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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Honduras

The constitution of Honduras contains provisions for the protection of both human health and the natural environment. For example, Article 145 reads:

“The right to the protection of one's health is hereby recognized. It is everyone's duty to participate in the promotion and preservation of individual and community health. The State shall maintain a satisfactory environment for the protection of everyone's health. Consequently, access to water and sanitation are declared to be a human right. Their enjoyment and use shall be equitable with preference to human consumption. Therefore, the preservation of sources of water is guaranteed such that they shall not put life and public health at risk. The activities of the State and of public and private entities shall be subject to this provision. The law shall regulate this subject.”

In a related vein, Article 340 states: “The reforestation of the country and the conservation of forests are declared to be of national importance and collective interest”.

Environmental legislation in Honduras draws upon the General Law of the Environment and its bylaws; the General Bylaws of Environmental Health; and by the National Environmental Impact Assessment System bylaws.

Featured Legislation

1959: The Fisheries Law was adopted, making the Law more effective for the preservation of fish stocks. The Fisheries Law and its respective regulations remain the foundation of Honduran aquaculture and fisheries legislation.

1993: The National Environmental Impact Assessment System was created by the General Environment Law (Decree 104-93). It ensures the submission of  environmental impact assessments for any projects or any other private or public activity that could diminish or contaminate the environment.The Regulations of the National Environmental Impact Assessment System are based on the following principles: Prevention, Precaution, Environmental Responsibility, Proportion, and Gradual, Audit based on Credentials and Certifications and Clear rules.

1993: The Honduran National Protected Area System was introduced. This system was strengthened with the 1999 passing of some regulations to support it; there is one marine national park. In Honduras, Protected Areas have been classified into 16 categories of management corresponding to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s standards.

1993: Decree No. 104 (The General Environmental Law)  was inaugurated, overseeing the protection, conservation, restoration and management of the environment and of natural resources in Honduras. Article 34 states that any project that has as goal the use of water for energy purposes, must be preceded by an environmental impact evaluation.

2001: The General Fishery Regulations were signed into force, providing specifics on procedures and requirements on licenses and concessions for Aquaculture farming. The Fisheries Regulations define “protected areas or nature reserves” as those areas set aside as determined by competent authorities, with intent to guarantee the reproduction, growing and repopulation of hydro-biological resources.

2002: Agreement No. 1205 was passed. Under this legislation, only parties registered as an Environmental Service Provider system are able to undertake and submit EIAs to be considered for an environmental licence.

2009: Decree 189 established that a National Environmental Impact Assessment Evaluation System  would be responsible for providing environmental assessment and control of all new human activities or operations that may potentially cause negative environmental impacts. Two sub-secretaries were created: The Department of Environmental Evaluation and Control (DECA) and the Environmental Units (UNA), both of which assist with regulatory and monitoring processes.

2009: The General Water Law was enacted, improving the planning, organization, management and integrated use of national water resources and the decentralised water management to the municipalities. The Water Law includes 106 articles and creates a National Water Authority, which manages the use, development and general forms of enjoyment of water resources, including water ecosystems and their related resources. It also creates an advisory and consultative body, the National Council of Water Resources.

2017: The National Family Farming Strategy of Honduras was unveiled. The National Family Farming Strategy (ENAF) is a strategic instrument of national scope, related to the period 2017-2030, whose general objective is to implement differentiated mechanisms to improve the productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of family farming with a multisectoral and intergovernmental approach. The following three Axes are contemplated: 1) Access to productive goods and services; 2) Access to markets and inclusion in value chains; 3) Institutional strengthening for governability and governance in support of family farming. The Strategy also proposes three transversal Axes that cross all the dimensions and components of the development of family farming: 1) Attention to vulnerable groups; 2) Mitigation and adaptation to climate change; 3) Territorial rural development.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Honduras has been dubbed one of the deadliest places in the world to defend land and natural resources from exploitation. This unfortunate ranking comes amid a 2020 expose in The Guardian of the mistreatment of Indigenous environmental defenders in the country. The latest victim, Félix Vásquez, was a veteran leader of the Indigenous Lenca people. Vásquez had been involved in the defence of Indigenous land rights since the 1980: Orchestrating protests against environmentally destructive megaprojects such as mines, hydroelectric dams, wind farms and logging, as well as for helping dispossessed communities recover ancestral land titles. These assassinations can be traced back to the 2009 coup, which ushered in an autocratic government which remains in power despite its complicity in corruption, electoral fraud and ties to transnational crime. To date, hundreds of defenders have been killed, while many others have been silenced as a result of trumped-up criminal charges. On any given day, environmental leaders can be forcibly removed from their homes by  armed assailants in police uniforms. The UN condemns the treatment of Indigenous leaders, citing social conflict and the systematic lack of transparency and meaningful participation of communities affected by the exploitation of natural resources as the driving force of the persecution of these communities. In La Paz, the capital city of the La Paz Department of Honduras, 40 megaprojects have been sanctioned on indigenous territory without consulting local communities. Concomitantly, community leaders are threatened and subjected to intimidation campaigns when they challenge the unjust practices by the government and multinational corporations encroaching on sacred lands.

References and Further Reading


Minister of Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mines, Mr. Jose Galdames: joseantoniogaldames@gmail.com