On going projects
Working Towards Giving Legal Status to the Mattegoda Wewa and Adjacent Wetlands; and Olupattawa Lake
Implementation of the aforesaid project commenced in March 2019. Its primary objective is to work towards declaring the Mattegoda Wewa and adjacent wetlands, and Olupattawa Lake (both in the Homagama Divisional Secretariat area), as Protected Areas under the Central Environmental Authority (CEA). The main project activities include carrying out (i) a listing of the observable biodiversity; (ii) an encroachment study; (iii) mapping and (iv) community awareness meetings and involvement. The project is funded through the UNDP GEF/SGP Cycle VI programme and falls under the sub-category of protecting the Colombo Wetlands.
These wetlands are situated in an area which is fast developing, and, hence, face the threat of being lost or seriously degraded. Competition for land and water, encroachments and demographic changes are some of the main threats to the health of these wetlands. They are of immense value in the locality and serve as catchment and flood control areas; help in climate cooling; provide water for agriculture and other ecosystem services, harbour high biodiversity and aesthetic value. This project is implemented by PILF in close cooperation with the relevant government agencies such as the Central Environmental Authority (CEA).
Reducing Marine Plastic Waste in Sri Lanka through Law Review and Reform; Improved Law Enforcement and Legal Training and Awareness
This project comes under the Municipal Waste Recycling Programme (MWRP) of the USAID which is being implemented in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The overall aim of the MWRP is to promote the implementation of solid waste management and recycling solutions to reduce marine plastic waste in the above named countries. As such, the primary aim of PILF’s project is to work towards reducing marine plastic waste in Sri Lanka through Law Review and Reform; Legal Training and Awareness and better Law Enforcement. Accordingly, the existing legal framework on marine plastic waste will be assessed and gaps identified. Thereafter, recommendations will be made for legislative reform. This will be done in close consultation with the key government agencies in charge of the subject area such as the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) and the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA). The draft report will be presented at a stakeholder workshop to obtain comments. A second workshop will be held later to validate the final report.
Training and Awareness workshops (12 in all) will be held for key national level government agencies (including the Police and Navy), and selected local government agencies in the Western and Southern Provinces. The training will be on the application of existing and proposed legal provisions and regulations; by laws covering marine plastic pollution; prosecutions; and adherence to international conventions signed by Sri Lanka. Later, PILF will work in close cooperation with a few selected local government agencies for around six months to assist and monitor progress and management of law enforcement after Training. Finally, PILF will advocate the law reforms to be adopted by the government.
Projects Completed since 1999
The Access Initiative (TAI) Sri Lanka Assessment
The TAI research involved a full assessment of the law and 18 case studies in relation to access to information, public participation and justice (based on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development). These cases/issues covered many areas that included development activities and relevant legal procedures, environmental licencing procedures, environmental emergencies, environmental monitoring, policy making and court processes.
In addition to the main TAI research PILF carried out two poverty pilot studies. Under this project the three access principles (i.e. access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice) of the Rio declaration were studied in relation to the poor and disadvantaged communities. Six cases were researched under each poverty pilot study. The poverty pilot studies proved to be effective in assessing the status of disadvantaged/poor people in terms of the three access principles mentioned above. These reports are available on www.accessinitiative.org website.
Proposals to Amend the National Environmental Act (NEA)
PILF drafted proposals to amend the National Environmental Act to address the gaps and problems identified in the TAI Sri Lanka Assessment (mentioned just above) in relation to the law and its practice. These proposals were submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Central Environmental Authority for consideration. If the draft proposals are adopted in part or whole it will go towards improving the status of access to information and public participation in relation to the environment in the future.
Ministerial Guidelines on Access to Information
The PILF facilitated the then Ministry of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development in 2008/9 to join the Partnership for Principle 10, an initiative of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) for promoting better environmental governance at the national level. As a part of this effort PILF also assisted in formulating Ministerial Directions on information disclosure in the urban sector. The said Ministry issued these Directions officially on 15th September 2009.
Adaptation: Rapid Institutional Analysis (ARIA)
PILF carried out the ARIA Sri Lanka project which aims at enhancing access to environmental information, public participation, and access to justice in domestic climate change adaptation in the hope of improving the quality of adaptive actions by the Government of Sri Lanka, the private sector, and citizens. The specific objectives of this project were to build the capacity of Civil Society Organizations, ensure government response to climate change adaptation and civil society monitoring. The study looked at (i) national-level policies and institutions that address climate change adaptation needs in Sri Lanka; and (ii) climate change adaptation in relation to two priorities areas namely, drinking water and paddy cultivation, (iii) mainstreaming adaptation into national planning and development. The project was executed through a partnership between PILF, two NGOS and three government agencies. The three government agencies were the National Planning Department, the Climate Change Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment and the Disaster Management Centre.
Sea-Level Rise: Adaptation Information Priorities and Gaps
PILF carried out the Sri Lanka case study under the programme on “Adapting to Climate Uncertainty in South Asia: What Information Can Help Decision-Makers?” of the World Resources Institute (WRI), USA. The Sri Lanka case study analyses and outlines the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) 2004 in relation to the implementation of the recommended provisions on sea level rise in the country. The study was carried out in close consultation with the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) and a workshop was held by PILF to discuss the case study.
