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Environmental Law Clinic in Banja Luka helped the people to protect their environment

Banja Luka/Prague - 01 December 2016

 

More than thirty law students passed a special course and they provided almost two hundred free-of-charge consultations to the citizens together with their mentors from Center for Environment. In a result, community of  Lozionicka street in Banja Luka have strong law support in their struggle against storage of bauxite in a residential area. Young lawyers also helped to citizens initiative for Borik to stop construction of Orthodox church at important  green area and they provided legal arguments against brutal transformation of a natural island Ada on Vrbas river into a commercial attraction. It was all possible thanks to the “Environmental Law Clinic”, a joint project  of Czech non-governmental organization Arnika and  Centre for Environment from Banja Luka, funded by Transition Promotion Programme of the Czech government. The project educates law students and involves them into civic society campaigns for better environment.

 

“Although storing of bauxite ore in the vicinity of residential houses contradict to several laws, responsible authorities did not pay any attention to such environmental hazard. Ordinary citizens without legal education can hardly face unscrupulous businessmen. Support of the Environmental Law Clinic gave us enough strength to defend our rights,” says Rajna Kolundžija, representative of the street.

Despite some partial successes the fight is still going on, prolonging the agony of residents while the final decision has been postponed to recently elected  new mayor. Environmental Law Clinic provided help and consultations in many other cases.

“Main task of the project was to educate students of law in order to be able to support civic initiatives for environmental protection. I think it was fulfil”, says Viktor Bjelic, project manager from Centre for Environment.

“Civil society in Bosnia is more fragile than in the Czech Republic, violations of the law and cases of damaging the environment are more serious. One of the reasons is that universities do not teach environmental law. I hope we brought an inspiration to the young lawyers and attracted their attention to defending public interests in their future careers. The civil society and the nature need their strong advocates,” says Martin Skalsky from Arnika, the Czech Republic.

From 34 students involved in the educational program, the 5 best were chosen to take part in the Environmental Law Clinic. As a part of their education, they absolved a study tour to the Czech Republic having an opportunity to visit the state institutions - like supreme administrative court or ombudsman,, and learn from civic society campaigns and experience of the attorneys of law..

“Involvement in the project of Environmental Law Clinic has allowed me to learn what are the main concerns of citizens and how I, as a lawyer, can help them. I got opportunity to work on specific cases and so to complete my mainly theoretical education with practical experience.” says Sabina Begić, student and intern in the Centre for Environment

The young lawyers together with experienced activist from the Centre for Environment answer every day  queries on spatial planning, noise limits, air pollution, waste management, water resources and energy efficiency, greenery in cities and other topics.

“From January till October,  the Environmental Law Clinic sent 101 requests for access to information about environment. The state  authorities are not very used to perform their legal duties. Therefore we are forced to send many urgency notes and complaints. The record in rejecting to provide information is held by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining against which we had to even launch a lawsuit to receive a required document. However, an important improvement was observed as in February we sent 10 urgencies which is the same number since the second half of the year,” says Vanja Junuzović, lawyer in Center for Environment.