Sunita Narain | Centre for Science and Environment

Sunita Narain


Kumbh: time to come clean

Maha Kumbh in Allahabad has perhaps no parallel in terms of the sheer size of the congregation. In less than two months over 100 million people are expected to come to this city, which sees the confluence of two rivers of India—the Ganga and the Yamuna. People come to worship on the banks of the Ganga. Even as they celebrate the river it seems they don’t see the river, but only the ritual.

For a place in the sun

How will solar energy be made to work in India? As I discussed in my previous article there are three key challenges. One, how will the country pay for solar energy in a situation where there is no money to pay for even the crashed costs of installation. Two, what is the best model for the distribution and use of this relatively expensive energy in a country where millions still live in the dark? Three, how should India combine the twin objectives of supply of clean energy and creation of domestic manufacturing capacities?

Clouds over solar

India’s solar power policy is now entering round two. And there is much that needs to be reviewed and reworked as the business of solar energy has seen massive turbulence in India as well as globally. In the first phase (2010 to 2013) of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) the target was to set up 1,000-2,000 MW of grid-based solar power in the country. By 2013, the country has indeed commissioned some 1,000 MW of solar power, but 700 MW of this target comes from the non-JNNSM state of Gujarat.

A year of leadership failure

The last image of 2012 is protesters storming the bastion of Delhi, outraged at the brutal rape of a young girl and the culture of violence against women. This outburst by the educated middle class, many of them young women, was spontaneous as much as it was leaderless. But as we move to the next year, we need to think about the response of the government to this protest and others. We need to understand if the Indian state has any clue about what is going on under its nose—and feet.

A year of leadership failure

The last image of 2012 is protesters storming the bastion of Delhi, outraged at the brutal rape of a young girl and the culture of violence against women. This outburst by the educated middle class, many of them young women, was spontaneous as much as it was leaderless. But as we move to the next year, we need to think about the response of the government to this protest and others. We need to understand if the Indian state has any clue about what is going on under its nose—and feet.

Ponty, buses and PPPs

Liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his brother who were killed in a fratricide incident had another business not widely known. Ponty had recently acquired the concession to run public transport buses in Delhi. His company had won the bids for three clusters with a combined fleet of 600-odd vehicles. Now questions are being asked about who will run the business.

Smog has to be cleared

Losing after winning is the worst feeling possible. This is how I feel looking out of my window at a thick pall of black smog engulfing my city. It was this time of the year, exactly 15 years ago, when Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) began its right-to-clean-air campaign. The air in Delhi was so foul one could hardly breathe. That was a time when air pollution was an unknown curse. Not much was known about its nature and the toxicity of the air contaminants.

A tale of two cities

I travelled to two different cities in two different states last week—Indore and Guwahati. I came back with images identified by common distinctions: piles of garbage and glitzy new shopping malls. Is this our vision of urban development? There is no question that cities are imploding; growth is happening faster than we ever imagined. Construction is booming and expansion is gobbling agricultural land.

Public private prank

Growth is back on the agenda, says the government. It is hoping that with pushy announcements foreign and Indian investment will miraculously start pouring in and infrastructure will be the name of the game once again. But this assumption ignores one crucial detail: currently, public-private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure are on the cusp of disaster. The country needs a different strategy to build public services infrastructure.

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