Legal experts in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) recently discussed how the Constitution could be invoked for purposes of environmental protection:
The smoke pluming from the incinerator at Pockwood Pond and the water and sewerage issues plaguing Tortola may no longer be a part of the territory’s unsightly little secrets if a clause in the new Constitution is put to the test, a panel of lawyers and environmentalists said during a recent discussion. According to section 29 of the Constitution, “Every person has the right to an environment that is generally not harmful to his or her health or well-being, and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of the present and future generations, through such laws as may be enacted by the legislator.”
Such laws might prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; secure ecologically sustainable development; and mandate the use of natural resources to promote justifiable economic and social development.
A six-person panel discussion last week at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College provided attendees with insight into the applicability of the often-overlooked measure in the new Constitution.
The right to a clean and healthy environment is indeed a human right, explained Crown Counsel Vareen Vanterpool.
But ultimately, it’s up to watchdogs and whistleblowers to enforce the law, said lawyer Akilah Anderson.
“People should know they have a right to the air they breathe, the water they drink,” Ms. Anderson said.
Every person has the right to an environment that is generally not harmful to his or her health or well-being and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through such laws as may be enacted by the Legislature including laws to—
(a) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
(b) promote conservation; and
(c) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.