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Public Interest Law Project

Kim McCoy

June 01, 2005

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Center for Environmental Justice

I have been passionate for years about environmental protection, particularly in developing countries, and I knew from my first day of law school that I wanted to spend my summer abroad working in this realm. PILP made this dream a reality, enabling me to travel halfway around the world and intern with the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) in Colombo, Sri Lanka.


CEJ is a small, exclusively Sri Lankan NGO consisting of several hard-working attorneys and scientists and a dedicated staff. Though most Sri Lankans speak either Tamil or Sinhalese, legal documents are written in English; thus, I was able to operate in my own native language. During my time at CEJ, I conducted both legal and scientific research on a variety of current and pending cases. Topics included the post-tsunami enforcement of coastal zone regulations, pollution from leather tanneries, the development of a national bio-safety policy, sand dune mining on the Kalpitiya peninsula, the push for mandatory labeling of all GMO imports, attempts to create a set of standardized regulations for Sri Lankan bottled water manufacturers, and Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs). I also researched impending local and international projects such as the Nuraichcholai Coal Power Plant and the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project (an Indian-owned shipping canal proposed to run between Sri Lanka and India).

In addition to research, I attended court several times and worked with attorneys to draft letters, press releases, and even a settlement agreement. I also prepared reports on Sri Lankan clean air regulations (based on the National Environmental Act, to be used by an attorney in Israel) and Sri Lankan coastal management regulations (based on the Coast Conservation Act, to be used by an attorney in the Ukraine). One of the most rewarding parts of my summer experience was interacting with the locals during CEJ’s Environmental Day program. In preparation for this event, I helped make banners and assemble POPs packets which we later handed out to school children. Even more fulfilling, I was able to re-plant mangroves together with members of the local community along the tsunami-affected southern coast.

My PILP stipend enabled me to pursue an amazing opportunity that I would otherwise never have been able to afford. As a result, I was able to contribute to the efforts of a small but enthusiastic Sri Lankan NGO, operating on limited resources. I left Sri Lanka feeling inspired and hopeful, with the utmost respect and admiration for these tenacious people who have so little to work with, yet are so determined to make the world a better place. Most importantly, I have learned about a culture quite different from our own and made friends and connections that will last a lifetime. Thank you, PILP, for this truly rewarding and unforgettable experience!

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