The Human Right to a Healthy Environment

July 1999


Every person should have the right to live in a clean, healthy environment. With ELAW`s help, advocates around the world are working in their courts and legislatures to establish and defend this right.

Right now, Sri Lankan lawyer Lalanath De Silva is urging Sri Lanka`s Supreme Court to rule that citizens have a fundamental right to a healthy environment. Sri Lanka`s constitution guarantees a right to life, but Colombo`s air is so polluted that breathing it damages peoples` lungs. Lalanath asserts that Sri Lanka`s government — by failing to implement adequate air quality standards — is violating Sri Lankans` right to life. ELAW is helping Lalanath make his case.

M.C. Mehta of India and lawyers at Pro Public in Nepal and the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association in Bangladesh have won recent court victories establishing that citizens have a right to a healthy environment. Through the ELAW network, Lalanath called on his colleagues in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Showing that many of Sri Lanka`s neighbors have recognized the right to a healthy environment will help Lalanath build a stronger case.

In Mexico, the legislature recently adopted a constitutional amendment that guarantees citizens a right to a healthy environment. ELAW advocates in Mexico called on the ELAW network for model language and information about how constitutional provisions have worked. Advocates in Argentina, Australia, Burma, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Korea, Papua New Guinea, Poland, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Zimbabwe have all called on ELAW for help establishing and defending peoples` right to a clean, healthy environment.

By empowering these advocates to work together, ELAW is helping citizens around the world gain the right to a healthy environment. For more information about this ELAW Impact, please contact: Public Interest Law Foundation, 18/216 M.E.D. Dabare Mawatha, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka.