CEERA Celebrates 25 Years!
October 1, 2022
The Centre for Environment Law, Education, Research and Advocacy (CEERA), established in 1997, recently celebrated its 25th year at NLSIU! CEERA focuses on research and policy advocacy in the field of environmental law. The Centre’s main objectives include building an environmental law database; effective networking among stakeholders; undertaking training and capacity development exercises; providing consultancy services; and developing an environmental law community. The Centre’s Coordinator is Prof. Sairam Bhat.
We asked the team at CEERA to reflect on the Centre’s activities and achievements during its 25-year-long journey.
1. Can you recall how CEERA was set up at the University?
CEERA was set up in 1997 under a World Bank Project on Environmental Law Capacity Building. At the time of establishment, it was not envisaged as a Centre of excellence, but rather started its journey as a “Project Execution Unit”. In early 1997, the Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, along with World Bank representatives including Mr. Mohan Gopal and a few other senior government officials visited NLSIU for a discussion. This discussion revolved around the idea of NLSIU taking up a project on Environmental Law Capacity Building for India.
Prof. Madhava Menon, Prof. N L Mitra and several senior faculty were present for this discussion. Prof Mitra decided that NLSIU would take up the project and as Prof. M K Ramesh was teaching environmental law at the University, his name was suggested as coordinator for this project.
Reflecting on the year of CEERA’s inception, Prof. M K Ramesh said: “I remember Prof. Menon saying this project was going to be a very big task at the time when the idea was being floated. As I was preparing for class one day during August 1997, Prof. Mitra who was the then Vice-Chancellor, came to my office and said we would have to travel to Delhi the very next day to finalise this project. I was asked to prepare a detailed proposal following which we got the approval to carry out the project with Prof Mitra as the Principal Investigator and myself as the coordinator. The first part of executing this project was to organise an international event in September. It was at this time that I suggested a Centre should be set up at the University. While there was no official ceremony, this is how the Centre started functioning. As the first event of the Centre was held on September 7, 1997, this date is considered to be the day that CEERA was established.”
2. Were there any key transitions or changes over the decades in the Centre?
Initially, the Centre’s name did not have the word “Law” in it. It was added later, keeping in mind the need for advocacy in environmental law and policy framework. To facilitate CEERA’s wide range of activities and division of responsibilities, two more centres Commons Cell and Environmental Law Clinic were set up by Prof. M K Ramesh. Commons Cell was set up in the year 2009 to develop Indian Jurisprudence on Environmental Law. Meanwhile, the Environmental Law Clinic was started in 2012 as a finishing school to make the students and professionals practice fit to secure, seek & ensure environmental justice. In the past few years, CEERA has ventured into advocacy and Litigation. The Centre is currently engaged in both litigation and legal advisory work for Government and the Industry.
The Centre which started as a team of three or four people has also witnessed transitions in terms of its team members over the years. Prof M K Ramesh was the first coordinator from 1997 until 2001 when he took a break to pursue his doctoral studies. During this time, Prof. O V Nandimath took up the role of coordinator for about two years. Prof. M K Ramesh then resumed his position as CEERA’s coordinator in 2006 and supervised the Centre’s activities. Since 2011, Prof. Sairam Bhat has been the Coordinator for CEERA. He currently heads a team of five members.
3. Could you highlight some of the milestone moments of the Centre?
Over the years CEERA has achieved many milestone moments. The execution of prestigious projects from the World Bank, UNDP, MoEFCC, ICSSR and the Department of Justice. One of the recent highlights has been the Karnataka Municipality Bill, 2020 and the Climate Protection Bill, 2021. The Karnataka Municipality Bill, prepared in collaboration with the Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA), is envisaged as a Model Bill and consolidates several municipal laws in the State of Karnataka.
Similarly, the Climate Protection Bill, 2021 primarily emphasises on the identification, protection, and advancement of relief towards vulnerable areas and persons affected by adverse climate events, the establishment of a Climate Protection Commission of India, providing Climate Risk Insurance, and the adoption of Climate Sustainability Plans for businesses and activities that are likely to have a material adverse effect on climate.
It has been a journey of exploration and experience over these 25 years, and in some form or the other, CEERA has made its presence felt across several sectors including academia, administration, and the judiciary.
4. How does the CEERA team feel about the Centre turning 25 years?
The team at CEERA feel both fortunate and proud to have the opportunity to work in CEERA. We have expanded the scope and ambit of our work beyond environmental law. We realise the potential to contribute to Policy formulation, pro bono legal services and quality legal research that is expected from us.
CEERA has venutred into several professional training programmes and is offering three 12-week MOOC courses. The foundations of any institution are solidified by a system of values and ethos it seeks to respect and cultivate. CEERA completing 25 years gave us time to reflect on the values and work ethic that have been inculcated in each member of the CEERA team. This value system includes “team work”, “discipline”, “a sense of collective ownership and responsibility” and “innovative thinking”. It is our responsibility to respect these values and pass them on to the next generation.
Watch this video by Prof. M K Ramesh reflecting on CEERA turning 25 years: