Began career as research assistant, was appointed deputy director in 1993 and in 2000 took over as its director and in 2011 took over as its director general. Has worked in various program units of the Centre involved in research, communication and advocacy on environmental issues. Has co-edited publications on the State of India's Environment, conducted in-depth research on the governance and management of the country's environment and directed campaigns on air pollution control, community water management and pesticide regulation.
Editor of the fortnightly newsmagazine, Down To Earth. Has worked to launch and produce the newsmagazine that is widely considered as the best in the region.
Worked to research a publication on the state of environment of Gujarat and to organise a state level conference on the subject.
Graduated from University of Delhi (1983), India.
Doctor of Science (Honorary), Cranfield University, UK.
D.Sc. Degree (Honorary) University of Calcutta, India.
Doctor in Geosciences and Environment (Honorary), University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
Doctor of Laws (Honorary), University of Alberta, Canada.
Numerous articles in newspapers, magazines including a weekly/fortnightly/column on environment and development, Green Politics and Down To Earth for leading dailies. Also co-authored, co-edited the following publications:
Sunita Narain 2017, Conflicts of Interest – My Journey through India’s Green Movement, published by Penguin Random House India Pvt. Ltd.
Sunita Narain and Swati Singh Sambyal 2016, Not in my backyard: solid waste management in Indian cities
Sunita Narain 2016, Why I should be tolerant : On environment and environmentalism in the 21st century
Sunita Narain and Chandra Bhushan 2015, Capitan America : US climate goals: a reckoning
Sunita Narain 2012, Excreta Matters, 7th State of India’s Environment: A Citizens’ Report, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
James K Boyce, Sunita Narain and Elizabeth A Stanton 2007, Reclaiming Nature – Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration, Anthem Press, London.
Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain, Anju Sharma and Achila Imchen 2001, Poles Apart: Global Environmental Negotiations 2, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain and Indira Khurana 2001, Making Water Everybody’sbusiness, Policy and Practice of Water Harvesting, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain and Anju Sharma 1999, Green Politics: Global Environmental Negotiations - 1, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain and Srabani Sen 1999, State of India’s Environment: The Citizen’ Fifth Report, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain 1997, Dying Wisdom: Rise, fall and potential of India’s water harvesting systems, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi
Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain 1992, Towards a Green World: Should environmental management be built on legal conventions or human rights?Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain 1991, Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case of Environmental Colonialism, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain 1990, Involving the Landless and Women in Afforestation: Six Cases Studies, International Labour Organisation, Geneva.
Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain 1989, Towards Green Villages: A strategy for Environmentally Sound and Participatory Rural Development, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
Centre for Science and Environment 1987, The Wrath of Nature: The impact of environmental destruction on floods and droughts, New Delhi.
Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain (editors) 1985, State of India’s Environment 1984-85: The Second Citizens’ Report, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.
2021 - present: Member, 21st Century Transformational Economics Commission launched by The Club of Rome
2021 - present: Member, scientific committee of the European Chair for Sustainable Development and Climate Transition hosted at the Paris School of International Affairs and the School of Public Affairs.
2021 - present: Member, Strategic Advisory Council of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI)
2021 - present: Member, international advisory group for environment, climate and biodiversity chaired by the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation
2020 - present: Member, One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance set up by WHO/OIE/FAO
2019 - present: Member, Grand Jury of the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity instituted by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Portugal
2018 - 2020: Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet, Our Health
2018: Member of the WHO civil Society Working Group on the third High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on NCDs
2018: Member of the United Nations Ad Hoc Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG)
2016 - 2020: Member of the Scientific Board of the French Development Agency (AFD)
2016 - 2017: Member of the Independent Advisory Panel to the Sixth Comprehensive Evaluation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF)
2015 - 2019: Member of International Advisory Council of The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) based in Riyadh
2014: Member of Honorary Advisory Committee, International Panel on Social Progress
2013: Chairperson, Working Group of the Expert Group to review the draft guidelines of FSSAI, constituted by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
2013 - 2020: Member, Ridge Management Board constituted by Department of Forests and Wildlife.
