General Introduction of Environmental Justice

General Introduction of Environmental Justice

Padam Bahadur Shrestha[1]

1.1.      General Introduction

Environment is an inseparable part of human life and this has been one of the hottest issues in the world of present time. There is a close relationship between human being and environment. Since the origin of the human civilization, human being has been struggling continuously to manage his/her livelihood secured. With the capacity of human being, there has been consistent advancement and developments in the field of science and technology. As the result of those developments, healthy environment is degrading day-by-day throughout the world activities. All countries are facing serious environmental related problems such as climate change, ozone layer depletion, loss of biodiversity, water pollution, air pollution, desertification etc.

With the detriment to environment, concept of environmental justice has emerged. Environmental justice is a new concept in the field of environmental law. A condition of environmental justice exists when environmental risks and hazards, investments and benefits are equally distributed without discrimination, whether direct or indirect, at any jurisdictional level; and when access to environmental investments, benefits, and natural resources are equally distributed; and when access to information, participation in decision making, and access to justice in environment-related matters are enjoyed by all.

Environmental justice is understood in different ways. Environmental justice means the fair treatment, meaningful involvement of races, colour, national, cultures, origin, or income with respect to the development and implementation. Environmental justice affirms the sacredness of mother Earth, ecological unity and interdependence of all species. Environmental justice is related to saving of the whole ecosystems, and real environmental equity system. But there is no fair treatment of the people of all races, cultures, ethnic communities, income, education and levels with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental policies and laws. It provides people equal access to use natural resources, right to live in clean and healthy environment, equal access to public participation, and right to know information regarding environment. Environmental justice is also related to save the whole ecosystems and environmental equity.

Environmental injustice can be seen throughout the world. There is a general trend that richer dominates poor people, urban people dominate village people, stronger dominates weaker, and similarly, developed nations have been dominating developing and underdeveloped economies. In most countries, factories and commercial activities are discharging/emitting wastes in the atmosphere that pollute air, water, soil and sound without paying cost. The owner of a vehicle has been emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere free of cost. Similarly, urban solid wastes are being dumped in the rural areas and sources of water are being diverted to the urban centres without paying cost. Thus, we can see various forms of injustice in our society and throughout the world.[2]

Nepalese Supreme Court has performed a significant role since 1954 (2010 B.S.) and the Supreme Court of Nepal has made a number of decisions and directive order regarding the Environmental justice. But these decisions are not properly compliance with the government side and other industrial companies; this is a big problem on the Environmental justice area. The International environmental justice scenarios, the first Environment conference on Human environment in 1972, Stockholm and second conference on sustainable development, 1992, the Rio Declaration it has given 5 impotent outcomes such as : Agenda 21, Rio Declaration 1992, Forest Principle 1992, Climate Change 1992, and Convention on Biodiversity 1992. In the Nepalese context, the Environment Protection Act, 1997 is umbrella legislation for the protection of the clean Environment, and to the environmental justice. It has also incorporated the provisions, which are necessary for the conservation of the environment.

1.2.   Definition of Environment

The English-language term “environment” is borrowed from an ancient French word “envionner,” meaning to encircle.[3] New words have emerged in many languages to express the concept of the Environment: umwelt (German), medio ambiente (Spanish) meio ambiente (Portuguese), Albiah (Arabic), okruzhauchhaia Sreda (Russian) and Kankyo (Japanese).[4] A program of UNESCO uses the “biosphere” to designate the part of the universe where, according to present Knowledge, all life is concentrated.[5]

Black’s law Dictionary has defined the term environment as the totalities of physical, economic, cultural aesthetic and social circumstance and factors, which surround and affect of desirable and value of property and which also surround and the quality of people’s life.[6]

Similarly, section 2(a) of the Environment protection Act, 1986 in India includes water, air, and land and the inter-relationship, which exists among and between water, air, land, human beings and other living creatures. Plant micro-organisms and properties.[7]

The Environment Protection Act, 1997, Sec 2(a) has defines as “environment” means the interaction and inter-relationship among the components of natural, cultural and social system, economic and human activities and their components.[8]

1.3.  Meaning, Definition and Concept of the Environmental Justice

“Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1997 has this goal for securing the healthy environment for all communities across the country. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and against health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment treatment in which to live, learn, and work.”

Environmental justice (EJ) refers to inequitable environmental burdens borne by groups such as racial minorities, women, residents of economically disadvantaged areas, or residents of developing nations. EJ proponents generally view the environment as encompassing “where we live, work, and play” (sometimes “pray” and “learn” are also included) and seek to redress inequitable distributions of environmental burdens (pollution, industrial facilities, crime, etc.) and equitably distribute access to environmental goods such as nutritious food, clean air & water, parks, recreation, health care, education, transportation, safe jobs, etc. Self-determination and participation in decision-making are key components of EJ.

