This worldwide pandemic has affected more than just our health, it has touched all areas of life. In addition to being forced to make changes to our health-related habits and the disruptions to our daily routines, despite the lack of statistics and figures we have also been observing noticeable changes in our environment. The fact is that the air is cleaner, temperatures have dropped by one or two degrees, bodies of water are clearer, and we are seeing animals in unaccustomed locations.
Bearing this in mind, we must take advantage of this experience to adopt not just health and economic measures, but environmental measures also. Nevertheless, insofar as we are aware, nothing is being done in this area.
The situation in which we now find ourselves as a result of the COVID-19 has led to a number of problems when it comes to administrative procedures involving environmental law. Administrative and ministry offices are closed to the public. Under these circumstances, and given the lack of access to information and administrative procedures, it is important to remember that Article 2 of the Administrative Procedures Act stipulates that the people have the right to address inquiries to the national public administration.
Furthermore, Article 51 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela states that all citizens have the right to present or deliver petitions to any government authority or official concerning matters within their respective jurisdictions. Furthermore, it also stipulates the citizens’ right to receive and, therefore, these agencies’ obligation to provide a timely and appropriate response.
The question to be answered now is whether, in the case of environmental measures, we will take advantage of this opportunity to effectively cut back on emissions into the atmosphere. In addition to changing our health-related habits, will we be able to maintain the current level of discharges into bodies of water? Special rules and regulations governing the disposal of pathological and health-care waste provide that it must be cremated; will we be able to control the emissions this produces?
Although we are anxious to get back to our daily routines, currently on hold, we must not forget what clean air feels like, what crystal-clear waterways look like, how it feels to share our habitat with its original dwellers: the animals. Let’s make sure we take the measures needed to protect our environment.
Angela C. Antakly