Business / Economy

BRICS courts take aim at pollution

By Gao Yuan in Boao, Hainan, and Cao Yin in Beijing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-03-30 07:38

Judges from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa highlighted their efforts against pollution on Sunday, agreeing to share their experience with cases and to improve legal cooperation on environmental protection.

The so-called BRICS countries face similar environmental challenges, including air pollution, carbon emissions and river water purity in their regions, Zhou Qiang, president of China's top court, said during the 2015 Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province.

Solving the problem requires severe legislation and vigorous law enforcement, along with enhanced communications within the BRICS group, Zhou said.

China has improved its legislation and encouraged residents and environmental associations to protect their rights in accordance with the nation's new Environmental Protection Law, which took effect on Jan 1, he said.

In a judicial interpretation issued by the top court in January, more NGOs can go to court on behalf of the public, and their financial burden in lawsuits are expected to ease.

More than 700 such organizations are now qualified to undertake environmental litigation, according to the top court.

"We'd like to handle civil cases and public-interest lawsuits on pollution, and hope the latest legislation has the teeth to curb illegal activity," Zhou said.

He said the law is a crucial part of pollution control, and stricter enforcement, along with the establishment of an environmental tribunal, will help restore the environment.

In 2014, 382 green tribunals were set up nationwide, and courts accepted 1,188 cases involving environmental pollution, a rise of 690 percent year-on-year, according to information released by the top court on Saturday.

The tribunals role in deterring and punishing polluters can be seen, but there's still a long way to go to restore the environment, which demands effort from every walk of life, Zhou said.

He said the BRICS countries should share their judicial experience and typical cases via the Internet, promoting cooperation.

Ricardo Lewandowski, a judge from Brazil, agreed. Brazil has also created new laws and boosted public awareness of the problem, which no one cared about 20 years ago.

"On the Brazilian flag, green represents our forests, and blue represents the clean sky," he said, touting improvements in recent years.

As a huge continental country, however, it is not easy to protect the environment, he said, adding that illegal mining and other issues remain thorny, and prosecutions can be difficult.

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