Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association - (BELA)
Feeling the urgent need for an advocacy group to monitor and pursue the implementation of laws and regulations to protect the environment, a goup of young lawyers initiated the Bangladesh Environmental lawyers Association (BELA) in 1991.
Over the years, BELA has become a true pressure group against environmental violations. BELA's research has played a significant role in popularizing the environment amongst the general public. Opposed to aggressive advocacy, BELA has helped sensitize various actors by raising environmental awareness. It approaches each organization as a co-actor and emphasizes the need for joint action.
A model for training and sensitizing professionals and the public was adopted by the organization that presently organizes such programmes with lawyers, NGO workers, government officials, teachers, journalists, students, and representatives of local government. BELA is the only organization that arranges special workshops exclusively for judicial officers.
With 60% of the total population in Bangladesh estimated at having no access to justice, BELA is considered a pioneer in public interest environmental litigation (PIEL). As an environmental organization, it has to date filed 38 cases of which 12 have been decided in favour of the cause while the rest are pending.
Other major achievements of BELA include: opening up of PIEL in Bangladesh; recognition of 'right to life' as part of constitutional 'right to life'; directive judgements in mitigating industrial pollution and vehicular pollution; addressing payment of environmental compensation in development projects; river encroachment; and unlawful filling of flood plain zones.
Other activities undertaken by BELA in Bangladesh include: research into legal documents to minimize the gap between provisions of law and people's expectations, including laws on compensation; on regulating environment and customs on forests and intellectual property rights.
BELA produces a quarterly newsletter in English and Bengali on major environmental issues and laws, as well as Sangsad Sangbad - a bulletin that covers the proceedings of the Pariliament on environmental issues and the law making process.
BELA is an active member of IUCN, the Environmental Lawyers Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), and the Coalition of Environmental NGO's in Bangladesh (CEN).