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Another ignored human right

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Survival of humanity and safe environment has direct link as there is no any other place to live if ecosystemis let to be damaged by few while others bear the heavy burnt. In this regard, alike other rights, the’right to healthy environment’ is also a fundamental human right that can neither be denied nor besurreptitiously seized. It primarily includes clean water to drink, oxygenated air to breathe, abundant natural resources to consume and to save for the futuregenerations and substantial hygienic food to eat. The rate at which resources are devoured is propelling mankind towards a great risk.
In late March, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that calls for a human-rights-based approach to conserving and restoring natural spaces. This was a remarkable outcome. The joint statement, signed by 69 states, represents an unprecedented level of support for the global recognition of the right to a healthy environment and a commitment to proceed with the process of formalizing this recognition. The step is in right direction. Man is, undoubtedly, blindly sleepwalking into an unprecedented ecological disaster leaving no stone unturned to achieve development on the sake of natural milieu converting it into unhealthy place to live.
Following are myriad of reasons that support why a healthy environment should be human right. First, devastation of wild spaces by men facilitates the emergence of zoonotic diseases. An estimated 60 percent of human infections are of animal origin. According to Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (ISPPBE), as many as 1.7 million unidentified viruses are believed to still exist in mammals and waterfowls. The outbreak of COVID-19 virushas belittled the humanity;how the world community would thwart such series of microorganisms.
Second, near-existential threat from natural disasters caused by change in climate including heat waves, erratic rains, floods, etc. In the Quadrilateral Defense Review 2014, Pentagon concluded that various impacts created by climate change are ‘threat multiplier’ that will exacerbate stress abroad like poverty, environmental degradation and political instability.
Third, air pollution caused by mainly industrial and transportation activities result in range of diseases. The Global Alliance on health and pollution declared that air contamination related deaths in Pakistan to be high in 2019 ranking third highest among the 10 countries with the worst air quality.
Fourth, loss of biodiversityfrom unsustainable human practices is hitting hard the natural environment. It is estimated that insects are responsible for about 70 percent of global food. Apart from that, multitude kinds of drugs are also created from animals. Speedy loss of creatures likely to shift the world towards uncertaincrisis with lethal consequences. Similarly, contaminated water consists of range of death causing virus which ensue multiple water-borne ailments. Once polluted water is consumed, it starts organ dysfunctionalities in human body. Diarrheal disease is most common in those areas where drinking water is unfit to drink such as TharparkarSindh and Sub-Saharan region in South Africa.
Instead impacting everyday livelihoods, ‘right to healthy environment’ is neglected humanright. No any single country has so farincluded this fundamental right in their constitution even most of the advanced states. It, to some extent, due to vested interests of leaders and lobby of climate deniers. Obama’s plan to explore Artic region during his presidency, Trump’s pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Jair Bolsonaro’s failure to save world’s biggest rainforest and accusation over environmental groups of setting fire in the amazonand Germany’s far right party’s attack on young climate activists Greta Thunberg. Surely, violators cannot be advocators.
Additionally, majority of the population from developing world areinattentiveabout their obligation towards environment. They are unaware that duty of one is the right of other. If one wreaks havoc on nature thoughtlessly and consume it as common good recklessly, the rights of others are being disregarded. This type of attitude is likely to make an ecosystema further disadvantaged entity. It, thus, gives more space to governments to leave environment into lurch. Unawareness from the side of citizens is also unable to develop pressure on authority to bring this human right into legislation and make it the part of constitution.
A broad approach needs to be followed in order to actualize a healthy environment as a basic human right of all. Punitive as well as incentivized measures are required to be taken by fixing duties on individuals. Constitutional guarantee is also an imperative as it has been now recognized by the UNHRC. Pakistan must grab this opportunity to improve its environmental diplomacy by declaring healthy environment as natural right of people.
Once this habitat is valued by its residents, series of other problems would automatically be solved including poverty rate, health issues,social instabilities and most importantly the eruption of outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics.