Orientation Programme on Wildlife and Forest Conservation Laws in Meghalaya (5th -6th April), 2024

Posted on 07 April 2024
© WWF-India
High Court of Meghalaya; Centre of Environment Law (CEL), WWF-India; and the Meghalaya State Judicial Academy organized a two day orientation programme on “Wildlife and Forest Conservation Laws” for judicial and forest officers of Meghalaya.

The primary aim of the orientation program was to cultivate a heightened awareness and sensitization among the officers regarding issues surrounding wildlife conservation. Positioned as the bedrock of conservation endeavours, both judicial and forest officers occupy pivotal roles in the preservation of forests and biodiversity.  
Ms. Moulikka Arabhi, Advisor, Centre for Environment Law, WWF-India introduced the orientation programme, emphasizing its necessity. She discussed that the inspiration behind the programmes is for environment orders “to percolate to every court in India, even at the District Level”. These sessions display the role of judiciary in conservation of environment. Through such orientation programmes, judicial and forest officers are encouraged to take assertive measures for environmental conservation.

Following the welcoming remarks, Mr. R.S. Gill, IFS, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Govt. of Meghalaya, delivered the inaugural address. Mr. Gill started the address by discussing the challenge of climate and forest as a “constantly expanding mission, which requires constantly expanding commitments”. He talked about how “the impact of violation of any environmental law will be felt by our children’s generation and further”. He emphasized, “we are fighting for the people that we have never met and might never meet” and also people “who don’t have access to resources”. Therefore, it’s important to be bold in the face of these challenges as “every individual has to take responsibility for their actions today”.

Next, Hon’ble Justice Madan Lokur, Judge, Supreme Court of Fiji, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India presented a special address to the participants. Justice Lokur mentioned how this session is a part of series of programmes that have been organized by WWF India and various judicial academies. The rationale being the profound climate crisis that we are facing. He highlighted that “the onus is on us” as individuals under the Constitution and not just the State to “preserve the environment not only for ourselves but also the future generation”. Justice Lokur stressed that in the fight against climate crisis, judicial sensitization is extremely important and that it is “not just about understanding civil and criminal code” but “understanding the laws and constitutional as a whole”. He emphasized that applying environmental principles is key in protection of wildlife and forest.

Hon’ble Justice Hamarsan Singh Thangkhiew, Judge, High Court of Meghalaya, followed Justice Lokur with a keynote address to the participants. Justice Thangkhiew started his address by stating how happy he is with the collaboration between WWF-India and the Judicial Academy. This was the second session conducted in Meghalaya and the first orientation “program proved to be a very wonderful initiative with a lot of positive outcome”.  Justice Thankgkhiew noted that the orientation programme discusses the various laws and cases surrounding forest and wildlife conservation which is very relevant to Meghalaya as it is one of “the few fortunate states to have 76% forest cover” and is “blessed with environment, wildlife, flora and fauna which is not available everywhere.”

The inauguration session ended with a Presidential address by Hon’ble Mr. Justice S. Vaidyanathan, Hon’ble Chief Justice, High Court of Meghalaya. The Chief Justice expounded upon the expansive biodiversity and ecology that adorns the landscape of Meghalaya. He emphasized that Meghalaya is a pocket for harmonious co-existence of countless species. Nevertheless, this sanctuary of flora and fauna is being adversely affected by human activities. We need to protect the wildlife, as it is a “fundamental balancing component of our ecosystem and nature’s most valuable asset”. While the forest department and community stakeholders have made a commendable effort, the conservation of environment remains a pressing concern. The Chief Justice ended his address by wishing the programme success in the endeavour of conserving forests and wildlife.

On the first day, following the inaugural session various resource persons held three technical sessions. Dr. Saket Badola, IFS, CCF, Government of Uttrakahand, took the first technical session giving an “Overview on illegal wildlife trade Scenarios in India: Concerns and solutions”. In the session, Dr. Badola gave an overview on the legal framework concerning illegal trafficking of wildlife. Using various case studies and visual tools, Dr. Badola displayed how human greed has led to the development of unique techniques of illegal trafficking.
Justice Lokur, outlining the “Environmental Rule of Law and Role of Judiciary” conducted the next technical session. He discussed the various environmental principles and cases stemming from Supreme Court, National Green Tribunal and District Courts on conservation of environment. Based on the judgements and case studies Justice Lokur encouraged the participants to be bold in their endeavours to protect the environment.
The last session of the day was taken by Advocate Shilpa Chohan giiving “An Overview on Environmental Trends and Issues in Meghalaya”. Advocate Shilpa detailed the work she has undertaken with various organizations in Meghalaya regarding forest governance issues due to the conflict between the various acts, rules and guidelines created by the State and Autonomous District Councils.

The second day of the orientation started with a technical session conducted by Ms. Moulika Arabhi and Mr. Tejas Singh Kapoor, CEL on “Legal and Policy Overview on Environment, Forest and Wildlife”. The session discussed the various impact of climate change on India’s biodiversity. Citing case studies and different case laws, the session went into depth about the role of judiciary in developing environmental jurisprudence in the country
Mr. Kamal Medhi, Landscape Coordinator, Western Arunachal Landscape, wrapped up the orientation programme with a session giving “An Overview on Conservation issues in Meghalaya”. This session was Meghalaya centric, with Mr. Medhi citing the various flora and fauna species that grace Meghalaya to showcase the rich diversity of the region. He subsequently proceeded to elaborate on the diverse array of challenges encountered within the realm of conservation endeavours.

Participation from the various judicial and forest officers was present during all the technical sessions as well. There was open dialogue between the two branches about their experience in their respective fields and the intersections of their work. The orientation programme provided an open forum for discussion between the two sects of officers in addition to the information imparted in the technical sessions. The orientation programme concluded with a question and answer, feedback and valedictory session.
© WWF-India Enlarge
© WWF-India Enlarge
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.