CELP Launch Ceremony

CELP Launch Ceremony

Initiating environmental conservation within the University of system: Centre for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP) by the University of Colombo

The new initiative of the University of Colombo towards the conservation and preservation of environment and all its components, the Centre for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP) was officially launched in a grand ceremony which took place on the 5th of January 2022, at the New Arts Theatre of the University of Colombo. Under the guidance of the Madam Vice Chancellor Senior Professor Chandrika N. Wijeyaratne and the Dean of the Faculty of Law Dr. N.S. Punchihewa the founding Director, Dr. Kokila Konasinghe of Faculty of Law with the CELP team successfully conducted a memorable ceremony which promoted the idea of “Beyond human environment: Defending rights of nature in the anthropocene.”

A number of prominent scholars representing the environmental spectrum in the national and international contexts joined virtually and personally gracing the event. The ceremony was initiated with a session titled “A Mindful Contemplation on Nature” by Dr. Charika Marasinghe who is the Developer and Trainer of the Mindfulness Programme and a Senior Consultant in Child Rights. The official ceremony began after this session, and was followed by a virtual discussion by the international rights of nature advocate Mr. Ashish Kothari, and the President of the Network of Asia Pacific Schools and Institutes of Public Administration and Governance Prof. Amita Singh who shared their thoughts on conflicting human rights with nature and how essential it is to approach the eco-centric movements. 

A significant element of the ceremony was the expert panel discussion in which six distinguished invitees shared their views on current environmental approaches and recommendations that are applicable in the Sri Lankan context. The panelists included the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment Dr. Anil Jasinghe, Madam Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Dean of the Faculty of Law, a leading Sri Lankan ornithologist and environmentalist Prof. Sarath Kotagama, Senior environmentalist Dr. Jagath Gunawardena and United Nations Development Programme representative Ms. Chandrika Karunaratne. In addition, the members of the advisory board and board of management of CELP, representatives from significant administrative authorities, universities and other educational organisations were also present at the ceremony.

Throughout history, the University of Colombo has always set a remarkable example on approaching and theorising the new concepts, principles and trends within the education system in Sri Lanka. The students, who have gained the best education as well as exposure from the multitalented academia of the University of Colombo guide the society by becoming part of various professions and organisations. They lead and they guide for the new future, and their thirst for knowledge and exceptionalism have no bounds. Therefore, the new Centre for Environmental Law and Policy is anticipated to be a great resource centre for the students who would be particularly interested in broadening their expertise in the Environmental law and policy sectors. 

In the era where the environment is struggling to thrive against the vast development activities CELP is a dire need of the hour. The mere ignorance towards the impacts of natural disasters and climate change seems to be no longer an option. There are heavy rains and floods even in the cities. There are droughts which harm people, nature and wildlife. The planet is getting warmer with each day causing the glaciers in the north and south poles to melt at an alarming speed. The sea-level is rising and the coastal erosion is threatening the coastal communities. This is only the beginning of the destructive future, and it would be the future generations who would be battling the disastrous consequences in the years to come. 

Unfortunately, many people are not bothered about environmental degradation and these drastic natural changes that are happening not only in Sri Lanka, but everywhere in this world. The only solution is to join hands in harmony with nature. However, it is a great challenge specially for developing nations like Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is necessary that there would be personnel who can pioneer in the environmental conservation and restoration efforts, who can not only guide the people but also policy-makers in protecting the environment, and who can influence other national educational institutions on how they can bring about a change in conserving and protecting the environment in our country. 

This Centre will undoubtedly be the cornerstone of the futuristic change that is essential to bring about in society. Despite the prevailing situation in the country, CELP has successfully completed several landmark accomplishments in providing policy recommendations, publishing books and articles, and collaborating with international and national bodies on environment-related rights/protection. CELP has already contributed to the constitutional reform committee – 2021 by suggesting environmental policy recommendations. 