SACOSAN IV and V Project
In preparation for SACOSAN V Conference FANSA and the Fresh Water Action Network (FAN) carried out six urban sanitation case studies in South Asia. The case studies were carried out with the objective of gathering evidence on issues of vulnerability and exclusion (if any), technological barriers, financial and socio-economic factors in sanitation service delivery. The case studies also assessed briefly the status of the commitment made by South Asian governments in the Colombo Declaration 2011 to “design and deliver context-specific equitable and inclusive sanitation and hygiene programmes” for poor and marginalized groups in urban and rural areas.
The Sri Lanka case study carried out by PILF for the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) (in 2013) focused on the under served settlements in the City of Colombo. Information for the case study was gathered through a review/over view of urban sanitation policies and programmes, a questionnaire survey of 195 households, four key informant interviews and two focus group discussions. The locations for field work were selected based on the information obtained from the Colombo District Secretariat (DS) office, the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) and the CMC District1office. PILF also prepared the case study report for CEJ for SACOSAN IV.
Campaign to Open Budgets, Claim Power and Transform Lives
The PILF carried out a research under the above global campaign with funding from the International Budgetary Partnership (IBP). The main purpose of the research was to assess the practical access people have to budget information.(see www.internationalbudget.org)
Improving Natural Resource Governance for Rural Poverty Reduction
The PILF was a partner in a project titled ‘Improving Environmental Justice for the Rural Poor in Sri Lanka” that falls under a wider regional programme on ‘Improving Natural Resource Governance (NRG) for Rural Poverty Reduction’ in South Asia implemented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sri Lanka with funding from the UK Aid. The objectives of this project were to look at governance issues in relation to the management of natural resources, empower and build the capacity of civil society to reduce poverty and better manage natural resources. The main activities were: (i) to conduct field work, (ii) hold training workshops on NRG and environmental laws at project sites, (iii) carry out a law and institutional review on NRG for forests and lagoons and (iv) conduct Environmental law and NRG awareness workshops for government officers in Puttalam and Ratnapura districts.
Study on Institutions Responsible for Environmental Governance
This study analysed and outlined the evolution of environmental governance in the country and provided information on the responsible institutions; their establishment and brief history; powers, functions and structures; coordination mechanisms, finance and human resources; effectiveness and problems related to these. This study was commissioned by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Regional Environmental Law Programme, and Asia (RELPA) in 2005.
Sri Lanka National Consultation on Community Conservation Areas
The PILF together with Kalpavriksh, India organized the Sri Lanka National Consultation on Community Conservation Areas (CCAs) in June, 2010. Representatives from Government Agencies like the Department of Forests, Department of Wildlife Conservation, Department of Agriculture, Department of Ayurveda and Department of Fisheries and representatives from Kalpavriksh India and the United Nations Development Programme were the resource persons of the consultation. Other participants included representatives from non-governmental organizations, community based organizations, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Mr. Anandalal Nanayakkara, Attorney-at-Law facilitated the consultation.
Compliance with Judicial Orders through greater Citizen Participation
The overriding goal of this project was to train and empower a broad range of South Asian civil society, with a focus on youth. It also looked at a variety of tools to attain compliance with judicial orders to the fullest extent possible. The project activities included identifying four environmental cases where parties have failed to comply with explicit directions of a Court Order, identifying communities impacted upon by non-compliance with Court Orders, identifying other stakeholders including government agencies responsible for enforcement, and holding a workshop on Compliance with Judicial Orders through Greater Citizen Participation.
Poverty Mapping on Air Pollution and Waste Disposal in the City of Colombo
This project collected information and data for GIS mapping on air pollution and waste disposal and collection sites in relation to poverty in Colombo City. Information was gathered through a comprehensive literature survey, field work for GIS mapping, interviews and discussions.
Lectures on Environmental Law
PILF staff delivers lecturers on environmental law at the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA). SLIDA inter alia holds Training Programmes for government officers and provides induction training to newly recruited government officers of all island management services such as the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS), Sri Lanka Accountants Service (SLAcS), Sri Lanka Planning Service (SLPS), Sri Lanka Education Administration Service (SLEAS) and Sri Lanka Foreign Service (SLFS).PILF serves SLIDA in this capacity for over a decade.
2. Projects in 2014/ 2017
Forest (and Wildlife) Law Awareness and Legal Aid Programme under UNREDD CBR+ Programme
PILF carried out a programme titled ‘Reducing Drivers of Deforestation and Degradation through Awareness of Forest Law and Legal Aid to Forest Dependent and Indigenous Communities’ in the District of Anuradhapura under the Community Based REDD+ Programme in Sri Lanka. Through this programme PILF conducted awareness workshops on forest (and wildlife) law for forest dependent and indigenous communities and provided legal aid and advise on forest degradation and destruction. PILF also carried out a training workshop for a panel of lawyers in Anuradhapura on forest degradation and destruction.
