Centre for Science and Environment



Sunita Narain's picture
15 November 2008
Sunita Narain

Earlier this year, I called the Union budget myopic (see Down To Earth, March 31, 2008). Let me reiterate why. The Union budget did not take into account the fact the world was beginning to face new challenges, all of which were devastating, and related. One, the rising cost of our food—you will recall subsequently prices did go up and food riots took place in many parts of the world.

Sunita Narain's picture
31 October 2008
Sunita Narain

A few years ago I wrote about a textile town called Pali, in Rajasthan, which had completely toxified its seasonal river Bandi with industrial discharge. Then, I said the real story was not about pollution but the anger of farmers whose agricultural lands were destroyed because of effluents, whose well water had turned poisonous, and whose fight led the town to set up the country’s first common effluent treatment plant. The question I raised was: did we know how to clean chemical pollution in water-scarce areas?

Sunita Narain's picture
15 October 2008
Sunita Narain

Let’s cut to the chase. If we are serious about climate change then we have to be serious about changing (drastically) the way the world generates and uses its energy. But even as the rich world talks glibly about ‘decarbonisation’ of its economy it has done precious little to reinvent its energy system and to wean itself from its fossil fuel addiction. Between 1990 and 2005, emissions from fossil fuel have actually increased, in these countries.

Sunita Narain's picture
30 September 2008
Sunita Narain

This year, for once, the devastating floods of Bihar seem to have touched us. Last year, when the same region was reeling under what was said to be the worst floods in living history, we simply did not know. Media had flashed a few images, but it was more of the same: rivers flood this region every year, so what’s new? What’s there to say?

Sunita Narain's picture
15 September 2008
Sunita Narain

Jambudwip is a tiny dot in the Bay of Bengal. A few years ago, it hit headlines when wildlife activists dragged fishermen, who used the landmass to dry their fish, to the Supreme Court. A case was filed regarding ‘encroachment’ of this island, partly covered by mangroves. The apex court’s central empowered committee (cec), which advises it in all forest matters, got into the act. Its report to the court was clear: fish drying was a non-forest activity, so disallowed under the Forest Conservation Act (1980).

Sunita Narain's picture
31 August 2008
Sunita Narain

That we need ‘green’ technologies—wind, solar or biomass gasification—for future energy security is no longer a matter of debate. The critical question, now, is: under what conditions can these emerging technologies be introduced into the market? The answer is not so simple. Most innovation and manufacture in these new sectors lie with private players. At the same time, the creation of ‘favourable’ conditions for application is at the door of government and public policy.

Sunita Narain's picture
15 August 2008
Sunita Narain

In Sikkim, bowing to local protests, the government has cancelled 11 hydro-electric projects. In Arunachal Pradesh, dam projects are being cleared at breakneck speed and resistance is growing. In Uttarakhand last month, 2 projects on the Ganga were put on hold and there is growing concern about the rest. In Himachal Pradesh, dams are so controversial that elections were won where candidates said they would not allow these to be built. Many other projects, from thermal power stations to Greenfield mining, are being resisted.

Sunita Narain's picture
31 July 2008
Sunita Narain

The Prime Minister has released India’s national action plan on climate change. For those engaged in the business of environment and climate, the plan may offer nothing new or radical. But, as I see it, the plan asserts India can grow differently, because “it is in an early stage of development”. In other words, it can leapfrog to a low carbon economy, using high-end and emerging technologies and by being different.

Sunita Narain's picture
15 July 2008
Sunita Narain

We were standing in Sarova village, not far from Raipur, the capital of mineral rich Chhattisgarh. All around us we could see some black stuff scattered on the ground. The villagers told us that the sponge iron factory owner was giving this away as a ‘gift’ and would even transport it to their lands. They refused to say if they were being paid to dump this reject on their land. But they did whisper to me that the land on which we were standing, laden with black reject belonged to the brother of the sarpanch.

Sunita Narain's picture
30 June 2008
Sunita Narain

After much vacillation and prevarication, the government has finally done the inevitable—raised the price of petroleum products—by doing a little of everything. But the bottom-line is that even after the cut in customs tax, reduction in excise duty, a ‘modest’ increase in the cost of petrol, diesel and cooking gas for all and a further request to states to slash their taxes, the oil companies are still left with massive deficits in every litre or every cylinder sold. It is a job half done at a time when the burden of the task is spiralling.

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