Environmental Rights


Chapter 3 of the Constitution prescribes the rights and duties of the people. Because this chapter lists the types of human rights that are guaranteed, it is also called the “human rights catalogue.” Whether or not the new concept of human rights was adequately guaranteed in the Constitution, and whether or not the Constitution should be revised and included new provisions became points of contention. The debate over the pros and cons of constitutional revision were mainly about “new human rights” such as the “right to privacy,” the “right to know” and the “right to the environment.” This debate occurred when society was undergoing major changes due to urbanization and informatization. This resulted in an awareness that it might be possible to fully protect these rights. On the other hand, there is also a view that constitutional revision is not necessary because there is a basis for all the “new human rights” in the existing articles. 

The “right to the environment” is the right to enjoy the air, water, sunshine, tranquility, and a pleasant environment. People started to perceive this as a human right during the era of high-speed economic growth. Some of the problems and harmful effects of Japan’s economic growth included pollution resulting from environmental damage caused by industrial development, and noise pollution from the expansion of the bullet train and airports. In Okinawa, noise pollution caused by the concentration of US military bases and the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces, and land reclamation are destroying the environment. Some residents of the prefecture have filed lawsuits over violations of their right to the environment. Although the “right to the environment” is not stipulated in the Constitution, but the “right to pursue happiness” in Article 13 and the “right to a minimum standard of living” (seizonken) are considered a basis for that right.