Sunita Narain | Centre for Science and Environment

Sunita Narain


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.

We don't smell the air

I smelled the air of Bangalore last week. It was foul. I remembered how in the late 1990s, when Delhi’s air was dark and dirty, we had run an advertisement in the newspapers: “Roll down the window of your bullet-proof car, Mr Prime Minister, the security threat is not the gun it is the air of Delhi.” Since then Delhi introduced compressed natural gas, it increased the number of buses, it got better quality fuel. With all this, the air got less dirty and less toxic.

The China affair: what it means to us

A journalist recently called me to check if I thought that India had the same food-consumer product record as China. He wanted to know if we face the problems that are plaguing Chinese exports of late: tainted pet food, toxic toothpaste, lead-paint in toys, chemicals in textiles.

It got me thinking: of China and of India and more importantly, about the phenomena we call the market.

Bottled water costs us the earth

The botted water industry is global in nature. But it is designed to sell the same product to two completely different markets: one water rich and the other water scarce. The question is whether this industry will have different outcomes in these two worlds. Or will we, for two opposite reasons, agree that their business costs us the earth and that it is not good for us?

Climate science and the Indian scientist

Will Indian scientists measure up to the challenge of climate change? I ask this question because of the nature of the science as well as the nature of our scientists.

Pricing food in poor India

The government is being severely criticised for the wheat it is now planning to import. Rightly so. India’s season for wheat ended a few months ago. When the crop was being harvested the government dithered on the price it would pay farmers; it floated tenders for import of wheat; it insisted on taxing the purchased wheat. At the end, farmers were paid Rs 850 per quintal, a price which included a ‘bonus’ of Rs 100.

Efficiency versus democracy

Industrialist Ratan Tata has reportedly written to the prime minister cribbing about delays in implementing big buck projects. In his capacity as the chair of the government’s investment commission he says over us $50 billion is tied up because of delays in allocating land and resources.

When markets do work

Some innovations change lives. A favourite of mine is the village milk collection system, a cooperative model. There’s a dairy in the village, people bring in milk, the dairy in-charge places a sample on an instrument, checks the fat content, prints a receipt that tells the seller the fat content and the price.

No more kindergarten approach to climate

My worst fears are coming true; and that has more to do with the politics of climate change than its reality. While concern on global warming reaches a crescendo, the world, instead of finding resolutions, is hurtling towards discord and dispute. Let us be clear: we do not have time to waste on bad politics and bad politicians.

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