An Assessment of Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand

The Access Initiative (TAI) is a global coalition of public interest groups.  The coalition is led by a Core team comprising of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE, Uganda) Corporación Participa (Chile), Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA, Hungary), Thailand Environment Institute (TEI, Thailand), World Resources Institute (WRI, United States) and Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE, India).   Through this initiative, various groups across the world collaborate to promote national‐level implementation of access to information, participation, and justice in environmental decision‐making as a part of their global commitment.  Since the last one year, TAI has expanded to many countries of South Asia, with Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh having just completed their National TAI Assessment. With effect from October 2008, a Core Team position has been created with LIFE representing South Asia. The aim is to expand TAI to Pakistan and Bhutan followed by Maldives and Afghanistan.

In the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 178 countries including India, pledged to open environmental decision making to public input and scrutiny. Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice are keys to a more transparent, inclusive, and accountable decision making in matters concerning the environment – what we call  ‘environment democracy’. Access to Information motivates and empowers people to participate in an informed manner. Participatory decision‐ making enhances the ability of governments to respond to public concerns and demands, to build consensus, and to improve acceptance of and compliance with environmental decisions. Access to Justice enhances the public’s ability to enforce the right to be informed, to participate and to correct environmental harm. In turn access depends on governments and civil society having the capacity to operationalize these rights.

This report entitled “Environmental Democracy in the Himalayas” assesses the progress made in providing access to environmental decision making by the Governments of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, (as well as the Union Government so far as they relate to these two states) and, in the hope of moving forward, evaluates what hurdles remain and how they could be overcome. Environmental Democracy in The Himalayas