On October 14 Vermont Law School Professor and Technical Advisor to the US-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law Jack Tuholske had the special opportunity to give a presentation on judicial and citizen enforcement of water protection laws to the Environment and Natural Resources Tribunal of the Supreme People’s Court. Ever since China first authorized citizen enforcement of its environmental laws through litigation last year, the Supreme People’s Court has show great interest in developing and standardizing the practice of environmental public interest litigation. Indeed, less than one week after the Environmental Protection Law amendments went into effect on January 1, 2015, the Supreme People’s Court issued a judicial interpretation of the public interest litigation provisions that addressed issues such as standing, jurisdiction, and remedies. Continue Reading →
A recent article from Vietnamnet brings much-needed attention to the contradictions between Vietnam’s Law on Environmental Protection and its Law on Investment that are contributing to the country’s growing environmental problems. The article quotes Nguyen Manh Hien, former Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, as stating that the overlap between these two laws, “in addition to many enterprises’ neglect in environmental protection and failure in making sound [Environmental Impact Assessment] reports, has led to serious pollution.” Continue Reading →
Protests targeted at the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company erupted again today as thousands of Vietnamese citizens surrounded the company’s $10.6 billion USD plant, “some scaling walls and holding signs demanding its closure.” The protests are a response to one of the worst ecological disasters Vietnam has experienced in decades.
In April, fishermen and residents along four coastal provinces (Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh, and Hue) began to witness unprecedented fish kills as thousands upon thousands of fish washed ashore. At the time, the Vietnam Directorate of Fisheries was quoted as saying that “the total loss reached 4.7 billion dong (around $200,000 USD) in less than one week, including 37,200 brood fish, 900,000 brood shrimps, and 200,000 brood clams in Ha Tinh Province. Hue has also lost 5,900 brood fishes.” Almost immediately suspicion was directed at the Formosa steel plant, which is located along the coast in Ha Tinh Province. Thousands of protesters staged demonstrations against Formosa throughout the country, with some being broken up by police. The company did not do itself any favors when the director of its local public relations department stated in a televised interview: “Before acquiring the land, we already advised the local fishermen to change their jobs. Despite our early recommendations, local fishermen kept on fishing in this area. Many times in life, people have to make a choice: either to catch and sell fish, or to develop the steel industry. We cannot have both.” Continue Reading →
Today the Information Office of China’s State Council released China’s National Human Rights Action Plan for 2016-2020. It is the third such plan that China has released since 2009, and it is intended to dovetail with the country’s 13th Five Year Plan for economic and social development. The Human Rights Action Plan covers a number of different issues, including: economic, social and cultural rights; civil and political rights; rights of ethnic minorities, women, and other minorities; education about human rights; and fulfillment if international human rights obligations. Notably, environmental rights feature prominently in the Action Plan, as well as several rights with regard to judicial and legislative processes that have implications for the fulfillment of environmental rights. Continue Reading →
Over the past couple of years, Vermont Law School‘s (VLS) Myanmar Environmental Governance Program has had a strong focus on supporting the implementation of a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system. On paper, the system is very good, but it involves new concepts and processes for all stakeholders – government, project proponents, consultants and civil society. Indeed, Myanmar just recently adopted new EIA procedures in December 2015. Because it is so new, there is extremely limited capacity to properly implement this system, and enforcement is a long way down the track.
To support the government implement the EIA system, VLS has been undertaking various capacity building projects with the Environmental Conservation Department, which is a part of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation. We have conducted training workshops with ECD staff and the inter-ministerial EIA Report Review Body, which is coordinated by ECD. Most recently, we have been undertaking EIA review clinics with ECD staff. These clinics involve practical one-on-one (or small group) training where we assist staff review EIAs that they have been assigned. We help them identify any weaknesses with the reports and prepare feedback to the EIA consultant and briefing material to their senior officers. Since late last year, VLS has conducted 8 clinics and help review about 50 EIA documents. The final clinic for the year will be held in the first week of October. Continue Reading →
On July 20, 2016 the Dezhou Intermediate Peoples’ Court (Shandong Province) ruled in favor of the All China Environment Federation in their lawsuit against the Zhenhua Glass Company, Ltd. for its failure to control atmospheric emissions of pollutants including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and fine particulate matter. The court ordered Zhenhua to pay approximately $3.3 million USD into a fund for air quality restoration, and make a public apology on a local television station.
Environmental public interest litigation (EPIL) is still less than two years old in China, and this case is an encouraging sign that courts in China are taking these types of matters seriously. However, there are still many issues that need to be worked out in order to make EPIL an effective tool to help China address its environmental challenges. For a deeper analysis of this case with commentary from our partner Global Environmental Institute and from our own team, please follow this link.
On June 6-7, 2016, the US-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law, the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) at China University of Politics and Law, and the Beijing Huanzhu Law Firm jointly held a training workshop on environmental public interest litigation for environmental attorneys and civil society organizations in Beijing, China. Continue Reading →
As we mentioned in previous blog, on April 17, 2016, China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast a brown field pollution incident in Changzhou city, China’s Jiangsu province, where nearly 500 middle school students were reported to fall ill allegedly due to toxins from a former pesticide manufacturing site adjacent to their new campus. Three days later, on April 20, Friends of Nature (FON), China’s oldest environmental NGO founded in 1993, submitted 15 Open Government Information (OGI) requests to Changzhou Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB)and its Xin Bei branch. On April 29, FON filed an environmental public interest litigation (EPIL) case at Changzhou City Intermediate People’s Court. China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (the Green Development Foundation), a well-known Chinese NGO dedicated to protect the environment and to conserve biodiversity in China, joined the litigation as co-plaintiff. The Beijing-based Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims at Chinese University of Political Science and Law and a local NGO in Jiangsu province, Lvse Jiangnan Public Environment Concerned Center, participated in the lawsuit as supporting entities. Continue Reading →
On January 20, 2016, Washington Post released an article: “Six charts that explain why U.S. companies feel unwelcome in China.” These six charts were published in the China Business Climate Survey Report by the American Chamber of Commerce in China. They explain six major challenges foreign companies face in China: (1) shrinking profit margins, (2) unpredictable legal environment, (3) restricted foreign NGO laws, (4) unfair interpretation of law and regulations against foreign companies, (5) censored internet, and (6) alarming air pollution. Due to these challenges, one third of U.S. companies are not planning to expand investment in China and a quarter have either moved or plan to move capacity out of China.
Air pollution may not be the only growing environmental concern that makes it harder for American companies to attract top level executives. China is facing intimidating challenges in preventing and controlling soil pollution. Compared to air pollution, soil pollution is more easily hidden and long-lasting. Continue Reading →
In 2011, the Kalpavriksha Greater Goods was established as a social enterprise boutique in Chitwan Valley National Park, Nepal. Alongside Empower Generation (an international non-governmental organization whose mission is to support women’s empowerment through the use of renewable energy technology), Kalpavrisksha Greater Goods outfits women in the community with small solar powered lamps, and in turn teaches them fair-trade business practices in handy craft making skills. In return, these products are sold from the boutique and raise continual income for the women’s families in addition to supporting the efforts of the co-operative. Continue Reading →