Internship @ Kalpavriksh, Pune: Fantastic Experience for All Environment Law Lovers

 Name. College. Year of study

Anand Mohan. ILS Law College, Pune. First Year LLB

Name of the Organisation, City

Kalpavriksh, Pune

(Disclaimer: Caution! Unnecessary French and other funny sounds ahead!)

Kalpavriksh is an NGO that has been working in the field of environmental and social policy, advocacy and litigation for over 30 years now.

They’re based in Pune but have worked on issues concerning landscapes pan-India: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Karnataka and Maharashtra to name a few.

The team

The Kalpavriksh team consists of members from diverse academic/professional backgrounds possessing gobs of experience and specialization in various areas.

They work on tribal rights, environmental education, outreach, governance, policy analysis, advocacy, grass-roots level i.e. community involvement in conservation, research for ongoing litigation, environmental interventions and impact of large development projects in eco-sensitive zones.

In addition to the core team there are two-three very helpful members of the administrative staff.

More info: http://www.kalpavriksh.org/

Application Procedure:

Legal internships are considered on a case to case basis. The specifics of an internship too may vary (mostly in a good way; a customized internship if you will :).

The downside of this policy:

You may not land an internship around the exact time that you seek to, a problem when you’re aiming at that summer/winter break window. In such an instance, your application would be kept on file and you’d be contacted when an opening does come up.

The upside:

1. If you are offered an internship, then there will be substantive work for you to do.

2. Mentor-ship – Since you are absorbed as an intern to work under a particular member of the team, the personal tutelage you gain from the boss is a really big plus.

 Procedure:

I sent my CV and cover letter to [email protected]

(Contact details for follow-up are on the website)

I got a reply the next day from the administrator Mr. Govind Khalsode, informing me that I would be contacted if an opportunity comes up.

I was contacted a week later by Mr. Neeraj Vagholikar saying he could use an intern on one of his cases. After a briefing over the phone about the kind of work, we worked out other details of the internship.

The nitty (duration, timings, office, accommodation)

Disclaimer #2 :

 Mine was a pre-law internship in my final year of graduation. Kalpavriksh does offer proper legal internships. The day to day of a legal intern’s work will be different in many ways from what I have previously done (in being more technical and law intensive).

Duration:

I interned from Aug ’12- July ’13 (one year).

This was convenient because the office was a 5 minute walk from college. They do take on interns for short durations as well.

Timings, Days/Week:

I had a task/assignment based reporting system with the boss. I had to be present at the office to be briefed, to collect work and to submit it. For the working part, I was offered the option of working at the office or taking it back home.

The system (task based or hours/day based) can be worked out with the mentor/boss once you’re offered an internship

Weekends are off.

The office is a 2nd floor apartment in one of those rare, quiet corners of Deccan, an otherwise buzzing part of the city.

The office is homey, there’s sufficient work space, and there’s a kitchen where you can go make yourself a cup of coffee.

Make one for your colleague too if you’re working on your karma (It’s not one of your tasks, no).

One room is a gorgeous library, housing a massive collection of publications (mainly environmental, social, law and policy related). You’re encouraged to peruse in your free time.

Accommodation

I’ve got a place in Pune.

PG’s and hostels are available though.

Areas that you should ideally aim to land accommodation in:

Deccan, Karve Road, Law College Road, Model Colony, Senapati Bapat Road, FC Road, JM Road, Shivajinagar.

Transport

If you are put up in any of the above listed areas, the office is a maximum 2km away. A rickshaw would dent you anywhere between Rs. 20 and 45 depending on how convincingly you pull off “meter ni chala kaka”.

In case you don’t get a place in any of the mentioned areas, keep calm. The Kalpavriksh office is about 500m from a major bus depot. I recommend you get a copy of the bus schedule from the depot in order to plan your day better.

The gritty (Main tasks, NGT, Meeting Advocate Ritwick Dutta)

I interned under Mr. Neeraj Vagholikar, who mainly deals with Impact of Large Hydropower Projects, with special focus on Northeastern India.

On request of local communities and civil society groups, who are the appellants, Kalpavriksh has been providing technical support for interventions in the NGT.

My work mainly involved technical and scientific analysis of wildlife issues and reports for ongoing litigation in the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal.

I had to read up extensively on the wildlife and ecology of the area, the stages and process of wildlife clearance, EIA’s, source citations and mine literature.

I was also asked to draft critiques of Impact Assessment reports checking factual validity and extent of compliance with preset terms and conditions.

The work appealed to me primarily because I was taught to analyze and question the nuts and bolts of the clearance process and rather than debate whether dams were “good” or “bad”.

kalpavriksh internship, ngo pune

The NGT 

I also got to be a part of a round table orientation on the provisions of the NGT act 2010, an awesome experience. The National Green Tribunal Act in 2010 was a pivotal enactment for environmental litigation.

Pivotal because the bench comprises of subject expert members in addition to jurists. The tribunal can apply scientific and social evidence in addition to the principles and protocol of judicial decision making.

That gave me a rush. It reinforced the notion that each file I pored through could have some bearing on the case.

The Pune circuit bench of the NGT is now operational, so interns will have opportunities to attend hearings as well.

Meeting Advocate Ritwick Dutta, a Supreme Court lawyer, was a major highlight of my internship. Apart from turning up an impressive Google search, he conducts the most interesting seminars.

The NGT orientation conducted by him was a treat to watch as he took us through the inception of the tribunal, its workings and its shortcomings all the while recalling pertinent judgments and arguments that kept listeners wrapped.

He works closely with Kalpavriksh and an intern should grab any opportunity to interact with him.

As an intern I was also encouraged to read up more, write and publish. Could be a blog, popular article or a research article. Kalpavriksh also has in-house publications

Work Environment 

The people are very friendly, approachable, thoroughly driven by their work and very willing to both, teach and learn. A couple of coffee breaks escalated into brainstorming sessions.

No formals necessary, showing up in shorts is not a problem.

Sure, read that last line again.

The mentor system worked well; I got guidance when I needed it and also as much independence and space I needed to work. I was never checked on before deadlines.

What was good about the internship?

The Bhutan Equivalency

A Dragon King of Bhutan had coined the term “Gross National Happiness.” He said that it’s the little freedoms that count: Flexible timings, informal dressing.

Expert environmental team(cannot stress this enough), attend NGT hearings, interact with RD.  If you’re considering environmental law as an option, this is the place for you, no second thoughts.

What was bad about the internship?

You won’t get a taste of law firm life, and the experience will not prepare you for a corporate office routine/culture if that’s what you want. No stipend.

What can you do to chill?

Street fare, KFC, Subway, bars, cafes, restaurants are all within 10 minutes’ walk from the office. Flexible timings mean you might cash in on more happy hours than you should.

Here’s where that smart phone pays off; switch on zomato and go nuts.

The British Council Library, multiplexes and a laser tag arena are all quite close as well.

Biggest Lesson

If it is human to err, then it is essential to know by how much.

There are gaping lacunae in the clearance system. Hydroelectric projects drastically alter the ecology of the river, of surrounding areas, and habitat several kilometers downstream.

They also affect social, economic and cultural trends. It is therefore of paramount importance that the clearances granted to these project are informed by science.

I repeat, IF you’re considering environmental law as an option, this is the mother of internships.

 

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