What should be the basic qualities or criteria for the creation of institutions to provide environmental justice?

One interesting aspect of trying to solve environmental problems or obtain remedies for them by paralegals is about which institutions to approach to establish the problem and seek remedies. Typically most countries could have multiple institutions at the government as well as special courts for environmental cases. India has a Ministry of Environment and Forests at the Centre as well as state level institutions, several technical committees and regulatory Authorities. It also has, besides the Supreme Court, a special Green Tribunal to look into certain kinds of environmental grievances.

I would love to hear your views on what you think is a better kind of institution for environmental remedies, a specialised institution for environmental matters or a general forum that addresses environmental matters within other social and political contexts.

What should be the basic qualities or criteria for the creation of institutions to provide environmental justice?

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Interesting question Manju! Has the India program noticed any trends in which level of agency seems to be the most active, or most effective intervention point?

I think specialized environmental institutions can be very effective and powerful, depending on how it is set up and what powers it is given. In Canada, there have been some very powerful tribunals and special councils established to review specific projects (like major pipelines etc.) - they were powerful because they were given a special mandate and resources. In fact some (the like Mackenzie Valley Pipeline inquiry) were so effective at protecting the environment and interests of local people that subsequent governments have consistently avoided creating such a powerful tribunal ever again! :frowning:

As it relates to paralegals though, I imagine the most effective institution would be something more accessible and long-term. I’m interested what your experience has been in terms of what levels of government and types of institutions have been most receptive to interacting with EJ paralegals. Are any agencies interested in tapping into or leveraging grassroots paralegals to help them do their job better, like enforcing environmental regulations and monitoring compliance? You’d think it would be in the interest of some officials…

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The Philippines have courts that specifically handle environmental cases (these are called “green courts”). In 2010, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases. These developments were celebrated by environmental advocates as these highly specialised courts would easily understand how to prove damage in case of environmental litigation or the application of precautionary principle. However, five (5) years after the issuance of the Envi Rules, there is a need to monitor the cases under the green courts and evaluate whether it is better or even more effective than ordinary courts or even ordinary remedies.

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Thank you for sharing the experience with Green Courts in The Philippines. It is very interesting that you point to the need of evaluating the experience of these courts with other courts as well as out of court remedies. We too feel it is important to understand if there are some cases which can be more efficiently handled outside of courts.

Very often when people have lost faith in the administrative institutions, they prefer to take the litigation route. However, the studies like the kind you mentioned, would be important to understand the efficacy of different institutions in different kinds of cases.

Well said @tonetramos.

We’d love to see the 2010 Rules of Procedure for Environmental cases and also read some articles or papers on the procedures for proving damage and application of pp. Could you share with us your favourite ones?

Here’s a recent paper on India’s National Green Tribunal.

National Green Tribunal and Environmental Justice in India by Swapan Kumar Patra & VV Krishna Indian Journal of Geo-Marine Science, 44(4), 1-9.

http://www.niscair.res.in/jinfo/IJMS/IJMS-Forthcoming-Articles/IJMS-PR-April%202015/MS%202615%20Edited.pdf

thanks, Manju

Thanks @marenabrinkhurst.

Environment regulation seems to occur within the tension filled relationship between the judiciary and the government in most countries. And in this tug of war for power, there’s no telling what the outcomes of significant environmental cases will be. Often, this creates overreach and abuse of powers that judiciary or government hold on environmental matters.

Our EJ paralegals focus almost all their attention on government bodies to get remedies. As you said courts are too far away and expert bodies come and go. We will soon reach a 100 cases worked by our teams and put out an analysis on which institutions responded in positive and useful ways. But we do have trends already that local bodies that are clearly incharge of regulation even though they have low levels of support from the govt in terms of infrastructure, funds and direction, do look at the paralegals as useful resource and collaborators.

Hope to share more analysis on this very soon.

thanks, Manju

http://blog.mylaw.net/the-national-green-tribunal-has-restricted-access-to-justice/

here’s another recent piece on the NGT of India. Not very complimentary.

Manju

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