As environmental awareness of the mankind increased, a need to provide legal safeguards for environmental assets emerged. Starting from 1970s, "environmental right" has gained recognition as a human right and thus started to be subjected to international conventions and other documents. In Turkey, at national level, the idea of environmental right is included both in the Constitution and other various legislative regulations. Article 56 of 1982 Constitution reads "Everyone has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment. It is the duty of the State and citizens to improve the natural environment, to protect the environmental health and to prevent environmental pollution" thus granting environmental right.
Environmental right is one of third generation human rights, which was brought to the agenda at second half of the 20th Century. First generation human rights, which are also called classical rights, are those that arise from individualist and liberal views created by system of freedom while second generation right are those economic, social and cultural rights arising from the social and interventionist state created by the system of equality. Third generation rights, on the other hand, are solidarity rights which are also called collective rights, created by the system of solidarity. "Third generation rights are those that emerge upon demands by especially under-developed and developing countries on second half of the 20th century. These rights are also known as collective or solidarity rights. They include right to self determination of nations’ political, economic, social and cultural futures, social development and improvement right, environmental right, right to use natural resources."
The objective of the environmental right is to protect all the living creatures and non-living things in relationship with them as well as to protect the ecosystem which is created by mutual and continuous relations between living and non-living things. Ecosystems or ecospheres of the world include atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), lithosphere (soil) and biosphere (the living). For instance, the principles of sustainable development which aims at planning the development with a view to ensure development of future generations without damaging the ecosystems or depleting the natural resources, fall into the scope of environmental right. "Environmental Right stipulates especially government to take necessary measures to prevent and to punish the negative impacts and damages on natural environment and life and more generally to regulate the use of goods and articles in a respecting manner to the one’s right to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment". Protection of viable environment is sine qua non for existence of right to live and to exist which is the most essential right.
Collective or solidarity rights are used by the society, which require social solidarity. Viable environment is under constant threat by industrial revolution, technological and scientific developments, urbanization and needs, chiefly energy and food needs caused by constant population growth. Pursuit of industrialization and development at all costs instead of sustainable development causes great environmental disasters thus creating a threat to viable environment. Mankind’s unquenchable ambitions do not merely pollute the nature but also cause extinction of many living species and have many more verged at the edge of extinction. "Considering that the environment is mostly polluted by economic powers or public organizations, the difficulty in finding solutions at individual level is self-explanatory."
Our View on Environmental Right
1. Environmental right must be evaluated within the entire system of fundamental rights. Environmental laws and policies at both national and international scales must be based on the fact that the environment must be protected everywhere and under all circumstances.
2. Earth itself is the common asset of all the mankind. Up to day, irreparable physical damages have been inflicted on the habitats of the species. World’s countries and environmental organizations constitute genuine parties in environmental damage caused by countries. This is a rightful intervention and the responsibility is unconditional and absolute.
3. Environment and the ecological balance, in relation with the reality and demand of ecological society, also signify the harmony of material and moral being of the human.
4. As one of the universally accepted solidarity rights the environmental right concerns; protection of natural life, flora and fauna, clean preservation of the nature (soil, water and air), regular industrialization, proper disposal of chemical waste, creation of an aesthetic environment and protection of cultural assets.
5. Industrial facilities, nuclear power plants, mobile plants, petrol exploration activities, exportation as well as improper elimination or storage of chemical waste, erosion, willful forest fires, uncontrolled agricultural chemical spraying, plagues, destruction of historical assets, creation of shanty settlements without proper earthquake measures and poverty itself are all fundamental issues that violate environmental right. Regarding the measures against issues that threat the environment and violate the environmental right, the countries;
a) Must readjust any legal text that has gaps and contradictions and that is in conflict with universal environmental law,
b) Must use its political will to implement administrative measures
c) Must establish authorized local environmental units
d) Must cooperate with civilian, democratic environmental organizations
6. 1972 Rio Declaration must serve as a guide for the rights regarding environment.
7. Any war is a violation of the environmental right which damages the ecological balance the most. Our main argument is based on a stance against the wars and on improvement of peace consciousness, struggle and culture.
8. Depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere and the gap on the ozone layer threatens the earth and the future of all the life on it. The governments as well as the society must take measures against these phenomena.
9. Democratic civil society organizations;
a) Cooperation with national and international civil society organizations,
b) Must engage in such activities to improve environmental right consciousness of its target group and of the society in general,
c) Must organize seminars, symposiums and conferences and clarify policies on the subjects of environmental sociology, industry and environment, agriculture and environment, economy and environment, globalization and environment, nuclear energy and environment, alternative energy resources and environment, wars and environment, climate change and environment, urbanization and environment, natural assets and environment, law and environment,
d) Must collaborate with local governments on the subject of "Integrative environmental management projects".
10. Violation of environmental right: is a crime against humanity and natural life. Therefore the penal sanctions must match the significance of this crime. To this end national and international "Courts of Environment" must be established.