Blog Posts by author Sunita Narain | Centre for Science and Environment

Blog Posts by author Sunita Narain


Sunita Narain

Director General of CSE and publisher of Down To Earth, an environmentalist pushing for changes in policies and  practices and mindsets. More>>

15 June 2008

In the first week of April this year, a group of men came and stood outside the Centre for Science and Environment (cse), New Delhi. They carried placards with offensive slogans directed at me. We understood the ‘protesters’ were ostensibly from an ngo we believed was a front for the pesticide industry. We also understood the picket to be the latest in a dangerous pesticide industry mindgame.

31 May 2008

Look out of the window the next time you travel by road or by train anywhere in India. Hit a human settlement, and you will see, heaps of plastic coloured garbage apart, pools of dirty black water and drains that go nowhere. They go nowhere because we have forgotten a basic fact: if there are humans, there will be excreta. Indeed, we have also forgotten another truth about the so-called modern world: if there is water use, there will be waste. Roughly 80 per cent of the water that reaches households flows out as waste.

15 May 2008

Did the Nobel Prize committee make a mistake when it gave the 2007 Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former us vice president Al Gore? I wonder. My disquiet is not because the prize recognized and put climate change at the centre of global debate. It stems from the fact that the Nobel Prize has held up, as champions, an organisation and individuals that are cautious, conservative and play strictly by the book when searching for answers to tackling climate change. There is nothing wrong in being so.

30 April 2008

My colleague Pradip Saha has been filming in Ghoramara, an island in the Sunderban delta, to understand why, in this zone suspended between land and water, people talk of nothing but subsidence. Savita’s narration captures the mood. Two years ago, rising water tore into this housewife’s life, taking away her land, source of livelihood and her dignity. She wasn’t compensated. She then moved further landward, paying a landowner to build another home. But now the water’s grasping at her tiny house again: she shows the camera deep gashes in the ground just outside.

15 April 2008

India has added two more swanky symbols to bolster its first-world ambitions: the Rajiv Gandhi international airport in Hyderabad and the gleaming Bengaluru international airport in our software capital. But look beneath this glitzy façade and you will find another instance of development on the cheap. We refuse to admit that our dream of world-class infrastructure is not grounded on the hard reality that we are a rich and poor country at the same time. As a result, we do not think differently and plan for solutions that suit our needs.

31 March 2008

The 2008 Union budget must be remembered. Not because it heralds an early election, but because it comes at a time when the world is battling four different but inter-linked developments. First, there is the impending us recession, which is already causing our financial markets to tumble. Second, crude oil price—this week, it has reached a record high of over us $100 a barrel, astoundingly up from us $35 a barrel just a few years ago.

15 March 2008

It was the mid-1980s. Environmentalist Anil Agarwal was on a mission: track down the person who had conceptualized the employment guarantee scheme in Maharashtra. His search—I tagged along—led him to a dusty, file-filled office in the secretariat. There we met V S Page. I remember a diminutive, soft-spoken man who explained to us why in 1972, when the state was hit with crippling drought and mass migration, it worked on a scheme under which professionals working in cities would pay for employment in villages.

29 February 2008

Every chair of the community hall of the Shree Shantadurga temple in South Goa’s Quepem taluka was taken. In a few minutes, the public hearing for Shakti bauxite mines was to begin. Then there arose a whisper: the temple had objected to the hearing being held in their premises; it was being called off. It was the second time the hearing was convened and this time, too, the villagers told us, the 30-day notice rule had been violated.

15 February 2008

Last fortnight, when the world’s richest Indian Lakshmi Mittal visited Kolkata, the city of his youth, he was thrilled to see change. Mittal told the media that the biggest difference he saw was the many flyovers dotting the city skyline and “disciplined traffic”. This is great progress, he told journalists, who promptly reported that the tycoon had given the city’s road and traffic management a big thumbs up. I was also in Kolkata that day. But all I could see was lines and lines of traffic, belching black smoke, honking madly.

31 January 2008

From the highway the gravestones were visible. Thirteen headstones, rough and blunt, carved with names of each dead tribal. Each stone was placed so that together they formed a semi-circle looking down at us. In front of the 13-stone platform was a fenced area with scattered burnt sticks lying as if for the picking. I realized I was looking at a cremation ground. I also realized in shock that this must have been the place where the tribals killed in police firing were consecrated to fire and that the place has been left intact as a grim reminder.

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