Setting up a new pathway towards building an eco-humane bond in the glorious beginning of the new year, the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo on Wednesday (5) officially launched its fresh initiative – the Centre for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP).
Despite the prevailing situation in the country, the 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 and protection. Ultimately, the 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 policymaking institutions in endorsing the conservation and preservation of the environment in the country.
Under the guidance of University of Colombo Vice Chancellor Senior Prof. Chandrika N. Wijeyaratne, Faculty of Law Dean Dr. N.S. Punchihewa, and Faculty of Law senior lecturer and CELP Founding Director Dr. Kokila Konasinghe, along with the CELP team, conducted a memorable ceremony which promoted the idea of “Beyond human environment: Defending rights of nature in the anthropocene”.
A number of distinguished scholars representing the environmental spectrum in the national and international contexts joined virtually and personally, gracing the occasion.
To begin the event, Mindfulness Programme Developer and Trainer and senior consultant in child rights Dr. Charika Marasinghe conducted a session titled “A Mindful Contemplation on Nature”. International rights of nature advocate Ashish Kothari and also Network of Asia Pacific Schools and Institutes of Public Administration and Governance (NAPSIPAG) President Prof. Amita Singh joined virtually and shared their thoughts on conflicting human rights with nature and how essential it is to approach the eco-centric movements.
An expert discussion was held including Ministry of Environment Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe, University of Colombo Vice Chancellor Prof. Wijeyaratne, Faculty of Law Dean Dr. Punchihewa, leading Sri Lankan ornithologist and environmentalist Prof. Sarath Kotagama, senior environmentalist Dr. Jagath Gunawardana, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative Chandrika Karunaratne.
In addition, the members of the advisory board and board of management of CELP and representatives from significant administrative authorities, universities, and other educational organisations were also present at the ceremony.
CELP Senior Researcher Dulki Seethawaka explained that in 2020 and 2021, the CELP published two compilations of statutory provisions and case law on animal welfare and public nuisance. The compilation on animal welfare laws and policies is the first publication of the CELP. Seethawaka stated that animal welfare is a principle which is gaining 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,” she stated, adding that even though animal welfare is a renowned concept in other countries, there is considerable scope for further developments that can be introduced in Sri Lanka.
She explained that one of the major difficulties faced by animal rights defenders in Sri Lanka is finding relevant case law with regard to animal welfare, and the compilation has sought to address this issue by producing a single publication with all the relevant legislations and case law.
“The compilation includes the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance No. 13 of 1907, and judicial decisions where the treatment of animals was in question. It is of value to all legal practitioners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and students who have specific interest in animal welfare laws in Sri Lanka,” she explained.
Seethawaka further noted that the compilation on public nuisance contains the laws pertaining to public nuisance, which is an important legal weapon against environmental harm affecting the community, adding that while environmental protection and the 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 a handbook for academics, legal practitioners, NGOs, and students.
She also stated that other projects are lined up for the 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, the 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 policymaking institutions in endorsing the conservation and preservation of the environment in the country.