Centre for Science and Environment



Sunita Narain's picture
30 April 2008
Sunita Narain

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.

Sunita Narain's picture
15 April 2008
Sunita Narain

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.

Sunita Narain's picture
31 March 2008
Sunita Narain

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.

Sunita Narain's picture
15 March 2008
Sunita Narain

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.

Sunita Narain's picture
29 February 2008
Sunita Narain

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.

Sunita Narain's picture
15 February 2008
Sunita Narain

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.

Sunita Narain's picture
31 January 2008
Sunita Narain

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.

Sunita Narain's picture
15 January 2008
Sunita Narain

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.

Sunita Narain's picture
31 December 2007
Sunita Narain

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?

Sunita Narain's picture
30 November 2007
Sunita Narain

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.

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