Sunita Narain | Centre for Science and Environment

Sunita Narain


Constitution of Committee for inspection of Adani Port and SEZ (Mundra) by MoEF

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on September 14, 2012 has constituted a committee to look into violations of environmental and coastal regulation zone clearances by Adani Port and SEZ Ltd. in Mundra taluka of Kutch district in Gujarat.

Temporary solution, permanent jam

I write this stuck in traffic. Nothing unusual. But my location makes me realise, once again, how our highway route to progress is going nowhere. The road I am using is newly commissioned and expensive. It is the 28-km Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, which was built just a few years ago to take care of the explosion of traffic between the two cities. It is access-controlled, with a 32-lane toll plaza, and was to provide easy access and a fun ride. The concessionaire—built as it is under the famous public private partnership model—took all steps to keep it prized for cars.

Going off-grid to power solution

Supply issues comprise one part of the energy conundrum, as we discussed last fortnight. The cost of energy and our ability to pay for it is the other. The matter gets vexed because the rise in price of raw material of all energy sources is accompanied by huge inefficiency in distribution and accounting. But importantly, we remain a poor country where cost of energy is a factor in its availability and accessibility for all.

Powerless and lost

The power blackout in northern India on two days should not be dismissed or misjudged. Analysts are jumping to conclude that the crisis was foretold. They blame delays caused by environment and forest clearance procedures and demand winding down the regulatory framework so that we can re-energise ourselves. Their other favourite whipping horse is ‘free’ electricity to farmers, which is said to be crippling the state electricity boards. These explanations are naïve and mistaken.

When battered people took on the pesticide industry

Today, I want to tell you a true story of extraordinary courage. The past week, I was in Kasaragod, a district in Kerala, splendid in beauty and with abundant natural resources, but destroyed by the toxic chemical, endosulfan. The pesticide was aerially sprayed over cashew plantations, for some 20 years, in complete disregard of the fact that there is no demarcation between plantations and human habitation in this area. It is also a high rainfall region and so, the sprayed pesticide leached into the ground and flowed downstream.

Weather dice is loaded

During my weekly conversation with my sister I told her about the unusual searing heat this June, the problems of power cuts and how we are coping in India. She, in turn, told me that in Washington DC, where she lives, there was a terrible storm that damaged her roof and uprooted trees in her garden. They were fortunate that they still had electricity, because most houses in the city were in the dark. She also said it was unbearably hot because the region was in the grip of an unprecedented heat wave.

Rio: not plus or minus, just 20

The Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development is over. The conference declaration, titled “The Future We Want”, is a weak and meaningless document. It aims at the lowest common denominator consensus to say it all, but to say nothing consequential about how the world will move ahead to deal with the interlinked crises of economy and ecology. Is this the future we want or the future we dread?

Beyond Rio+20

It was June of 1992. The location was Rio de Janeiro. The occasion was the world conference on environment and development. A large number of people had come out on the streets. They were protesting the arrival of George Bush senior, the then president of the US. Just before coming to the conference, Bush had visited a local shopping centre, urging people to buy more so that the increased consumption could rescue his country from financial crisis. Protesters were angered by his statement that “the American lifestyle is not negotiable”.

The steel shock

When the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) started its Green Rating Project in the mid-1990s, India had just liberalised its economy. Fears were that it would be disastrous if the country took the route to economic growth that ignored environmental considerations. The Green Rating Project was designed to find ways of measuring the environmental performance of companies and to drive changes in policy and practice through public disclosure.

Six sins that make drought invincible

It’s drought time again. Nothing new in this announcement. Each year, first we have crippling droughts between December and June, and then devastating floods in the next few months. It’s a cycle of despair, which is more or less predictable. But this is not an inevitable cycle of nature we must live with. These droughts and floods are man-made, caused by deliberate neglect and designed failure of the way we manage water and land. What we must note with concern is that these “natural” disasters are growing in intensity and ferocity.

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