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Rosencranz authors the definitive textbook on environmental law in India

The letter arrived out of the blue in 1983 a personal invitation to

attend a conference on air and water pollution at Cochin University in India.

Armin Rosencranz, now a consulting professor in the Program in Human Biology, was surprised and intrigued, so he telephoned Professor Leelakrishnan.

"I said to him, 13,000 miles is a long way to go for a weekend. Could I stay longer?"

Out of that brief exchange grew a book, several classes both here and in India, and a long-term interest in Indian environmental policy. Shortly after receiving the letter, Rosencranz was awarded a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship to develop environmental law courses at the universities of Cochin and Poona. He received a second Fulbright in 1992 and returned to teach at the new National Law School of India in Bangladore.

Before Rosencranz left India the first time, the Ford Foundation's India office asked him to write a book on Indian environmental law. The first edition of Environmental Law and Policy in India was published in 1991 and was co-authored with Shyam Divan, a practicing lawyer in Mumbai who Rosencranz says is in tune with all legal and environmental developments in the country.

The second edition was published by Oxford University Press earlier this year and will be available in the United States this summer. Most of the second edition is new material that focuses attention on environmental justice for the urban and rural poor. The desperate conditions of the poor sometimes drive them to circumvent environmental protections such as bans on logging trees in protected forests in order to survive, Rosencranz observes.

When the book appeared a decade ago, it filled a gap in legal instruction and has since become the most widely used environmental law text in India.

"Anyone who studies or practices environmental law will have a copy," says Rosencranz, who teaches as many as six environmental policy courses a year in the Program in Human Biology at Stanford.

Bhopal disaster

Environmental consciousness rose in India following the 1984 Bhopal disaster in which 3,000 people were killed and many more injured when a Union Carbide pesticide plant spewed several tons of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Before the accident, few law schools had programs in environmental law, and books on the subject often consisted of the text of laws without commentary, says Rosencranz. Today, environmental law is a compulsory subject in all law schools in India.

Rosencranz modeled Environmental Law and Policy in India on U.S. casebooks. He carefully organized the chapters and provided notes and discussion questions throughout that are designed to prompt the student to think about situations critically with an eye toward environmental protection and justice.

Encouraging a desire for justice is essential because Indian law forbids attorneys from taking a percentage of awarded damages, Rosencranz points out. Lawyers who take on environmental cases do so pro bono for the good of the public. The result, he says, is that there are more environmental lawyers in Los Angeles than in all of India a country with more than a billion people.

To help counter this trend, Rosencranz created the India Visiting Fellows program, which brings practicing environmental lawyers from India to San Francisco for an intensive four months of legal course work at Golden Gate University and University of San Francisco law schools, where Rosencranz is an adjunct professor. Visiting fellows also pursue an internship with a nonprofit environmental law organization. After completing the program, fellows return to India to practice environmental law in their communities.

Judicial protectors

Right now, the courts in India are seen as the protector of the environment, and the system relies heavily on fines to keep companies in compliance. Although the situation is somewhat reminiscent of 1970s-era American environmental law, Rosencranz sees some disturbing trends. Environmental protection in India is so dependent on the activism of the judiciary that it could be jeopardized if less friendly judges begin to hear cases or if a judicial backlash erupts

against India's burgeoning environmental movement.

In the last 27 years, Rosencranz has diversified his own approach to environmentalism. He has written articles on air and water pollution, acid rain, ozone depletion and hazardous waste, and recently completed proofing the introductory chapter of Climate Change Policy- A Reader, a collection of articles on global climate change he is editing with Stephen Schneider, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford, and graduate student John Niles.

In 1987 Rosencranz founded his own environmental nonprofit organization, the Pacific Environment and Resources Center, and served as president until 1996. The center keeps an eye on environmental issues throughout the Pacific Rim.


This article was written by science writing intern Katie Greene

By Katie Greene

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