India Program

Project Overview

In 1998, ELI launched its India Program to promote environmental law, policy, and management in India. The Institute works in conjunction with the government, NGOs, industry, and academic institutions to strengthen the legal, policy, and institutional infrastructure for sustainable development, environmental protection, and natural resource conservation in India. ELI has worked with its partners to build the capacity of the judiciary and enforcement agencies, to build the capacity of civil society to participate in environmental decision making, to build the capacity of industry to comply with environmental law, and to strengthen implementation of environmental law.

Senior Attorney John Pendergrass leads ELI’s India Program.

Enforcement Capacity-Building for Indian States

In 2010, ELI began working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Environment and Forests of Indian to build the capacity of state officials to enforce India’s environmental laws. The three organizations plus the Central Pollution Control Board (India) collaborated on a “Workshop on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement,” which took place on January 18 and 19, 2011, at the Environment Protection Training and Research Institute (EPTRI) in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. 

After the workshop, ELI focused on building the capacity of the hazardous waste staff of the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Gujarat. ELI engaged the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) to research India’s hazardous waste rules and case studies on best practices in enforcing the rules. NLSIU and ELI drafted Enforcing Hazardous Wastes Rules in India: Strategies and Techniques for Achieving Increased Compliance.

Study Tour on Hazardous Waste Management for State Pollution Control Board Officials

In August 2013, ELI hosted nine high-ranking enforcement officials from India on a U.S. study tour that focused on the enforcement of hazardous waste rules. The group heard from hazardous waste enforcement officials from Wyoming, Maryland, and the U.S. EPA. They also met with members of the environmental justice community, developers building on  brownfields, and a private cement manufacturer with experience incinerating hazardous waste. Participants were members of the SPCBs of the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Gujarat.

Factory Manager Compliance Training

Since 2003, ELI has worked with industry, state pollution control boards, NGOs, and academia to build the capacity of India’s private sector to comply with environmental law. Supported by the GE Foundation and by USAID, and working with Environmental Management and Policy Research Institute (EMPRI) of Bangalore and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), ELI developed two courses for managers of small and medium sized enterprises on how to comply with environmental law. FICCI and ELI delivered a pilot workshop to managers of electroplating facilities clustered in Mathura in northern India.

Contemporaneously, EMPRI and ELI delivered a pilot workshop in Bangalore for a diverse audience of managers of small and medium sized enterprises. In addition to segments on India’s water, air, hazardous waste, and other substantive laws, the course covered why it is beneficial to industry to comply with environmental law. Faculty included senior officials of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Professor MK Ramesh, experts from NGOs and industry, and ELI Senior Attorney John Pendergrass. ELI and EMPRI prepared a Pocket Guide to Environmental Compliance, which provided information on the environmental rules applicable to industry. The Bangalore workshop included a site visit to a model facility to observe good environmental management in practice. A follow up session three months later demonstrated the value of the training as the majority of participants described specific improvements to environmental performance at their facilities.

In 2008, with additional support from several multinational corporations in India, ELI worked with academic institutions and state pollution control boards in Gujarat and Karnataka to expand the coverage of the course to include segments on occupational health and safety and product stewardship and to involve managers from staff of suppliers. The courses were hosted by Indus Institute of Technology and Engineering in Ahmedabad and the National Law School of India University (NLS) in Bangalore, with the respective state pollution control boards as additional sponsors and speakers. In Ahmedabad, the course was keynoted by India’s retired Chief Justice PN Bhagwati, author of several seminal decisions by the Indian Supreme Court on environmental rights. ELI and its academic, industry, and state pollution control board partners repeated the course in Bangalore in November 2009 and in Ahmedabad and Bangalore in January 2011.

