Environmentalism of the poor: Sunita Narain on universal challenges of our surroundings

Updated On
New Update
Environmentalism of the poor: Sunita Narain on universal challenges of our surroundings

Sunita Narain is our superwoman for the day. An environmentalist, political activist and a major proponent of the Green concept of sustainable development; she has done tremendous work towards protecting our environment and making people aware of its significance and the consequences of our actions. She’s the director of Centre for Science and Environment.


Her work, arguments, demands, pleas have made into major news stories and we ought to have a look at them to know why she’s a significant part in the field of Environment:

She is a pioneer of green buildings and strongly believes that sustainable development should be the building sector’s concern. Surprisingly the concept of green buildings has gained popularity in the last few years and most of the builders advertise about the same. It was soon realized that their approach to the concept was completely off. Business Standard reported “They build wrongly and then “fit” in green features” in one of their articles about the same. Sunita Narain is doing everything to educate people about sustainable development so we may have a better chance at the future.

World Environment Day She The People

Last year on this day, she had told the government that we need a new kind of Environmentalism if we want to witness any positive change. We need a balanced and sustainable approach that would benefit the coming generations and us. She encouraged that we have a development agenda in environmental management so we may be able to deal with the problem of environmental degradation.

This year, during the whole debate about Odd-Even rule in Delhi, Sunita Narain and her team at the Centre for Science and Environment approached Supreme Court demanding that an environment compensation tax be imposed on trucks that are the culprit of pollution. She and her team also demanded for cleaner fuel and energy. Not only was the plea heard by the court but was agreed upon. This resulted in 20 percent fewer trucks in Delhi, marking it as a significant change towards a pollution free environment. The central government also decided to switch to Euro VI, the European fuel-vehicle emission standards that will be a major improvisation.

Narain pointed out that many public works engineers would be highly impressed by the sophistication and accuracy of efficiency shown by the artificial Indian hydraulic ecosystem found during excavations in Allahabad. Ancient India took precautionary steps to protect their cities from floods, famines and other calamities. A prudent approach needed by the Indian government to fight the water problem.


She brings to light the concept of Environmentalism of the poor; communities that fear loss of livelihood due to industries like mining, thermal, hydel, nuclear, cement or steel. These communities understand that these projects hinder with the environment, which is not a luxury but a means of survival for them. Their livelihood depends on agriculture and the natural water resource, which would be taken away from them if these industries flourished.

In her interview with Livemint, Narain points out that India has a technocratic issue when it comes to the environment. There are two stubborn approaches; one is, don’t cut forests at all and the other is, the end of the pipe solution. We need something that is more balanced. We may cut down tress, but we must also remember to plant them. We must find a mid way.

Her work and efforts to make this place a better place to live have been remarkable and withstanding. Not only is it getting attention, but also getting positive responses from laymen and the government officials. If only we did our own bit to contribute, we would move much faster to a place where we won’t have to worry about severe environmental damage.

Image Courtesy:



she the people sunita narain World Environment Day