In 2020 and 2021, CELP published two compilations of statutory provisions and case law on animal welfare and public nuisance. Animal welfare is a principle which is gaining an overriding attention and significance around the globe, most particularly in recent years. It refers to the relationship between people and animals and the duty of the people to ensure that the animals under their care are treated humanely and compassionately. The compilation includes the Prevention of Cru樂威壯
elty to Animals Ordinance, No. 13 of 1907,犀利士
and judicial decisions where treatment for animals was in question. It is of unprecedented value to all the legal practitioners, NGOs and students who have specific interest in animal welfare laws in Sri Lanka. 

The compilation on Public Nuisance contains the laws pertaining to public nuisance which is an important legal weapon against environmental harm affecting the community. While environmental protection and prevention of environmental damage form a dire need of contemporary society, the legal literature of this nature still remains scarce, leaving those who wish to defend the environment lost in a pile of disseminated laws. Bridging this gap in the existing body of literature, this compilation provides an excellent handbook for academics, legal practitioners, NGOs and students. 

CELP published the third book in October 2021, titled ‘South Asian Environmental Law Report (SAELR) Volume I’ which marked the first collaboration with the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ). SAELR 2021 presents four landmark judgements from Sri Lanka and one significant judgement from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan respectively. It is a unique initiative from other collections of legal reports because each landmark case includes a review by a legal expert analysing case facts, the judgement and necessary future developments. 

CELP has many other upcoming publications on various other areas of environmental law which it hopes will become accessories in the quest for the preservation of the environment. The CEJ and CELP are now preparing for the upcoming publication, ‘South Asian Journal of Environmental Law and Policy (SAJELP)’, yet another remarkable compilation of articles by highly recognised national and international authors specialising in environmental concerns in South Asia. All these publications have been prepared for the benefit of students, academics, researchers and the general public who are urged to gain knowledge on environmental law and policy.

The Director and the members of CELP have also partaken in several other regional and international collaborations. Dr. Konasinghe is an advisor of the World’s Youth for Climate Justice, which is a global campaign seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on human rights and climate change. CELP intends to lead the national campaign in Sri Lanka and assist in spreading public awareness about the campaign. The CELP has also represented Sri Lanka in “Project Bajho,” a UN Millenium Fellowship programme coordinated by the Kathmandu Law School in Nepal to analyse the laws and policies regarding climate change and environment of the South Asian countries. In November 2020, CELP took part in a project with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to map and analyse legal preparedness for international and regional disaster and pandemic response in South Asia.  

Recognising its public responsibility, CELP is also in the process of developing educational and training programmes for the civil society, and organising webinar discussions with prominent environmentalists and experts on environmental law and policy. The ‘Chat on Sustainable Development Goals’, the first webinar of its series was organised by the Final Year Undergraduates of the Faculty of Law in collaboration with the Centre for Environme樂威壯
ntal Law and Policy, Centre for Environmental Initiatives, and the Earth Mates organization on the 20th of January 2021. The webinar was also graced by two panelists Dr. Shyami Puvimanasinghe and Mr. Benjamin Schachter who represented the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Yet another webinar titled “The UN Climate Change Regime Post – Glasgow” will be conducted on 19th of January which is organised by Commonwealth Climate Cohort under the Association of Commonwealth Universities in partnership with the University of Mauritious. Prof. Daniel Bodansky, Regents Professor of Arizona State University in the United States is the guest speaker of the session and Prof. Ellen Hey, Professor of Public and International Law of the Erasmus School of Law, University of Rotterdam in Netherlands is the discussant. The forum will be moderated by Dr. Konasinghe. 

Some other important projects are lined up for CELP including the publication of a book on multidisciplinary approaches to Environmental law and Governance in Sri Lanka, and organising educational workshops for the legislative and judicial members. Ultimately, CELP aims to promote environmental law and policy in all possible ways within the Sri Lankan academic and administrative sectors and thereby, hopes to become one of the leading legal and policy making institutions in endorsing the conservation and preservation of the environment in the country.