Embarking on ‘Green RoadTrip’ seeking environmental justice

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The inaugural session of the ‘Green Roadtrip’, a project to mobilize communities for environmental justice across the country was successfully held recently in Colombo. This series of events will be implemented by the Centre for Environmental Law and Policy of the University of Colombo, through the Support to Justice Sector Project (JURE), funded by the European Union and jointly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF Sri Lanka, facilitated by the Ministry of Justice.

The opening ceremony of the Green Roadtrip series was presided over by Senior Professor H.D. Karunarathna, Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo; along with Prof (Dr.) Sampath Punchihewa, Dean, Faculty of Law; Prof (Dr.) Kokila Konasinghe, Director, Centre for Environmental Law and Policy; and representatives from UNDP.

Speaking at the occasion, Senior Professor H.D. Karunarathna remarked on the value and importance of this initiative at a juncture when environmental issues have become a global challenge. "JURE has provided the perfect platform for the Centre for Environmental Law and Policy of the Faculty of Law, University of Colombo to embark on this new initiative by promoting environmental awareness among the public authorities and youth communities," he further added.

The initial segment of this programme was for public officials from provincial level and local government authorities representing the Western Province, covering national pollution control laws, environmental protection license, public nuisance issues and environmental duties in legislation pertaining to local governments. Guest lectures from experts in the field such as Mr. Hemantha Vidanage, Senior Advisor to the Centre for Environmental Justice and Dr. Rathnayaka, Deputy Director of the Central Environmental Authority, further enriched the programme. The sessions encouraged interaction and idea-sharing among the participants and was concluded with an awarding of certificates for all participants.

The third day of the event targeted youth groups, with around 85 youth participants representing various universities, clubs and societies participating. The session topics selected for youth participants covered environmental justice and sustainable development and saw the lively participation and interaction of the youth groups.

Speaking at this inaugural event in Colombo, Ms. Maheshi Herat, Technical Specialist (Civil and Criminal) of the JURE Project, UNDP stated, "Environmental degradation and its impact, can have harrowing implications on the well-being of people, including their right to life. JURE partnered with CELP to enable this countrywide roadtrip to take place, which will create awareness on environmental justice and empower those who are in positions of authority to take the best course of action."

With the initiation of the Green Roadtrip in Colombo, the Centre for Environmental Law and Policy, University of Colombo is on the path to engage with government bodies and youth groups in all provinces around the country, discussing laws and legislation surrounding environmental law, concept of environmental justice, environmental rights, sustainable development goals, role of government in addressing environmental issues, sustainable energy and the green economy. Specially curated sessions will also be held to address area-specific environmental issues, during this roadtrip.

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