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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 121
June 6, 2009

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Human rights and the environment

A healthy environment is needed to guarantee peoples' human rights to health, food and an adequate standard of living. Human rights are violated when:
* water for drinking, bathing and cooking is polluted,
* contaminated or carries diseases;
* when a child or adult develops asthma from air pollution;
* when children go hungry because farm land can no longer be tilled because the land is too contaminated to plant in.

Irresponsible economic development by governments and corporations leads to environmental destruction and human rights violations: oil spills effect livestock, the soil, and surrounding waters; factories release pollutants into the air that contaminate rain waters and affect the climate; development projects wipe out forests, killing species of animals and undermining the livelihood of local communities.

In order to protect the environment and human rights,
* People's rights to access information and
* To participate in making decisions that affect the environment must be guaranteed.

The rights to free speech and freedom of assembly must also be protected for environmental defenders so they can speak out without fear of persecution.

Source: The Human Right to a Safe and Healthy Environment. Description of Human
Rights Issues. People's Movement for Human Rights Education.

How do people access food?
There are different ways that people's access to the food they need to live can be guaranteed. One way is by ensuring that people have access to jobs and other resources, including government services, for money to buy food. This is how most people in the United States access food. A second way is by ensuring that people have access to land to grow their own food. There has to be enough land to grow food for all the people who need it, there has to be safe water to irrigate the land, and the soil itself has to have enough nutrients and has to be protected from pollution and development.

What happens when people cannot access adequate food?
When people cannot access food, they can suffer from:
* Hunger, which means that people are unable to consume enough food to meet their bodies' daily needs, leading over long periods of time to starvation;
* Malnutrition, which means that people do not consume enough nutrients and they become vulnerable to sickness and disease; and
* Food insecurity, which means that people do not have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of food at all times.
These are all violations of people's human right to food.

Source: Study Guide on Food and Water. Human Rights Education Associates (HREA), 2003.

The right to water
The right to water is closely related to the rights to life, health, food, work and an adequate standard of living. People need access to clean and safe water to drink, to bathe and to cook their food. In many parts of the world, people need clean water for their farmland and livestock so that they can grow food and raise animals to live. Communities in rural areas and major cities all need water to maintain public sanitation systems.

When local waterways and sources of drinking water are polluted or contaminated with disease, people's rights to life, to health and their livelihoods are threatened. The pollution of lakes, rivers and waterways can affect entire ecosystems that harm the environment and human beings. For example, polluted rivers, lakes and oceans can affect species of fish that farming communities rely on for food and for making a living.

Source: Right to Water Fact Sheet #2: Why a Human Right? Center for Economic and Social Rights. http://cesr.org/healthyenvironment.

Children's Right to Health
* Children must have access to medical facilities and treatment for illnesses and rehabilitation, as well as access to primary and preventive care. Mothers must also have access to appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care.
* Governments must take steps to diminish infant and child mortality, and to combat disease and malnutrition by providing primary health care, adequate nutrition, clean drinking water and taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution.
* Parents and children should have access to education and information about basic child health and nutrition, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents. Guidance for parents and family planning education and services should also be available.


Source: Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 24.


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