constitution, their practical realization faces numerous challenges. Our daily actions contribute to environmental degradation, and it is imperative for the government to take a leading role in mitigating these impacts.

Enacting laws and regulations alone is insufficient for environmental preservation. Active engagement in environmentally friendly practices is essential. All three levels of government must work collaboratively and diligently to protect the environment. When policies are enacted and implemented with active citizen participation, we can overcome environmental hazards.

In this context, Ramesh Prasad Timalsina conducted an interview with Dr. Dineshraj Bhuju, a renowned environmentalist and lecturer at Tribhuvan University, to discuss environmental and climate change issues.

What is the extent of the scope of the term “environment”?

The term “environment” encompasses a broad range of concepts. It is also commonly referred to as the “ecosystem.” In everyday language, we can describe our surroundings as the environment. All biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) elements within our surroundings are integral parts of the environment. Therefore, in this context, “biotic” refers to living organisms, while “abiotic” includes non-living elements such as air, water, rocks, soil, and minerals. Collectively, we refer to these elements as our environment or immediate surroundings.

How do you analyze the relationship between the environment and human rights?

To understand the relationship between human rights and the environment, and where they intersect, we need to recognize the origins of the concept of human rights. Primarily, the 30 articles specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the fundamental source of human rights. These articles outline basic human rights. The first article declares that all human beings are born free and equal. Understanding how the declaration was issued is both relevant and necessary.

World War II had just ended, a war in which at least 75 million people lost their lives. Countless homes were destroyed, numerous families were annihilated, and cities and countries were left in ruins. Not only that, during the war, many innocent civilians were punished, subjected to atrocities, and tortured in various ways. Against this backdrop, the topic of fundamental human rights emerged to prevent such suffering, hardship, torture, and human loss from happening again in the future. Thus, a declaration comprising 30 articles of human rights was made. This document is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which remains just as relevant and useful today. Now, let us briefly discuss how the environment is connected to this context.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal. However, it is not only humans who are born on Earth; our environment also includes other living beings. Are they born unequal? Are they not equal? Should they not be protected? Do they not have rights? These questions gradually began to emerge. During the 1960s and 1970s, as the journey toward economic prosperity began, the issue of environmental protection started gaining priority. Rapid economic development led to increased environmental damage and exploitation. This resulted not only in the loss of mineral resources but also significant harm to living creatures. Their habitats were plundered, ultimately affecting humans. When humans are impacted, their rights cannot be safeguarded. Therefore, the right to a healthy environment developed as a human right.

Which articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are related to environmental issues?

Let’s delve into Article 1. It articulates the notion that humans are inherently born with the entitlement to freedom and equality. Likewise, other living beings also share this intrinsic freedom and equality. The third article delves into the right to life. Human existence isn’t solely sustained by other humans. Can one human alone fulfill the needs of another? What exactly does a human require? The environment doesn’t depend on humans; it is an independent entity. It’s implausible for one individual to solely cater to the needs of another. Consequently, within the framework of the right to life, emerges the right to a conducive environment. For instance, clean air is imperative for human survival, as is the availability of oxygen. This is not negotiable. Article 17 encompasses property rights. Similarly, among the 30 articles, 10 directly address environmental preservation. This underscores the interconnection between human rights and the environment. While advocating for one right, we must not overlook or neglect another.

Is there a difference between environmental campaign and environmental rights?

At first, there were environmental campaigns. Over time, these campaigns transformed into efforts to establish rights. These campaigns resembled political movements advocating for policy changes and bringing together various communities or segments of society. Eventually, these efforts expanded to include everyone, thereby solidifying environmental campaigns as environmental rights.

What role do the three levels of government play in environmental rights?

The responsibilities of the three levels of government are clearly outlined in the constitution. It includes matters related to the environment. The jurisdiction of national forests and sanctuaries falls within the federal government. The management of local resources is the responsibility of the local government. The addressing of provincial issues is to be done by the provincial level. The primary duty is for each respective government to execute the rights and responsibilities provided by the constitution. Such responsibility cannot be fulfilled solely by formulating policies and laws; it also requires their implementation and ensuring compliance by the citizens. Cooperation between the citizens and the government is essential. Only through the collaboration of citizens and the government can environmental rights be ensured.