2013: Member - EAT (Stockholm Food Forum) Advisory Board, Oslo
2012 - 2013: Member, Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on issues relating to River Ganga, constituted by MoEF.
2012 - 2013: Chairperson, Committee constituted by MoEF for inspection of M/s Adani Port and SEZ Ltd, Mundra, Gujarat.
2012 - 2013: Member, High Level Working Group on Western Ghats, constituted by MoEF.
2012: Fellow, The National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad, India.
2012 - Present: Board of Directors, Prince Albert II Foundation, Monaco.
2011 - 2013: Member, Audit Advisory Board of Comptroller & Auditor General of India.
2010 - 2013: Member, National Security Advisory Board (NSAB)
2010 - 2012: Chairperson, Working Group on Urban and Industrial Water Supply and Sanitation for the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017) constituted by Planning Commission
2009: Chairperson, Committee set up for monitoring village relocation as per recommendations of the Tiger Task Force.
2009 - 2018: Member, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board.
2009: Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority.
2007 - 2014: Member, Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change.
2007: Member, Swedish Development Policy Council.
2007 - 2009: Member, Commission on Climate Change and Development, Sweden.
2006: Chairperson, Sub –Committee for ‘Wider dissemination information and know- how’ under the Artificial Recharge of Ground Water Advisory Council, New Delhi.
2006: Member, Steering Committee on Environment, Forests and Wildlife for Eleventh Five Year Plan, Planning Commission, New Delhi.
2006: Member: Working group for plan on Quality Certification and Conformity Assessment- Eleventh Five Year Plan.
2005: Chairperson, Tiger Task Force set up to review the management of tiger reserves, New Delhi.
2005: Member, Board of Trustees, Centre For International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia.
2004 - 2008: Member, committee on environment, Indian Planning Commission,
2004 - 2006: Member, Executive Board, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2002 - 2008: Member, Board Gram Vikas, Orissa.
2002 - 2020: Member, Environment Pollution Authority for the National Capital Territory, Government of India, New Delhi.
2001 - 2004: Member, IUCN Council, IUCN – The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.
2000 - 2004: Steering Committee member for setting up SCIDEV, a science for development website, promoted by Nature.
2001 - 2003: Member, Executive Board, Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
2000: Member UNDP CSO Committee to provide strategic, policy and substantive guidance to the Administrator of UNDP.
1999 - 2001: Founding Board Member, ILEIA Foundation (The information centre for low external input and sustainable agriculture), The Netherlands.
1997 - 1999: Member, Scientific Planning Committee for the Global Environmental Change and Human Security Research Project of the International Human Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change.
1997 - 1999: Member, Mid-size grant task force, Global Environmental Facility, Washington.
1997 - 1999: Member, Global Water Contract, established by The Group of Lisbon under the chairpersonship of Mario Soares, former President of Portugal.
1996: Chairperson, Disaster Mitigation Institute, Ahmedabad.
1995: Member, Independent Expert Group on Global Forest Policy established by the Swiss and Peruvian governments, Geneva.
1995 -1999: Member, National Standing Committee on Rural Technology of the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology, Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment, Government of India.
1995 -1999: Member, Program Committee of the Urban Waste Expertise Program of WASTE Consultants set up to oversee the project by the Netherlands Ministry of Development Cooperation, Gouda.
1990 -1999: Member, Grant in Aid Committee for assistance to voluntary agencies under the scheme of ‘Environmental Orientation to School Education’, Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.
Sardar Jaswant Singh Rai Memorial Lecture at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India
16th Business & Community Foundation’s Annual Lecture on the Topic “State of India’s Environment & Corporate Responsibility.”
5th Chukkapalli Pitchaiah Memorial Lecture at Vijayawada
16th Business & Community Foundation’s Annual Lecture on the Topic “State of India’s Environment & Corporate Responsibility.
B D Pande Memorial Lecture in Almora organized by Uttarakhand Seva Nidhi Paryavaran Shiksha Sansthan'
Plenary talk at the 50th Anniversary Conference of Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK
Keynote speech at Utopia 2016: Imagination und Entwurf organized by IFK International Research Center for Cultural Studies, Vienna
Third annual Girish Sant memorial lecture at Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai
20th Annual Lecture on Energy and the Environment, University of California, Berkeley, April 2014.
