Fight against crime takes center stage at Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards

Bangkok, 30 November 2021 – Environmental protectors and entities from Asia were today recognized for their work on prevention of environmental crime at the sixth edition of the Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards, organized virtually by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“The Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards are significant as they acknowledge the essential role of those contributing to addressing the environmental crises through stopping environmental crime,” said Dechen Tsering, UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

Transboundary environmental crime continues to threaten global ecosystems, biodiversity, and human health. Apart from its impact on the environment, it is associated to organized criminal networks worldwide, whose activities feed into the global illicit economy and disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable. As a result, it compromises collective efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals. Combating environmental crime requires greater public awareness, strong transnational cooperation and the relentless commitment of enforcement officers and agencies.

In 2021, four nominations were successfully awarded from over 115 submitted from across the region. For their outstanding achievements, recipients were awarded in three categories: innovation, collaboration, and gender leadership and women empowerment. The Awards acknowledge the winners’ contribution to the effective enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, particularly with regard to illegal wildlife trade.

“Crimes that harm the environment enjoy a high level of impunity as they fall between the cracks of different sectors, such as security, conservation and trade,” said Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative of UNODC. “The winners of this Award have succeeded in filling those gaps and bringing justice thanks to their drive, courage and creativity.”

“These recipients today represent the dedication of the hundreds of men and women who are champions in enforcement because it is through collective commitment and action that we can combat environmental crime. This Recognition goes to all those dedicated to these efforts,” UNEP’s Tsering said.

The 2021 winners of the 6th Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards are:

Swayam Mallick, Ajay Kumar Sahoo, Ghanashyam Mahanta and Sanjib Rout, Keonjhar Forest Division, Department of Forest and Environment, Government of Odisha (India)

Category: Innovation

Divisional Forest Officer Swayam Mallick, Assistant Conservators of Forest Ajay Kumar Sahoo and Ghanashyam Mahanta, and Range Forest Officer Sanjib Rout of Keonjhar Forest Division supervised a team of 107 people in a law enforcement operation which led to 23 heavy earth-moving machinery vehicles, 654 MT of iron ore and manganese ore being seized. This seizure, along with the arrest of 12 people involved in a potentially international mineral smuggling scheme, shows how promising the use of new technologies can be in combating environmental crime. The awardees and their team relied on innovative technologies such as mapping of vulnerable sites using GPS, Google Earth satellite imagery, ArcGIS-based foot patrolling monitoring, drone-based aerial survey of vulnerable forest areas, to locate, reach and seize the illegally stacked mineral ores, as well as pin down the criminals.

Dr. Anna Wong, Director, Singapore National Parks

Category: Gender Leadership and Women Empowerment

Dr. Anna Wong, Director in the Singapore National Parks Board, has devoted her life to the fight against illegal wildlife trade for many years. She coordinated multiple enforcement operations, including the record seizure of 37.5 tonnes of pangolin scales and 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory in 2019. In August 2020, she oversaw the smooth and successful crushing of 9 tonnes of elephant ivory, an event which was livestreamed to a global audience for four days. Dr. Wong’s ability to make critical decisions when collecting information, planning, and executing rigorous operations plans were recognized, hence promoting her to a leadership position where she inspires and empowers other female enforcement officers to fight environmental crime.

Singapore National Parks, Singapore Customs, and Anti-Smuggling Bureau of China Customs

Category: Collaboration

In 2021, Singapore National Park, Singapore Customs and the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of China Customs took part in a transnational joint operation which led to the seizure of a 7.8kg elephant ornament. After conducting DNA analysis, the species appeared to be listed in CITES Appendix I. The singularity of this operation lies in the fact that it is one of the few successful attempts of conducting a controlled delivery in a case of wildlife crime, a technique more frequently used to combat other forms of smuggling. Moreover, the awardees were able to effectively adapt their enforcement actions to the new modus operandi developed by traffickers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on online trading and air mailing.

Enforcement Division of Thai Customs Department, Anti-Smuggling Bureau of Huangpu Customs (China), and Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department of Viet Nam Customs

Category: Collaboration

The collaboration between the Enforcement Division of Thai Customs Department, the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of Huangpu Customs and the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department of Viet Nam Customs was developed as a follow-up to the Asia-specific Operation Mekong Dragon II. In late 2020, Thai Customs Department intercepted two shipments destined for China and containing logs and processed pieces of a plant, the Dalbergia, listed in Appendices I and II of CITES. All three teams exchanged, inspected, and verified shipment details which uncovered substantial plant smugglings from Viet Nam under falsified declarations and forged CITES permits. Thanks to all the awardees’ constant efforts, the joint operation led to the arrest of 4 members of criminal gangs and the seizure of 29 tonnes of illegally smuggled plants.

Notes

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

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