Hesperian Health Guides
Appendix B: Using Laws to Fight for Environmental Rights
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Human rights, and somtimes environmental rights (the right to a safe, healthy environment) are protected by the laws of many countries. This book includes many stories about how people have worked together to make new laws to protect their communities, or have demanded protection under laws that already exist.
This section of the book includes information on how to use an Environmental Impact Assessment or a lawsuit to fight for your environmental rights. It also contains information about where to seek international help if your local and national courts and government do not protect you.
Communities struggling to protect their environment and health often face opposition and violence from corporations or governments that want to take their natural resources or pursue development projects, regardless of the harm they will cause. These projects may displace people from their lands, create terrible pollution, endanger public safety, or produce toxics that cause serious health problems. These are all violations of human rights and environmental rights.
Large corporations sometimes have so much money and power they are able to prevent governments from recognizing or enforcing laws that should protect you. When local and national laws are not effective, there are some international laws that may offer protections to you and your community.
The idea that people have environmental rights is a relatively new area of law, so the definitions of what those rights are and how they apply are still being determined. This makes every legal battle for environmental rights very important.