AN ANALYSIS OF THE RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT IN CAMEROON
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1.1 Background to the study
Human rightsand the environment are now clearly interconnected fields. This phenomenon started in the early 1970s with the recognition of the connection between the environment and development at the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on the human environment.
It’s first principle states ” man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and have the responsibility to safeguard both the natural resources and natural ecosystem for the present and future generations, through careful planning”.
The historical context on the birth of this sub – discipline of human right is highly relevant. It is only with the emergence of the concept of sustainable development that the discussion over the potential recognition took off.
The right to a safe and healthy environment is of utmost importance as it encompasses, support and sustain not only human life but animal and plant life which makes existence worth living.
The 1992 Rio declaration crystallized this new approach to development and suggested that it leads to new progress in international law, recognizes the major goals in international law on sustainable development should include :
the development of universally negotiated agreements that create effective international standards for environmental protection. It is essential to mention that the discussion on the development of environmental human rights has emerged only very recently, in comparison to other human rights.
It was argued that an environmental human right is based on the belief that a safe and healthy environment is a prerequisite to the fulfilment of other human rights, and that a human-centered approach to the environment could reconcile the social and environmental field by recognizing once and for all their interdependence.
A healthy environment that encompasses all aspects of the natural and man-made environment that may affect human health remains a major concern in Cameroon, where the fundamental right to life is threatened by soil degradation, deforestation and by exposure to toxic chemicals, hazardous waste and contaminated drinking water.
Not leaving out, industrial chemical spills and disposal of industrial debris into the water, air, and soil pollution.
The direct consequences of these bad practices are reflected through common diseases, food intoxication and climate change.
Destruction of the remaining forests is heavy even within reserved lands, fires and commercial exploitation of the forests in the elimination of 200,000 hectares (494,200 acres) per year.
Also, air pollution is a significant environmental issue in Cameroon, poaching and overfishing threaten the nation’s wildlife, as of 1994, the drill and Preuss’s red colobus were endangered species..
The lava flow across the limbe – idenau highway, damage of forest and palm plantations in Bakingili and the evacuation of the 600 inhabitants of bakingili. August 1986, poisonous gases emanating from lake Nyos in the northwestern Cameroon, killed 1746 villagers by official count.
The scientist speculated that the toxic gases were released by molten rock that had seeped into the lake.
Historically it was after the Stockholm declaration of 1972 and that of the Rio de Janerio in 1992 that Cameroon truly and practically inaugurated a systematic environmental policy that has been translated constitutionally into the creation of a ministry, specifically responsible for environmental issues in 1992, as well as the law no. 96/12 of August 1996 and law no. 94/01 of 20th January 1994, being the most powerful legislation on the environment in Cameroon.
In addition, legal recognition has been expanding for decades at the national and regional levels since the Stockholm conference on the human environment in 1972, certain regional human rights instruments articulate the right to a safe and healthy environment.
The African Charter on human and people’s rights and the American convention on human rights 1998, both agreements saw the need to recognize the right of everyone to live in a healthy environment.
Furthermore, there is also the international covenant on environment and development (1995), to achieve progressively the full realization of the right of all persons to live in an ecologically sound environment.
Also the United Nations Human rights council unanimously voted for recognizing a safe, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right.
The council of Europe also passed a resolution supporting the adoption of an additional protocol to the European convention on human rights to anchor the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment in the European human rights system.
Global human rights, recognize the right to a healthy environment, for example, the international covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The right to a safe and healthy environment (will henceforth refer as RSHE), also recognized at the national levels.
In Cameroon, the right is being protected in the constitution of the Republic of Cameroon in the preamble of the 1996 constitution which says “every person shall have the right to a healthy environment.
The protection of the environment shall be the duty of every citizen, the state shall ensure the protection and improvement of the environment.
The government also have the duty to protect the right to a healthy environment as seen in paragraph 25 of the preamble, it provides that, the state shall ensure the protection and improvement of the environment.
Laws were enacted at the national level, law no. 94/01 0f January 20th 1994 to lay down forestry, wildlife and fishery regulations, in addition, law no. 96/12 of August 1996 relating to environmental management, also decree no. 2013/017/PM of February 14, 2013, lays down rules for conducting environmental and social impact studies.
The citizens and NGOs are given the procedural rights of public participation in environmental matters.
Despite the fact, Cameroon has ratified major international environmental agreements of the RSHE and put in place policies and legislation to regulate the right, a cross-section of the population continue to be deprived of this right.
This necessitates a review of the country’s protection of the environment through legal instruments so as to figure out the challenges. This paper stems to explore the RSHE in Cameroon.
1.2 Research Problem
Although regulations and laws to protect the RSHE in Cameroon are quite comprehensive, the violation of environmental safety continues. . The enforceability mechanisms and implementation to protect the RSHE is still at an infant stage.
This is because human life is being endangered with unsafe and unhealthy practices such as; pollution, human exposure to harmful chemicals, pesticides, poor waste management, climate change.
It is in this light I saw it as a paramount concern to access the laws and institutions put in place to protect the right to a safe and healthy environment in Cameroon. So many mechanisms have been put in place at the national and international level, creating ministry the government has enshrined in the constitution.
Also, NGOs have been authorized in the protection of the environment, unfortunately, these mechanisms remain inefficient as we come across the violation of the right to a safe and healthy environment on a daily basis. The situation is further compounded by limited criminal sanctions by the special court, 1994 law on forestry and wildlife regime.
Moreover, the competencies have been transferred to councils by the code of regional authorities in 2020, but unfortunately, the financial means transferred to those authorities by the state is not sufficient thus limiting their activities of the right to a safe and hazardous movement.
It is therefore within this context that this research seeks to examine the right to a free, safe environment in Cameroon and the extent to which the mechanisms to protect such right is efficient.
1.3 Research Hypothesis
This study is conceived and builds on the hypothesis that irrespective of the endless efforts in-laws development, institutions created and legislations to protect the right to a safe and healthy environment in Cameroon, such mechanisms to guarantee the right is inefficient
1.4 Research Questions
I formulated main and specific research questions
1.4.1 Main Research question
What is the right to a safe and healthy environment in Cameroon?
1.4.2 Specific Research Questions
What are the mechanisms aimed at ensuring the right to a healthy environment in Cameroon?
What are the obstacles to ensuring the right to a safe and healthy environment in Cameroon?
What are the possible solutions that can promote, enhance and maintain a safe and healthy environment in Cameroon?
1.5 Research objectives
1.5.1 Main objective
The main objective of this study is to determine the right to a safe and healthy environment in cameroon.
1.5.2 Specific objectives:
To ascertain the mechanism aim at ensuring/protecting the right to a safe and healthy environment in Cameroon.
To examine the shortcomings/obstacles in ensuring the right to a safety environment in Cameroon.
To propose solutions that can help promote, enhance and maintain a safe and healthy environment in Cameroon.
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