Water Institute distinguished lecture at University of Waterloo, Canada
Lecture for the Technology Mission: War for Water – Our water-waste management imperative: The need for literacy, involvement and commitment to change at IIT-Guwahati on October 5, 2012.
Public lecture on “Who speaks for water?” at University of Alberta, Canada, March 2012.
Speech on Climate Change: The challenge and opportunity for our world, delivered at Asian University for Women Symposium: Imagining Another Future for Asia: Ideas and Pathways for Change, held at Dhaka, Bangladesh on January 21-22, 2011.
K.R. Narayanan oration on ‘Why Environmentalism Needs Equity: Learning From the Environmentalism of the Poor to Build Our Common Future, delivered at The Australian National University, Canberra.
Presentation on ‘How to Operationalise the agenda for Water Conservation’ at the meeting of Parliamentary forum on water conservation and management organized by Cell on Parliamentary Forum on Water Conservation and Management, Lok Sabha Secretariat.
Talk on ‘ Water conservation’ as part of Lecture series for Members of parliament, organised by Bureau of Parliamentary studies and Training, Lok Sabha Secretariat.
Lecture given as part of the Leaders in their field lecture series on ‘Urban life – a living hazard’ at the India Habitat Centre.
Lecture at the Global Conscience on Simultaneous responsibility to the environment and poverty? Organised by the Ecological Council, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Keynote lecture at the workshop on rainwater harvesting - How to make it a public movement organised by the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, India.
Inaugural address at the state level media seminar on rainwater harvesting organised by Jalanidhi and Press club at, Thiruvananthapuram, India.
Lecture titled 'From Your Flush to the River: Delhi's responsibility for a clean Yamuna’ as part of the Agenda Delhi series of lectures organised by India Habitat Centre and Indian Express at the India Habitat Centre.
Lecture given at the 2nd International Symposium on ecological sanitation at Lubceck, Germany.
Lecture on Human Health and Ecological Security organised by the Foundation for Ecological Security at the India International Centre, New Delhi.
Foundation Day lecture given at the Ladakh Ecological Development Group at Leh, Ladakh.
Keynote lecture at the International Conference on Public-Private Partnership organised by Swiss Coalition of Developing Organisations at Berne, Switzerland.
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Diamond Jubilee lecture at the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, India.
Speech given at the Symposium on the Johannesburg Challenge: Perspectives and Priorities, Berlin, Germany, organised by the German Council of Sustainable Development.
The Future of India’s Urban Environment, paper presented at the Swedish-Asian Forum on the Future of Asia’s Environment, Stockholm 15-17, 2000.
Lecture given to members of the US-India Roundtable on the issue of "Health and Environment" New York, America.
The Global Dialogue on Natural Resources: The Sustainability Challenge lecture at EXPO 2000, Hanover, Germany.
My Agenda for Johannesburg”, at the conference “ Countdown for Johannesburg” organized by the Heinrich- Boll Foundation.
What possibilities there are for Green Politics in Asia and what is meant by Green Politics in the Asian context, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
We all live downstream: Urban industrial growth and its impact on water systems; plenary lecture, 9th Stockholm Water Symposium, Sweden.
NGO workshop on Emission Trading and Entitlements: organised by CSE and co-sponsored by German NGO FORUM, Stadthalle, Bonn, Germany.
Multilateral Environmental Agreements and the World Trade Organisation at the Symposium on Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development, Organised by the World Trade Organisation, Switzerland.
Environmental Security, plenary talk at the 1997 Open Meeting of the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Research Community, IIASA, Austria.
How to build bridges between trade, environment and development to improve the effectiveness of global environmental policies at the Implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements: Ways and Means workshop organised by Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, The Netherlands.
Sustainable development from the perspective of the South at the ‘Way out of the Growth Trap” Congress organised by the Heinrich-Boll-Stiftung, Germany.
Government’s Agenda or Ours? The NGO Agenda in the forthcoming period at the workshop, Beyond Rio, organised by World Economy, Ecology and Development, Germany.