A condition of environmental justice exists when environmental risks and hazards investments and benefits are equally distributed with a lack of discrimination, whether direct or indirect, at any jurisdictional level; and when access to environmental investments, benefits, and natural resources are equally distributed; and when access to information,[9] participation in decision making, and access to justice in environment-related matters are enjoyed by all.” [10]

EJ may generally be defined as the right of people to a safe, healthy, productive, and sustainable environment, where” environment” is considered in its totality to include the ecological, biological and physical (Natural and suit), social cultural, political, aesthetic, and economic environment.

Environmental justice is essential for human being and non-human being, so we can say Environment Justice if fair treatment, it means the government polices, laws, different programs to activities. Environment Justice is a much non-holistic concept that includes the right of safe, healthy, productive and sustainable environment for all. In this context, the “environment” is considered the ecological, physical, social, political, aesthetic and economic environment. Environmental justice thus refers to the conditions in which such a right can be freely exercised, whereby individual and group identities, needs and dignities are presented, fulfilled or respected in a way that provides for self- actualization and community environment.[11]

Based on the discussions made above, we can say that environmental justice is not only related to the implementation of law for protection of environment or consecration of the resources. It also intrinsically related to equal access to use natural resources, people’s right to live in clean and healthy environment, equal access to sharing of ecological benefits and equal access to decision making process related to environment. It is more than environmental equity.

Environmental justice means the fair treatment of all races, cultures, income, and education levels with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Fair treatment implies that no population of people should be forced to shoulder a disproportionate share of the negative environmental impact of population or environmental hazards due to a lack of political or economic strength levels.[12]

The U.S. Environmental protection Agency defines environmental justice as “Environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people regardless or race, colour, national origin, or income with respect to the development implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulation and policies. Fair treatment means that no groups should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations, or the execution of federal state local and tribal programs and policies.”[13]

According to American writer Prof. Lazarus, “Environmental justice focuses on the distribution of environmental hazards across society and seeks a fair distribution of those hazards. Environmental justice include within its purview the distributional implications of the environmental protection laws designed redress those hazards, which have their own distinct set of benefits and burdens.”[14]

An environmental injustice exists when members of disadvantaged, ethnic, minority of other groups suffer disproportionately at the local, regional (sub-national), or national levels from environmental risks or hazards, and/or suffer disproportionately from violations of fundamental human rights as a result of environmental factors, and/or denied access to environmental investments, benefits, and/or natural resources, and/or are denied access to information; and/or participation in decision making; and/or access to justice in environmental-related matters.”[15]

1.4.   What environmental justice ought to be?

Environmental justice must be adequate and comprehensive. If environmental justice are ecologically responsive, responsive to the need of local communities, cross-sectoral orientation, complementary to economic development plans, and enforceable, they can be considered as adequate. If environmental justice cover all sectors and aspects such as conservation of natural resources, conservation of biological diversity, preservation of cultural heritages, pollution control, minimization of wastes and safe disposal, and management of hazardous substances and provide for provision of public participation they can be considered as comprehensive. Adequate and comprehensive environmental justice can play an effective role in environmental management. Responsiveness to ecological problems refers to the recognition and addresses the fundamental nature of ecological systems that are human, economic and social. Responsiveness to the need of local communities refers to secure land tenure of people, rights of access to natural resources, duty to protect the environment, and public involvement in the policy process: law and/or policy making, decision making, planning and design, implementation, evaluation and monitoring. Cross-sectoral orientation refers to coordination between various sectoral laws and institutions. Complementary to economic development plans and laws refer to the integration of environmental concerns into development plans and laws.

In developed countries, law is a traditional instrument for achieving environmental planning and management goals and has been promoted as a major tool to establish mandatory policies and programs of sustainable development.[16] In particular, in Western Europe and North America, law has played an important role as an instrument to achieve better environmental management and has served as a means to force relevant actors to discontinue environmentally harmful activities or attitudes. Better environmental management can be achieve din those countries than in developing nations because they have basic environmental justice which are responsive to ecological problems, their institutions are well equipped with financial and human resources, they have adopted modern technology, and they have effective implementation of the laws.

Generally, environmental justice includes the Constitution, Acts, Regulations, By-laws, Ordinances, Customs, and Judicial precedents. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the country. The environmental policies of the state are expressed in the constitution and it is also the source of authority of the government as well as the source of other laws. Any activity of the government and the law, which is not consistent with the Constitution, becomes void. An act is a tool to make legal arrangements of any activities of human, governmental and non-governmental agencies. It legalizes and defines public policies, sets procedures and provides for the implementation mechanism through institutional arrangements.

