Sunita Narain | Centre for Science and Environment

Sunita Narain


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.

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.

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