Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Environmental Enforcement Awards winners announced

Nov 07. 2019
Photo Credit: United Environment Programme Website
Photo Credit: United Environment Programme Website
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By The Nation

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Customs, parks and law-enforcement officials in China, India, Indonesia, Laos and Singapore have been named recipients of the 2019 Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards by the United Nations and Interpol for exceptional contributions to fighting transboundary environmental crime.

From taking down a notorious tiger poacher to choking the illegal flow of ozone-depleting substances, this year’s winners have been lauded for their achievements in the categories of collaboration, impact, innovation, integrity and gender leadership.

“One of the keys to fighting transboundary crime is cooperation,” said Dechen Tsering, the UN Environment Programme’s regional director. “By working together, officials from across Asia have been able to make a dent in illegal activity that tears at our planet.”

Environmental crime is the fourth-largest illegal activity after drug smuggling, counterfeiting and human trafficking. The value of crimes such as illegal trade in wildlife and forest products, illegal waste dumping, smuggling of ozone depleting substances, and illegal mining is estimated at up to US$258 billion per year.

The award winners:

Category: Impact

Ramesh Kumar Pandey of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in India led a team last April to arrest a notorious poacher wanted in both India and Nepal in 11 cases of poaching. 

The arrest was the result of a thorough investigation and cooperation with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in India, Interpol and the Central Investigation Bureau in Nepal. Pandey was also aided by the M-STrIPES App (Monitoring System for Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status).

Category: Innovation

The Anti-Smuggling Bureau (National Anti-Smuggling Coordination Office) of the General Administration of China Customs adopted innovative methods to strengthen its border controls and to identify wildlife smuggling activities, which led to seizures of more than 500 ivory items in 2018 and 5,323 from January to mid-April this year. 

The methods deployed included the use of risk indicators and profiles to track postal items, freight shipments and passenger traffic; extracting data from phones of suspects; forensic sampling of large-scale seizures; and the use of CT scans in combination with artificial intelligence to detect small ivory objects in air passenger luggage and postal packages.

Categories: Innovation, Integrity, Gender Leadership

The Directorate General of Law Enforcement at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry has been innovative in using digital tools, establishing cyber patrols in social media and e-commerce, and using geospatial technologies to capture changes on the Earth’s surface that indicate illegal activity. 

The directorate demonstrated a high level of integrity by identifying and acting on corruption and collusion cases involving its own personnel. It has actively promoted gender leadership by appointing women officers to management positions and by instituting policies and facilities that support women, such as lactation rooms.

Category: Impact

The Laos Joint Inspection Team (JIT) on Refrigerants in the Domestic Market (with representatives of the ministries of Natural Resources and Environment, Industry and Commerce, and Public Security) addresses challenges in enforcing a licensing system to control the import and export of ozone-depleting substances. 

The JIT has employed unique cross-sectoral interagency collaboration and worked closely with local governments to achieve its success. A JIT inspection of three targeted traders at Kua Luang and Nong Duang markets in January resulted in more than 706 kilograms of smuggled refrigerants confiscated and the offenders brought to justice.

Category: Collaboration

China-Singapore Inter-Agency Team (with representatives of Singapore’s National Parks Board, Customs, and Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, the anti-smuggling bureaux of Fuzhou, Xiamen and Nanning Customs, and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration) combats the illegal trade in wildlife by sharing intelligence and joint operations, leading to significant seizures of illegally traded wildlife and the arrest of criminal networks. 

Their collaboration has been effective particularly in the seizure of pangolin scales (such as in a shipment declared as frozen beef on its way from Nigeria to Vietnam) and in dismantling and bringing to justice members of cross-regional criminal networks behind the illegal trade in wildlife.

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