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Human Rights and the Environment: Sri Lanka constitution need to be changed.

Image courtesy of https://www.coe.int.

Whilst the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka does not directly see the environment as a matter of fundamental rights it does contain several provisions that relate to the environment. Noting this the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) will review a formal complaint received in recent weeks about the XPress Pearl disaster.

The X-Press Pearl disaster did have an immense impact on the environment both on land in territorial waters, economies and potentially although not quantified on the health of affected communities of Sri Lanka. It was for Sri Lanka the largest maritime and man-made environmental disaster of its kind and comparably so internationally in particular as regards the pollution caused by the immense quantity of both toxic nurdles, and nitric acid awash in the ocean and along the coastal belt. These had both immense economic ramifications and health considerations. Further, it must be noted that the provision of primary healthcare to all is guaranteed as a fundamental right.

As Sri Lanka is a member of the United Nations and has signed many covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the HRCSL will address this with the potential desire to have the Constitution amended in such a way as to ensure that the environment is deemed the matter of a fundamental right and wherein it has a direct correlation to other constitutionally protected fundamental rights.

Justice Rohini Marasinghe
Chairperson
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
08.05.2023

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