Public Debate with Andrew Steer, Director, Environment Department, World Bank, on Global Environmental Concerns – At whose expense? at the Head to Head Debate organised by the Oxford Centre for the Environment, Ethics and Society, Oxford, UK.
Publishing Environmental News: How do you support sustainable development, at the Workshop on Reporting for Sustainable Development in Asia Pacific organised by UNEP, Beijing, China.
Public Debate with Wolfgang Sachs, Chairperson, Greenpeace, Germany on “Towards Global Governance”, at the First Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, Berlin, Germany.
Public Debate with Hans Alders, Dutch Environment Minister organised by the Evert Vermeer Foundation of the Dutch Labour Party, The Hague, the Netherlands.
Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar Gold Plaque, 2021 by the Council of the Asiatic Society, Kolkata.
Edinburgh Medal 2020. The award conferred by the City of Edinburgh Council in the UK, was presented to Sunita Narain in recognition of her strong leadership in championing climate justice for the poor and disenfranchised
One of the 15 Women Leading the Fight against Climate Change by Times Magazine
Bologna Sustainability and Food International Award 2018. The award value the scientific research and the initiatives concerning agricultural and agri-food sectors oriented to sustainable and lasting development.
CSE bagged the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for peace, disarmament and development for
The Veerangna Laxibai Rashtriya Samman 2016-17 from the Government of Madhya Pradesh
Down To Earth got the first ISC-FICCI award for best media for Sanitation
The Order of the Polar Star award from the Swedish Government for Swedish and foreign "civic merits, for devotion to duty, for science, literary, learned and useful works and for new and beneficial institutions
Sri Chukkapalli Pitchaiah Foundation Award for 2017 instituted by the Sri Chukkapalli Pitchaiah Foundation, Vijayawada, Andra Pradesh
Selected as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by the TIME magazine
Featured in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the world
V.C. Padmanabhan Memorial Award for Excellence in the category of “Ecology and Environment Conservation” instituted by Manappuram Finance Limited
Climate Change Communication Research in Action Award from The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR)
Aqua Foundation’s Excellence Award for Life Time Achievement.
Centre for Science and Environment got the Public Institution of the year award by Business Standard
Energy and Environment Foundation Global Excellence Award 2014 in Renewable Energy by Energy and Envronment Foundation Delhi, August 2014.
Kirloskar Vasundhara Sanman by Kirloskar Vasundhara International Film Festival, Pune.
Doctor of Laws (Honorary), University of Alberta, Canada.
The Citizen of the Decade Award 2011' from the Rotary International District 3201, Kerala in January 2011.
The M R Pai Memorial Award instituted by All-India Bank Depositors' Association (Mumbai). July 2011.
M.S. Swaminathan Award for Environmental Protection, Rotary Club of Madras East, Chennai, India.
Honorary D.Sc. Degree, University of Calcutta, India.
Raja-Lakshmi Award, Sri Raja-Lakshmi Foundation, Chennai, India.
Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation water award.
Dr Jean Mayer Global Citizenship award, Tufts University, Massachusetts.
Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation water award.
Honorary doctorate in science from Cranfield University, UK.
Bharat Shiromani award by Shiromani Institute.
Padma Shri by the Government of India, New Delhi.
Chameli Devi Jain Award for an outstanding woman media person by the Media Foundation.
Stockholm Water Prize, by Stockholm Water Foundation, Sweden, awarded to CSE under her leadership.
2005 and 2008, British Magazine Prospect and the American Magazine Foreign policy included her among the world’s 100 public intellectuals.
Delhi Ratna award by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry for her valuable contribution to Delhi – The City of Excellence.
Siri Ram Washeshran Devi Bhatia Memorial Charitable Trust Award.
Dadabhai Naoroji Millennium Award by Dadabhai Naoroji International Society, New Delhi.
Rotary Eco Foundation Award – outstanding work done in the field of rainwater harvesting in Delhi and surrounding areas.
Dr B.C. Deb Memorial Award for the popularisation of science by the Indian Science Congress Association, Calcutta.