Koh Kheng Lian
Pioneer in the development of environmental law in the region
Combining her legal knowledge with her passion for the environment, Emeritus Professor Koh Kheng Lian is an established authority on environmental law. She is one of the founder members and the former, and currently honorary, director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL).
Kheng Lian was an Asian Development Bank (ADB) consultant for Capacity Building for Environmental Law Training in the Asia-Pacific Region, 1997-98, and co-edited ADB’s Capacity Building for Environmental Law in the Asian and Pacific Region: Approaches and Resources. She was ADB consultant on enhancing effective regulation of water infrastructure in Singapore.
She was co-director of the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs/World Bank Institute annual seminars on urban and industrial environmental management, and continues to be director of this annual seminar, no longer in partnership with WBI. Kheng Lian was in a number of committees relating to environmental matters in Singapore including the Singapore Green Plan 2012.
She has presented many papers in environmental law at conferences around the world.
Under her leadership in APCEL, the centre has cemented the international reputation of National University of Singapore (NUS) as a leading centre for environmental law.
Kheng Lian graduated with a law degree in 1961 from the National University of Malaya in Singapore (NUS), and subsequently obtained her LLM and PhD (Singapore), Diplome de Hautes Etudes Internationales (HEI, University of Geneva); she is also an advocate and solicitor (Singapore).
After graduating, Kheng Lian spent two years lecturing in commercial law at the Singapore Polytechnic. In 1963, she returned to NUS’s Law Faculty as a lecturer and was promoted to full professorship in 1979. Over the years, she taught legal history, criminal law, contract and commercial transactions. In 1994, she introduced environment law to the NUS Law Faculty.
Kheng Lian is the author of over 100 publications, including conference papers, in a wide range of areas covering criminal law, contract, commercial law and environmental law. Her books include Credit and Security in Singapore; Straits in International Navigations -- Contemporary Issues; and the recent two-volume compilation, ASEAN Environmental Law, Policy and Governance. Her publications have been cited in textbooks and courts.
The Law Faculty’s first female to earn the title Emeritus Professor in 2007, her tributes cited on the occasion of the award ceremony included: “Under Prof Koh’s able leadership, APCEL has become the region’s most important centre for research on and the teaching of international environmental law. This is her enduring legacy to NUS and to Singapore”.
Kheng Lian’s personal expertise is globally recognised. From 1980 to 1986, she served as a legal officer in the secretariat of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law in Vienna. Later, she was the regional vice chair for South and East Asia with the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Commission of Environmental Law (IUCN-CEL)
Retiring from NUS in 1997, Kheng Lian was re-employed part-time as a professorial fellow and continues to lecture on environmental law in Singapore and Southeast Asia. She was a visiting professor in environmental law at universities in Mexico and Hawaii.
In 2012, Kheng Lian was awarded Stockholm University’s Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law for her pioneering contributions to the field’s development in Singapore and the ASEAN region.
"I cannot emphasise enough the importance of environmental protection in light of global warming, zoonotic diseases, as well as loss of biodiversity and ecosystems which are beginning to impact on mankind."