According to some estimates, more than a billion people have no access to clean drinking water and nearly these billion live without basic sanitation. Access to drinking water is a prerequisite for fulfillment of the right to life, liberty and security stated in article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to an adequate standard of living enshrined in article 11 of the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights; and is related to the realization of the right to adequate housing also.
FUTURE GENERATION’S RIGHT TO ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS STUDY
Future Generation really do have the right to be assured that we will not pollute ground water, load lake bottoms with toxic wastes, extinguish habitats and species or change the world’s climate drastically……..all long term effects that are difficult or impossible to reverse unless there are extremely compelling reasons to do so, reasons that go beyond mere profitability. The foundation of environmental protection suggests border interests than human rights. How then the former ambit would be properly delineated. Would it include future generation?
While some may quarrel with the idea of operational zing future generations right to the environment, the Philippines’ supreme court had no difficulty whatsoever in recognizing this right in Minors Oposa v Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). This was a class of action brought by Minors for and on behalf of themselves and future generation yet unborn, claiming a violation of their rights to a healthful ecology.
In associating this right with the twin concepts of intergenerational responsibility and intergenerational justice, the plaintiffs urged the court to cancel all existing timber licenses in the Country and for an injunction restraining the DENR “from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new timber license agreements” which they claimed were responsible for a “host of environmental tragedies” such as drought, flooding, water shortages, massive erosion, sanitization of water table and disappearance of the indigenous Filipino cultures.
The Supreme Court had no difficulty in reversing the lower court order after a careful consideration of the Philippine Legislation and holding that the petitioners had the Locus Standi necessary to sustain the bringing and maintenance of this suit. However, this case must be distinguished on its merit. It is doubtful, whether, if similar facts were to present themselves, the same decision would have been reached in Nigeria.
This is because , quite unlike the Philippines, there is no express constitutional provision on the right to a clean or healthful environment. The problem is further compounded by the fact that even at the continental level, the African commission on Human Rights….does not give any binding decisions on Human Rights Against this background, how would an aggrieved African(s) Against(S) enforce the right to a healthful environment.
In Nigeria, access to court is a major problem. In few cases where private rights have been affected and individual plaintiffs have the standing to sue for damages or injunctive relief, such plaintiff must have resources to sustain Lengthy litigation which are always very expensive. The result is that pollution victims are most time confused and discouraged from seeking Judicial relief.
The few who summon up courage end up frustrated and disappointed. This state of affairs reduces the incentive for polluters to seek to comply with existing legislation.105 Finally, the human right to a healthful environment should be viewed in the context of a duty of future generations.
The duty is expressed in the theory of intergenerational equity which articulates that all members of each generation of human beings as a specie, inherit a natural and cultural patrimony from past generations, both as beneficiaries and as custodians under the duty to pass on this heritage to future generations and that this right to benefit from and develop this natural and cultural heritage is inseparably coupled with the obligation to use this heritage in such a manner that it can be passed on to future generations in no worse condition than it was received from past generations.