Sunita Narain | Centre for Science and Environment

Sunita Narain


The god of ecological things

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.

Witness to opposition

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.

The Nano-flyover syndrome

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.

Remembering Kalinganagar - Will cheap and dirty industrialization work?

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.

Bali: the mother of all no-deals

The Bali conference on climate change is over. But the fight against climate change has only just begun. The message from Bali is the fight will be downright brutal and selfish. Let us cut through the histrionics of the Bali conference to understand that as far as an agreement is concerned, the world has not moved an inch from where it stood on climate some 17 years ago, when negotiations began. The only difference is that emissions have increased; climate change is at dangerous levels. Only if we drastically cut emissions, will we succeed in avoiding a full-blown catastrophe.

The laboratory of development

How will vast regions of India, where highly unreliable rainfall makes the difference between famine and sustenance, cope with climate change? Over 85 per cent of the cultivated area in this country is either directly dependent on rain or depends on rain to recharge its groundwater. Seasonal rain provides water for irrigation, drinking and household needs. It provides water to livestock and is necessary to grow fodder for animals. The question is how will these regions cope as rainfall becomes even more variable with climate change?

In credible India

Sometimes, a fortnight can mirror a year. With the year-end approaching, a flashback is usually in order. But recent events have made completely clear to me where we are and where we are headed.

Tigers and tribals

Tigers or tribals? Tribals versus tigers. This is how the discussion on the tribal forest rights act is being framed. The law, which was enacted by parliament a while ago, is aimed at conferring land rights on people who already live in forested regions. The government says it wants to correct a historical wrong against people on whom rights were never settled when forest areas were earmarked for conservation. Quite right. But these homes of the poorest also house the country’s magnificent wild animals, like tigers.

India: be the party pooper

US President George Bush played host to a party of the top polluters of the world called to discuss climate change. He exhorted his guests that the world needed to act and called for a “new approach” to reduce emissions. But if you think that he has changed his mind about the science which has established the reality and urgency of climate change, think again.

Floods: blacked out but real

I read newspapers and I watch the news unfold on scores of television channels. But in spite of these sources that keep me informed about current affairs, I would not know that floods are still ravaging vast parts of India. I would not know that over 2,800 people have died in these disasters, which have been termed as the worst ever in living memory.

Follow us on 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
gobar times