I came across this new IIED report today:
Legal advice for environmental justice: Experience from eastern India Sanjay Upadhyay, Suparna Jain, Enviro Legal Defence Firm This paper distils lessons from experience with the Forest Rights Resource Centre in Jharkhand which uses the advice and referral (A&R) service model developed by the Enviro Legal Defence Firm and the Environment Law and Development Foundation (ELDF) to promote legal awareness and action to secure environmental justice.
Some highlights for discussion:
- This paper distills lessons from experience with the Vanadhikar Samadhan Kendra (Forest Rights Resource Centre – FRRC) in Jharkhand, India. The FRRC uses the advice and referral (A&R) service model developed by the Enviro Legal Defence Firm and the Environment Law and Development Foundation (ELDF) to promote legal awareness and action to secure environmental justice.
- The tool started as a web-based advice and referral (A&R) cell for a range of actual and potential legal conflicts throughout India. Through the service, ELDF professionals guide the inquirers towards legal solutions in the area of environment and development. The A&R service has now become a platform where skilled legal professionals with expertise and hands-on experience in dealing with legal problems concerning natural resources, provide advice on a variety of issues.
- To date, the ELDF (both the firm and the foundation) has handled these queries using its own staff, but it has also drawn on a national network of specialists in environmental law as well as technicians, such as toxicologists and hydrologists, who are willing to look at a case or provide technical advice free of charge, at least initially.
- Individuals or groups contact the A&R service by post, telephone, email, SMS, or in person. Complaints are referred to the appropriate expert. A dedicated, interactive web-based service has also been created to provide a free service (http://eldfindia.org/advice_referrals.php).
- The helpline service team has been extended to three pilot districts in Jharkhand – namely, the districts of Ranchi, Dumka and West Singhbhum. In each district, two or three members from the NGOs or CBOs are supported by at least one lawyer or paralegal trained by ELDF. Requests for support from other districts have led to the FRRC being extended state-wide.
- The relevance of the FRRC is illustrated by the number of queries (over 100 queries) received both from government departments and from individuals within three months of setting up the centre. It is also vindicated by the increase in the number of rights recognised in the state over the past year.
And a link to Community Land Protection work:
Currently, the FRRC is facilitating 600 individual claims for forest rights in Hazaribagh district and 10 community claims in the Tamar block2 of Ranchi district. It is also facilitating the recognition process of habitat rights of particularly vulnerable tribes such as Pahariya in Dumka district and Birhor in Ranchi district.
- Costs and lack of resources to keep up with demand
- Language barriers
- “lack of professionals in the sector who can understand both the law and the reality on the ground”
- “getting necessary documentation from the inquirers” to put together the legal evidence required for legal solutions
- Government support
- Use of multiple technologies including SMS, phone, web, post, word of mouth and in-person meetings and trainings.
- Collaboration with local partner organizations that understand the reality of the situation
- Strong outreach and awareness-building programs