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Sunita Narain

Sunita Narain

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Sunita Narain

Your book released in 2017 and you began your research somewhere around 1999 when air pollution was not such a big issue among Delhites. Why do you observe has their attitude changed now?

Yes, to some extent it has. But people still believe that it’s a governance issue however now the air pollution in India has reached severe-plus levels and major policy changes are required. On an individual level, people can still bring changes in their way of commuting through opting for buses and metros instead of cars.

Day by day air quality is worsening. So do you think the steps taken by the Delhi government now are sufficient?

I will say it’s too little too late. What the Delhi government does is to take emergency measures like shutting down schools, odd and even scheme locking horns with the NGT. What is required are long-term measures. In November 2014 when this happened we went to court and the court asked the environment ministry to come up with GARP( Graded Response Action Plan) which is now in force. And according to IIT-M (Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology), Pune, this response plan has reduced pollution levels by about 15% (compared) to what it would have been over the weekend.

Last year when the Delhi government in accordance to the emergency measures banned the use of firecrackers during Diwali, people came out on roads to protest. What do you think when clean air is in interest to all, is their opposition?

Its really difficult to answer since air pollution is something that bothers us all and it’s not just Delhi, Patna is more polluted. The health impact of breathing such toxic air is severe. People need to acknowledge this fact that if we don’t get serious about tackling air pollution, we will have such episodes throughout winter and mind it air purifiers won’t save you.

As a nation are we doing enough to decrease air pollution?

I would say no. There is a lot to be done and people need to ask hard questions we need to hold the government accountable. In the process of development environment issues takes a backstage this needs to be corrected. All over the country, people are suffering and Emergency measures are no long-term solutions to the scale of pollution reached in this country.

In your battle for clean air who do you think in the higher echelons of power was more difficult to handle: corporates or politicians?

Corporates, I would say are not very competent It just doesn’t come from their hearts like it comes from my fellow colleagues who have that will towards environmental justice. Politicians are wonderful no issue there.

What is the difference of opinion regarding environmental issues among the rural population and urban settlers?

The rural population is far more conscious towards environmental issues than the urban population as their livelihood depends on it as they have no other alternative. Urban population’s environmentalism is in their backyard and they have abdicated their responsibility on the state. As the poor get empowered maybe then environment issues will be in the forefront.


About the author:
Sunita Narain is an environmentalist and political activist who uses knowledge to push for changes in policy and practice. She has been with the Centre for Science and Environment since 1982 and is currently its director general. She is also the editor of the fortnightly magazine Down to Earth. For her tireless struggle for a cleaner environment in a fast-growing economy, Narain was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 most infl uential people, in April 2016, where her profile was written by Amitav Ghosh. Hers was a compelling voice in Before the Flood, a feature-length documentary produced and presented by Leonardo DiCaprio and released in October 2016.