Substantive rights: The visiting of the issue of the nature and scope of environmental rights is substantive rights. Recent practice shows that the protection of the natural environment in special socio-cultural context is a sine qua non for the enjoyment of human rights by members of the relevant group or community. The high-water mark of this trend can be found in the recent UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and in the previous Banjul charter on human and peoples rights which proclaims in Article 24 the right of African peoples to “a general satisfactory environment favorable to their development” Progress has been achieved by an evolutionary interpretation of established human rights provision notably the right to life, family and private life and minority right.
THE RIGHT TO HEALTH On Substantive rights
Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of health as recognized by the UDHR and ICESCR. In environmental terms, the right to health implies the absence of pollution and protection against natural hazards. This right is also linked to the right to water, food and housing as well as safe and healthy working conditions.
International, regional and national legal instruments have dealt with numerous cases involving the negative impact of environmental damage on health as a result of large scale industrial accidents, the regular discharge of toxic and hazardous substances into the air, water and soil, drought and desertification and climate change. The world health organization stated in its December 2001 contribution that the right to health and indeed to life cannot be achieved without basic rights to a safe and healthy environment, including water, air and land, and to the life-supporting systems that sustain life on earth for future generations.
THE RIGHT TO ADEQUATE HOUSING
The right to adequate housing should be seen as interrelated and indivisible from other economic, social and cultural rights. The committee on economic, social and cultural rights (ICESCR) has identified some key elements to guarantee the right to adequate housing, including sustainable access to natural and common resources, safe drinking water, energy for cooking, heating and lighting, sanitation and washing facilities, means of food storage, refuse disposal, site drainage and emergency services.
THE RIGHT TO FOOD
The realization of the right to food has a direct impact on the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health, and presupposes the existence of a clean and safe environment conducive to the sustainable development of food resources.
The commission on human rights has condemned the fact that 825 million people, most of them women and children, do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. The lack of access to safe and nutritious food constitutes in the view of the commission a violation to the right to adequate food. Sustainability is one of the key components of the concept of the right to food as stated by the CESCR. In defining food security, the committee understands that food should be available for present and future generations.