Last week I returned from two weeks in Malawi where some of my students and I were on a field trip to assist the University of Malawi Chancellor College of Law’s Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic. We left the U.S. on July 7 and arrived in Malawi on Saturday July 8. On Sunday July 9 we visited Liwonde National Park, which is located north of Zomba, the city where the law school is located. In Liwonde we saw considerable wildlife, including elephants, warthogs, eland, waterbucks, hippopotamus, and monkeys. African Parks, a global NGO, has been managing some of Malawi’s protected areas including Liwonde. They are in the process of installing fences around the perimeter of the park and recently they have moved some elephants from Liwonde to protected areas further north. Prince Harry visited Liwonde the week before we arrived to help with this project.
On Monday July 10 my students and I participated in a day-long workshop organized by Professor Chikosa Banda of Chancellor College of Law. The workshop, which was held at the law school, focused on environmental law clinical education at Chancellor College of Law. I spoke in the morning on the history of the global environmental justice movement. Maryland 3L Taylor Lilley spoke on different models of environmental law clinics around the world. Maryland 2L Julia Kenny described how the student practice rule works in the U.S. and Atiji Phiri, a native Malawian who who just received her LLM from Maryland, discussed the role of citizen suits in environmental enforcement in the U.S. and Malawi. We were honored to learn that a member of the audience including one of the few female chiefs of a village in Malawi. Following the conference we visited the Zomba office of the NGO Leadership on Environment and Development (LEAD), which is using drones to help communities learn more about how to protect their local environments.
On Tuesday July 11 we traveled from Zomba to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, where we met with staff from the Environmental Affairs Department (EAD). They explained the challenges they face in implementing a new National Environmental Management Act, which Parliament has just passed, but which has not yet taken effect. The law will create a new Ministry of Environmental Protection and open the door to citizen suits by virtually eliminating standing requirements for environmental NGOs. Implementation of the legislation will be particularly challenging because there are only two lawyers in the current EAD. Following our meeting we visited the Mausoleum of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who ruled Malawi from 1961 until 1994. Malawi became fully independent from Britain in 1964.
On Wednesday July 12 we traveled with Professor Chikosa Banda to Lake Chilwa in eastern Malawi. The lake, which is the second largest in Malawi, is surrounded by wetland and has no outlet. It is severely polluted from runoff, and at times has dried up entirely. A World Health Organization (WHO) project was providing free cholera shots at the lakeside. We visited a climate change adaptation project that included a solar-powered facility to help a community dry fish. On Thursday July 13 we traveled to Mount Mulanje, a 3,000-meter massif that is part of the Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve. At the offices of the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, an NGO established in part with funds from the government of Norway, we were briefed by program officer Moffat Kayembe. He warned that despite the forest reserve, deforestation was occurring rapidly due to illegal logging. We then hiked to the Likhubula Pools, formed by a stream flowing from the massif.
On Friday July 14 Atiji Phiri’s parents hosted a dinner for our group in Blantyre where we sampled local delicacies and met Atiji’s extended family. On Sunday July 16 we traveled to Cape Maclear on the shores of Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is the ninth largest lake in the world and the third largest in Africa. It is home to more species of fish than any other lake in the world and more sfish pecies than North America and Europe have combined. We saw many of the species of cichlids during a boat trip to an island in the lake, as well as some Nile crocodiles late at night attracted by some of our students dipping their toes into the water.
On Tuesday July 18 we visited the Satemwa Tea Estate in Thyolo south of Blantyre. We toured historic Huntington House on the estate grounds. We then visited Game Haven, a private game reserve where we saw zebras, eland and giraffes. On Wednesday July 19 we visited the Center for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CLEAR) in Blantyre. William Chadza, Executive Director of CLEAR, briefed us on the challenges facing environmental NGOs in Malawi. He noted that four of the five sewage treatment plants in the country are not working and he took us to a site where a sewage pipe is broken and spewing untreated effluent into a stream used by many people. Later on July 19 we visited the Malaria Alert Center at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre. A week before Madonna, who has adopted children from Malawi, opened a new wing of the hospital.
I have put together a 22-minute slideshow of the Malawi environmental law field trip that can be viewed at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/m0dkfmzw32pqtxd/Malawi%20July%202017.m4v?dl=0
Before traveling to Malawi, I spent a weekend in Sydney, Australia meeting with the Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law (APEEL) for whom I serve as an advisor. The panel members met at the offices of the Wilderness Society in Sydney on July 1 & 2. The panel’s technical papers, an overview report and 57 recommendations for improving environmental law in Australia is available online at: http://apeel.org.au The panel was created in 2014 when Australia’s then prime minister Tony Abbott was doing to Australian environmental law what President Trump is trying to do now. Early in the month I published a piece on “How Environmentalists Can Regroup for the Trump Era” in The Conversation. It has been widely reprinted, including in Salon (http://www.salon.com/2017/07/14/how-environmentalists-can-regroup-for-the-trump-era_partner/) . The article notes that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently has struck down as illegal EPA’s attempt to suspend a regulation regulating methane leaks from new oil and gas operations.
Next month I will be hiking in Iceland (from August 9-18) and then traveling to the U.S. west coast to view the August 21 total solar eclipse before starting fall classes on August 28.