Arusha. Tanzania has been cited as one of the countries with the highest levels of legal protection of the environment, according to an environmental law lecturer.
The draft constitution, entrenches the right to a healthy and clean environment in the bill of rights for the first time since independence. “This move potentially puts the country on the list of progressive countries that accord highest legal protection on the environment against unsustainable economic development needs,” says Elifuraha Laltaika, a lecturer at Tumaini University Makumira.
Mr Laltaika made the remarks at a public lecture on the link between human rights and the environment that was organised by the university’s Law Faculty.
Article 41 of the draft constitution, which has been tabled before the Constituent Assembly, declares that everyone living in Tanzania has the right to live in a clean, safe and healthy environment. This right includes access areas reserved for recreation and sacred activities.
Mr Laltaika called on the Constituent Assembly members not to strike out the provision because it will protect environmental rights and natural resources from being undermined by ordinary legislation.
“It is procedurally difficult to amend the constitution, unlike ordinary legislation,” he added.
Prof John Bonine of the University of Oregon in the US said there is a genuine link between human rights and the environment and that since the landmark Stockholm Declaration of 1972, more than half the world’s nations have recognised the constitutional right to a healthy environment. Prof Bonine said that in incorporating the right to a clean and healthy environment in the constitution, Prof Bonine added, national governments signify their highest and undivided commitment to sustainable development.
Even in countries where this right is not entrenched in law, courts have interpreted the right to life and health to include the right to live in a clean and safe environment.
“High courts in 12 nations have ruled that the right to a healthy and clean environment is implicit in the constitutional right to life and health,” said Prof Bonine.