New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS): Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) -- founded by legal eagles Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary -- were awarded the 2021 edition of the prestigious 'Right Livelihood Award' for the grassroots approach of empowering vulnerable communities to protect their livelihoods and claim their right to a clean environment.
The awards were presented to the LIFE's duo late on Wednesday night India time at Stockholm along with other three awardees. Cameroonian women's and girls' rights activist Marthe Wandou, Russian environmentalist Vladimir Slivyak and Canadian Indigenous rights defender Freda Huson also received the award.
As part of the Award, the four Laureates have received 1 million SEK (ca. 100,000 EUR or 115,000 USD) to further their work.
"We see a country where communities have the right and ability to influence the decision with regard to the environment on which life, the livelihood and the culture depends. We also see a society where the concept of rights extends and is not limited only to humans but extends to animals, trees, rivers and all ecosystems," Dutta said in response to a question about how he would say is division for environmental democracy in India.
In the brief acceptance speech, apart from thanking the local communities, who he described as "the first line of defence" -- they are the victims, and they are the fighters -- Dutta mentioned "a rare breed but we are grateful to the visionary judges of the courts, who have given new meaning and substance to environmental jurisprudence" and "some bold forest officers in India who are defending India's forest against all odds."
LIFE was founded by lawyers Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary in 2005.
Since then, LIFE has fought against some of India's most significant environmental threats, including helping local communities stop the construction of a large-scale bauxite mine in Odisha and halt a hydro-power project in Arunachal Pradesh. With many significant legal victories, LIFE has ensured the rights of vulnerable communities to a clean environment, protecting India's biodiversity and safeguarding people's livelihoods.
When the awards were announced in September, Right Livelihood's jury had said that LIFE was receiving the Award "for their innovative legal work empowering communities to protect their resources in the pursuit of environmental democracy in India."
Established in 1980, Right Livelihood honours and supports courageous people solving global problems. Each year, Right Livelihood highlights change-makers through an Award, which has been received by 186 Laureates from 73 countries till date. They provide these change-makers with life-long support. Right Livelihood is headquartered in Stockholm. The Foundation has consultative status at the United Nations.