Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), one of the Community Legal Services (CLS) partner organisations, has been working with the aim of establishing a sound environment and ecological order for all using the law as a tool since its inception. The efforts of BELA through Public Interest Litigation (PIL) have truly popularised the concept of ‘Environmental Justice’ in the country Currently, Bangladesh has special courts to deal with the environmental offences. The formation of BELA has been a response to the global movement to protect and conserve the natural environment which is the resource base for a rural economy like Bangladesh.
BELA has not only paved the way for the environmental legal activism in the country, but also has been a pioneer of PIL in Bangladesh through getting the people involved in the concept of ‘Environmental Justice’. The concept of PIL aims to generate awareness amongst the people and relevant actors for the development of a realistic regulatory framework and environmental jurisprudence. Following several BELA cases, the concept of PIL has been recognised by the judiciary as enabling millions of voiceless environmental victims to access the formal justice system.
As of 30 September 2015 , BELA has filed 44 PIL cases-applications on the environmental issues under CLS support. These cases involve a wide range of issues including environmental pollution, industrial pollution, river & pond pollution, encroachment of agricultural lands, wet & low lands and forested area, illegal embankments, unauthorised operations of large-scale extraction of sand from the river, unlawful setting up and hazardous operations of mills in the residential areas and others. Their efforts not only promote environmental justice, but also contribute to the sound development of jurisprudence.
Ever since CLS has been associated with BELA, they have adopted various means together to create awareness amongst the major actors to activate the great bulk of environmental legislation such as workshops, and TV spots. They also have emphasised and advocated for the wider participation in environmental law making and policy planning.