Sri Lanka Climate and Forest Action Network (SLCFAN)
PILF partnered with SLCFAN to carry out a study identifying non carbon benefits in the context of REDD+ implementation in Sri Lanka. Field work was carried out in 10 districts of Sri Lanka including Anuradhapura and Puttalam. The report was prepared by the SLCFAN study team and submitted to UNREDD Sri Lanka.
The Global Forest Watch (GFW)
The PILF, in partnership with the Forest Department (FD), Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC) and the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), launched the GFW programme in Sri Lanka in June 2014. The GFW programme is still on-going in many countries throughout the world. The overall goal was to improve forest management through citizens’ participation. The key concept of the project was to identify research and provide “real time” information on forest change/loss to the FD, the DWLC, the CEA and the public. One of the main objectives was to enable the FD and the DWLC to take effective and timely action on the ground (when necessary). The project activities included the following:
- Identifying critical hotspots for detecting alerts on forest Change/loss
- Providing alerts on forest change/loss to the FD/DWLC, civil society and media as they occur
- Assisting the FD/DWLC and CEA to enforce laws where violations were evident
- Facilitating and discussing legal reforms with these agencies
- Disseminating “real time alerts” on forest change/loss through sms/telephone to FD/DWLC and other key government officers on the ground to enable timely action
- Investigating and reporting on forest loss/change issues, and
- Conducting training for relevant staff of the FD/DWLC on GFW (globalforestwatch.org)
Forest complaints and issues investigated and researched by the PILF have been uploaded on to the GFW website under Sri Lanka.
Environmental Democracy Index
The globally implemented Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) measures the quality of laws and other legally-binding rules at the national level in providing and protecting the rights of access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters.The legal research of the EDI for Sri Lanka was conducted by PILF in 2014 (see www.environmentaldemocracyindex.org).
Reducing Elephant Attacks through Live Fencing and Bee Keeping for Better Economic Empowerment
The PILF initiated this pilot project to protect an agricultural land from elephant attacks. This was done through the establishment of a live fence around a 3 acre agricultural plot in Maharambawewa in the District of Anuradhapura where there are regular elephant attacks. The live fence consisted of thorny plants and bee hives. The key intention of this pilot project was to ease the elephant human conflict without harming the elephants whose habitats are shrinking due to human activities.
Action 2015 Sri Lanka Campaign
Action2015 is a coalition of over 1950 organisations around the world committed to fighting for a better future. Its objective is to work together to bring about fundamental change in how we tackle poverty, inequality and climate change. The Action2015 global campaign is particularly focused on voicing people’s concerns at two important key global events scheduled for 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals Summit, the Finance for Development Summit and the UNFCCC COP21 where important decisions will be taken on climate change.
As a partner of Action2015, the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) Sri Lanka worked in coalition with the Human and Community Development Youth Organization (HCDYO), Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), Mass Media Forum (MMF), Nirmanee Development Foundation (NDF) and World Vision to carry out Sri Lanka campaign. The main objective of the campaign was to bring civil society views and concerns on poverty, inequality and climate change to key government leaders. By doing this it is visualized that these concerns will be addressed in national development plans. PILF has launched an online campaign on Action 2015 and joined the global movement by organizing on the ground activities such as the Light the Way and International Youth Day activity on global days of action.
Open Government Partnership (OGP)
Sri Lanka became a member of the OGP in 2015. PILF was a member of the CSO Steering committee that drafted the National Action Plan (NAP) for Sri Lanka. PILF was responsible in drafting the commitment on the theme of Environment contained in the NAP. PILF was also a member of the Government –Civil Society OGP Steering committee for the implementation of the first NAP.
Law Review on Marine Plastic Pollution
A Review of the local laws pertaining to single use plastics, micro beads and plastic bags was carried out by PILF on the request of the World Resources Institute to be submitted to UNEP for its Global Review on Laws and Regulations on Legal Limits on Single Use Plastics and Micro Plastics. The UNEP report is available on https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/27113/plastics_limits.pdf?isAllowed=y&sequence=1 .
3. Litigation and Legal Research
Since its inception, PILF has litigated on many important environmental and social justice issues. Some of the main public interest issues litigated by PILF have been on the regulation of waste disposal, access to public buildings for the disabled persons, protection of the knuckles conservation forest, protection of the KantaleTank bund, protection of the Sinharaja World Heritage Site,Protection of the Seeppukulama Medawewa Tank reservation,trade union rights and public health, and protection of the fundamental rights of government officers who face threats when performing their duties. Environmentally favourable decisions have been delivered in a majority of the cases handled by PILF. Some of the cases like the City of Colombo air pollution case led to the drafting of regulations on environment.
PILF has carried out legal research on a number of environmental issues such as natural resources of Sri Lanka; the three access principles on environment; protection of mangrove eco-systems; application of selected key Environmental Laws on traditional practices and occupations of Kitul tapping, traditional snake bite treatment and traditional rice farming; and protection of wildlife and forestry.