Building the Capacity of Judges to Enforce Environmental Law

India’s Supreme Court has been a leader in improving access to courts for poor and disenfranchised citizens, remedying pollution, and providing relief for damage claims in environmental cases, but trial courts have not followed this lead. Beginning in 1999, ELI collaborated with state High Courts, judicial academies, and NGOs to build the capacity of trial court judges to implement environmental law. ELI convened, with NLS, a two-day planning meeting of leading jurists from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala to discuss the needs for educational programs for judges on environmental law and specific topics to be covered. The judges included some of the leading green bench judges at the time as well as those active in judicial education generally. As a result of this workshop the Bombay High Court asked ELI to organize a workshop for judges in Maharashtra. ELI and the Lawyers Collective delivered the first such workshop on environmental law for High Court and trial judges from Maharashtra in Mumbai in 2000.

ELI was asked by Center for Advancement in Environmental Law to assist it in delivering a course for trial court judges from Orissa. The workshop for fifty trial court judges was held in Bhubaneswar, Orissa in 2002, with ELI Senior Attorney John Pendergrass as a featured speaker on enforcement, access to information, and access to justice. Also in 2002, ELI partnered with the Judicial Academy of Karnataka, the High Court of Karnataka, and Environment Support Group, an NGO in Bangalore, to hold a workshop for trial court judges from Karnataka. The following year, in partnership with the Centre for Environmental Education - Lucknow and the Judicial Training and Research Institute (JTRI), ELI conducted a program for thirty trial judges from Uttar Pradesh. The workshop was designed so that the faculty of the JTRI would be capable of providing similar training in the future. Several judges noted that the program had opened their eyes to a new area of the law.

Building the Capacity of Enforcement Officers to Litigate Environmental Cases

During 2002, ELI worked with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Central Pollution Control Board to develop a workshop to build the capacity of enforcement officials of the central and state pollution control boards (SPCBs) to effectively litigate enforcement cases. The workshop included exercises designed to allow the participants to practice skills learned during the program, such as drafting affidavits and other legal documents essential to litigating enforcement cases. Enforcement staff from twelve SPCBs participated in the program along with staff from the legal cell of the CPCB.

Building Capacity of the Public to Participate in Environmental Decision-Making

Public participation is a critical element of environmental governance and is key to India’s sustainable development and conservation efforts. Including citizens’ voices in decision-making promotes governmental accountability and increases the likelihood that decisions will take into account the concerns of those directly affected by them. Effective public participation requires the recognition of environmental rights and a citizen cause of action, standing before the courts, clear environmental standards, access to information, genuine opportunities for participation and clearly defined procedures for such participation, and an independent and well-informed judiciary. ELI, through its judicial training programs and through workshops and study tours for NGO activists and environmental lawyers, has worked to foster the conditions in India in which public participation can thrive. ELI held its first study tour for environmental lawyers and activists in 1998. This tour included a week in Washington focusing on federal environmental programs, federalism, and civil society’s involvement in national environmental issues. A second week included participation in the annual meeting of environmental activists in Eugene, Oregon, where the study tour participants joined counterparts from all over the world to discuss citizen activism in environmental issues. A second study tour following a similar model was held in 2003 and included judges as well as lawyers and representatives of civil society.

In 1999, ELI and its local partner, the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE), held a two-day NGO Workshop on Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making in New Delhi to identify strategies for more effective involvement of civil society in environment and development decisions in India. More than forty public interest lawyers, NGO representatives, and journalists participated in this workshop. Workshop participants exchanged ideas on Access to Justice, the Right to Information, the Right to Natural Resources, and Civil Society Interventions.

Assessment of State Implementation of Environmental Law (1999)

ELI, in conjunction with local partners TERI, the Center for Symbiosis of Technology, Environment, and Management (STEM), and the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC) developed detailed case studies on the implementation of environmental law at the state level. These studies analyzed Karnataka’s efforts under the 1989 Hazardous Waste Rules, the Environmental Audit Statement requirement in Tamil Nadu, and implementation of Supreme Court-ordered air pollution measures for foundries in West Bengal. Each of these studies diagnosed implementation problems at the local level, and also provided recommendations for improving the effectiveness of implementation of the law.