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Work Overview

Mobility Crisis The biggest challenge that confronts cities today is the intractable problem of automobile dependence. As the automobile dependence continues to grow, it is adversely affecting the quality of urban life. Congestion, unsafe roads and pollution remain their bane. Unless accompanied by policies to restrict the growth in car and motorised two-wheeler travel, cities will run hard only to stand still. Despite a very small minority using cars in cities, the available road space and transport-related investments are getting locked up only to cater to them. Public transport, bicycles and pedestrian facilities used by the vast urban majority, especially the urban poor, remain neglected.

Work Overview

The rate at which urban air pollution has grown across India is alarming. A vast majority of cities are caught in the toxic web as air quality fails to meet health-based standards. Almost all cities are reeling under severe particulate pollution while newer pollutants like oxides of nitrogen and air toxics have begun to add to the public health challenge. Improve air quality monitoring to include more pollutants and more areas in cities to assess the risk of air pollution, make appropriate policies to control it and to create awareness amongst people about hard policy decisions. Ambient air quality standards are constantly evolving to address the emerging health challenges. We hope that the most recent attempt by CPCB to revise the ambient air quality standards will set tighter benchmark for air quality.

Work Overview

The water programme of Centre for Science and Environment has evolved to help in establishing policy principles, innovative technologies and implementation strategies for water and wastewater management in India. These efforts have been directed towards meeting the twin goals of laying the foundations for a water prudent society and adapting for climate resilience. CSE has been an important thought-leader in the water management sector. It has already influenced global policies and strategies to focus on the need for technologies to augment water resources in a decentralised manner through rainwater harvesting and to use that water to optimize on benefits. In 2010, CSE started the South Asia Water Programme.

CSE is the Center of Excellence (CoE) for Sustainable Water Management

Water programmeiswidely acknowledged as thought leader that mobilsed the country through a water literacy campaign calling for decentralized solutions to harvesting rainwater, control water pollution, urban sewage management in catalyzing policy changes at both national and state levels. Several publications that laid the reform agenda for water management in the country include - Dying Wisdom (1997) documenting the rise, fall and potential of India’s traditional water harvesting systems from different ecological contexts; Making Water Everybody’s Business (2001) followed with connecting the theory and practice of rainwater harvesting (RWH) targeting  planners and policy-makers with a toolkit on Catch Water Where it Falls and focused research report   Yamuna – sewage canal highlighting the needfor re-engineering the water and sewage management to address river pollution. CSE was awarded the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize in 2005 for promoting awareness on sustainable water management and community engagement, and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Water Award in 2008.


Change is possible in our cities.  Public action has made this possible. Unhealthy air pollution spikes are lower in cities in the lead. They have saved lives.  There are amazing stories. People have acted and created a 'space' to make the change real…  The challenge is complex. Deadly mix of pollution, congestion, energy guzzling makes solutions more difficult. But cities are innovating, experimenting, pushing. They are finding ways to solve their unique problems with deeper insight within; shared vision and lessons from other cities. Learn and share, know and grow, act and push….

Work Overview

The Rural Water Programme works to stimulate the development of policies and strategies for sustainable, participatory and equitable water management in rural India. While the area of water is vast, there is a special focus on drinking water to look at how we can move towards sustained availability of safe and adequate drinking water.

Overview: Rainwater Harvesting

CSE started its work on water issues way back in the 80s, when it was becoming apparent that the water management paradigm based on exploitation of surface and groundwater resources even as it neglected capturing rain to recharge or for direct use would lead the country to a huge water crisis. CSE first focussed on pushing for policy reforms in the water sector to mainstream harvesting rainwater in both urban and rural areas. To support this policy advocacy, CSE undertook intensive and extensive awareness campaigns, capacity building workshops and informational materials. The outcome of this work was that there were supportive policy initiatives in urban and rural areas to promote water harvesting and all this was met with public support.

Vehicular technology and fuel quality: Why must India leapfrog?

Vehicles are a special problem as they emit in the breathing zone of people. A large number of studies are now available that show exposure to vehicle exhaust causes significant increase in respiratory symptoms and lung function impairment, cancer and plethora of other ailments. Indian evidences have also begun to emerge. Congestion further aggravates emissions. Low average speeds due to traffic congestion increases the emissions due to the stop-and-go pattern of traffic flow in congested condition. Leapfrog to clean vehicle technology and fuels and fuel efficient vehicles. Small gains are easily offset by the growing traffic volumes. Indian regulations instead of pushing the automobile industry to catch up with the global best standards, fall short of what the industry is capable of achieving.