In July Professor Percival, Maryland law students and a recent graduate spent two weeks in Malawi at the invitation of the Professor Chikosa Banda of the University of Malawi. Professor Banda and his students recently have launched an Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic at The University of Malawi’s Chancellor College of Law. The Maryland group participated in a workshop focusing on environmental clinical education. At the workshop, held at the law school in Zomba, Professor Percival spoke on the history of the global environmental justice movement. Maryland 3L Taylor Lilley described different models of environmental law clinics around the world. Maryland 2L Julia Kenny explained how the student practice rule works in the U.S. and its potential implications for Malawi. Atiji Phiri, a native Malawian who just received her LL.M. from Maryland, discussed the role of citizen suits in environmental enforcement in the U.S. and Malawi. Professor Percival also gave a presentation on the use of films to influence public opinion, showing excerpts from many of the films students have made in his environmental law classes over the last 15 years.
The trip came at a propitious time for the development of environmental law in Malawi. The nation’s parliament is in the final stages of enacting a National Environmental Management Act. This law will create a new Ministry of Environmental Protection and facilitate citizen suits by virtually eliminating standing requirements for environmental NGOs. The Maryland group traveled to Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, where they met with staff from the Environmental Affairs Department to discuss challenges in implementing the new law. At meetings with Malawi’s top environmental organizations, Professor Banda and the Maryland group explored potential projects for cooperation between the Malawi clinic and the NGOs. These groups included Leadership on Environment and Development (LEAD) in Zomba, the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust in Mulanje, and the Center for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CLEAR) in Blantyre. Moffat Kayembe of the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust discussed the difficulty of stopping deforestation in the mountain’s forest reserve. William Chadza, Executive Director of CLEAR, took the group to a site where a broken pipe is spilling raw sewage into a river. The Maryland group also was able to visit many of the natural wonders of Malawi including Lake Malawi, Mount Mulanje and Liwonde National Park. Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, contains more fish species than are found in the continents of Europe and North America combined. The group was able to observe some of the numerous species of cichlids found in the lake during a boat trip from Cape Maclear.
As one of the poorest and most densely-populated nations in Africa, Malawi faces many significant environmental challenges. With the establishment of an environmental law clinic, a new national law, and a new Ministry of Environmental Protection, Malawi’s government, universities, and NGOs are responding to these challenges. Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic stands ready to help them do so.
A group shot with staff from the Division of Environmental Affairs of Malawi's Department of Natural Resources
UM Carey Law Environmental Law students pose with Malawai Environmental Law Clinic students