1.5.  Conclusion

Environmental Justice is a new concept of study in the field of environmental law. All living creatures live with elements of nature and its resources. Movement of environmental justice was started from America against discriminatory government policies laws, and programs. However, Environmental justice is related to fair treatment of the people of all races, culture, and development. Implementation of all environment related laws and E.J must emphasis that all people should have equal right to use natural resources, clean and healthy environment, equal access to all people participation and environmental information. But there is problem of implementing different conventions, regional and bilateral treaties, constitution, environment laws, act, regulation provision country policies, court decision etc.

The government should not discriminate to the people of all races, cultures, and low-income levels in order to provide the clean and healthy environment and to provide equal access to use natural resources. We cannot achieve the goal without environmental justice. The public awareness program regarding to E.J is very weak. Environmental justice and E.J related Act, Regulation and the government policy are not introduced in education in school and Campus level. Moreover, peoples have no equal access to natural resources; benefit sharing, information, participation in policy-making and access to judicial process on the grounds of economic status, class, gender and political power in environmental related activities.




  • The interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007


  • Environment Protection Act, 1997
  • Labour Act, 1992
  • Local Self-Governance Act, 1999
  • Motor Vehicles and Transportation Management Act, 1993
  • Solid Waste (Management and Resource Mobilization) Act, 1987


  • Environment Protection Rules, 1997

International Environmental Convention and Treaties Global

  • Rio Declaration On Environment and Development, 1992
  • Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, 1972


  1. Birnie, Patricia, International law and the Environment, (2nd.ed), New York: Oxford University Press Inc. 2002.
  2. Kiss, Alexandra & Dinah Selton, International Environmental law, (3rd ed), New York: Trasnation Publishers,Inc. Ardley. 2004.
  3. Sand, Phillipe, Principles of international Environmental law, vol. 1, New York: Manchester University press. 1995.


  1. Justice for All. Lalitpur: Panos South Asia. 2003.
  2. A Handbook on Licensing and Environment Assessment Process for hydropower development in Nepal. Kathmandu: Government of Nepal. 2006.
  3. In creasing Access to Environmental Justice. Kathmandu: ICIMOD. 2007.
  4.   Nepal Country Environmental Analysis, 1818 H Street NW.  Washington DC 20433, the World Bank, March 2008.
  5. Nepal Law Review, Kathmandu: Nepal Law Campus.2004.


  1. Sapkota, Dr. Tara Prasad “Environmental Justice and Nepalese Laws: An AppraisalNayadoot,Year, 36 no. 158, vol. 7, Kathmandu: Nepal Bar Association p.15. 2006.
  2. Pant, Prof. Dr.”Amber Prasad, (Role of Supreme Court on Promoting Environmental Law” Kanoon Journals, (Golden Jubilee volume). 2062.

Internet Websites

  1. <http// jamesrijohnstanchair.dal ca/2009_conference php.>Visited on 2066-4-15 BS.

2.<http:www.// > visited on 2066/7/7 B.S



[1]     Advocate Padam Bahadur Shrestha, LL.M ( International Environmental Law) Second year , Nepal Law Campus.

[2]     Dr. Tara Prasad Sapkota,  Survey of Environmental Justice Education at University Curricula in the Field of Law: International and National Perspective..  A Report Submitted to Forum for Justice, Kathmandu, May. 2004. p.1.

[3]       Alexander Kiss International Environmental Law.3rd ed. New York: Transnation Publisher.Inc. Ardley 2004. p.2.

[4]      Ibid.

[5]     Ibid.

[6]     Black’s Law Dictionary 6th ed.

[7]     The Environment Protection Act, 1986. .India.

[8]     The Environment Protection Act, 1997. Nepal.

[9]   < http// jamesrijohnstanchair.dal ca/2009_conference php> Visited on. 2066-4-15 BS.

[10]   <http:// conference.php>.  visited on  2066-4-15 BS.

[11]     Narayan Belbase.  “Environmental Justice and Equal Justice: Possibility and Challenges”.  Kathmandu: Forum for Justice.Nepali Script.  2003. p. 174.

[12]     C.C. Lee.  Dictionary of   Environmental Legal Terms. USA. 1997

[13]     U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Guidance for incorporating Environmental justice concern in EPA’s NEPA compliance Analysis .Washington dCEP.1998. in  Robert Bullard, dumping in Dixie race, class and environmental quality. 3rd ed.  USA: West Vew Press. 2000. p.138.

[14]     ADB, “Capacity Building for Environmental law in the Asian and practice Region Approaches and resources” vol.1 Philippines, ADB, 2nd .ed.2003.p.110

[15]     Ibid

[16]     Robinson, N.A, “A Legal Perspective on Sustainable Development”, in The Legal Challenges Of Sustainable Development, J. Owen Saunders, (ed.), Canadian Institute of Resources Law, Calgary 1990, pp.15-33.