Sunita Narain

Sunita Narain is an Indian environmentalist and political activist as well as a major proponent of the Green concept of sustainable development.[1] Narain is director general of the India-based research institute the Centre for Science and Environment, director of the Society for Environmental Communications, and editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth.

Sunita Narain
Sunita Narain CSE.jpg
Sunita Narain
New Delhi
Alma materUniversity of Delhi (India), Cranfield University (UK), University of Calcutta (India)
AwardsPadma Shri, Raja-Lakshmi Award, Stockholm Water Prize,

In 2016 Narain was named to Time Magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People.[2]


Narain completed her graduation by correspondence from Delhi University (1980–83).[3] She also holds a number of Honorary Doctorate of Science degrees,[4] from universities across the globe.


Narain began working with the Centre for Science and Environment in 1982, working with the founder Anil Agarwal, while completing her studies at the University of Delhi. In 1985 she co-edited the State of India's Environment report, and then went on to study issues related to forest management. For this project, she traveled across the country to understand people's management of natural resources. In 1989 Narain and Anil Agarwal wrote 'Towards Green Villages' on the subject of local democracy and sustainable development. In her years at the centre, she has studied the relationship between environment and development and worked to create public consciousness about the need for sustainable development. In 2012, she wrote the 7th State of India's Environment Reports, Excreta Matters, an analysis of urban India's water supply and pollution.

Over the years, Narain has also developed the management and financial support systems needed for the centre, which has over 100 staff members and a dynamic program profile. In the early 1990s, she got involved with global environmental issues and she continues to work on these as researcher and advocate. Her research interests are wide-ranging - from global democracy, with a special focus on climate change, to the need for local democracy, within which she has worked both on forest-related resource management and water-related issues. Narain remains an active participant, both nationally and internationally, in civil society.[5] She is currently in charge of the centre's management and plays an active role in a number of research projects and public campaigns.[5]

Under her leadership, Centre for Science and Environment exposed the high level of pesticides present in American brands of soft drinks such as Coke and Pepsi.[6]

Narain serves on the boards of various organizations and on governmental committees and has spoken at many forums across the world on issues of her concern and expertise. In 2008 Narain delivered the K R Narayanan Oration[7] on "Why Environmentalism Needs Equity: Learning from the environmentalism of the poor to build our common future".[8] In 2020, she served on "A future for the world’s children?", a WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission, co-chaired by Helen Clark and Awa Coll-Seck.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

She was injured in a road accident while cycling near the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on 20 October 2013 Sunday morning. Her bicycle was hit by a speeding car in the early hours of the day while she was going to Lodhi Gardens from her house in Green Park. The car driver did not stop and she was rushed to AIIMS by a passerby. She suffered facial wounds and orthopaedic injuries.[10]

In popular cultureEdit

Narain appeared alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the documentary Before The Flood and talked about the impact of climate change on the Monsoon in India and how it affects farmers.[11]


  • In 1989 Sunita co-authored the publication Towards Green Villages advocating local participatory democracy as the key to sustainable development.
  • In 1991 she co-authored the publication Global Warming in an Unequal World: A case of environmental colonialism[12]
  • In 1992 she co authored Towards a Green World: Should environmental management be built on legal conventions or human rights?
  • Since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, she has worked on a number of articles and papers on issues related to flexibility mechanisms and the need for equity and entitlements in climate negotiations.
  • In 2000, she co-edited the publication Green Politics: Global Environmental Negotiations,[13] which looks at the emerging ecological globalisation framework and puts forward an agenda for the South on global negotiations.
  • In 1997, pushing the concern for water harvesting, she co-edited the book Dying Wisdom: Rise, Fall and Potential of India's Water Harvesting Systems.[14]
  • Since then, she has worked on a number of articles on the policy interventions needed for ecoregeneration of India's rural environment and poverty reduction.
  • In 1999, she co-edited the State of India's Environment, The Citizens' Fifth Report
  • and in 2001, Making Water Everybody’s Business: the practice and policy of water harvesting.[15]



  1. ^ Narain, Sunita (28 March 2017). "'Why I don't advocate vegetarianism': Indian environmentalist Sunita Narain explains her position".
  2. ^ a b Time 100 Most Influential People: Sunita Narain, Time Magazine, April 2016
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Sunitaji's Bio Data Archived 7 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^
  7. ^ 2008 K R Narayanan Oration, The Australian National University, Canberra, 16 September 2008 Archived 25 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Net Traveller: Environmentalism and Equity". Retrieved 24 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ [1] World Health Organization, press release of 19 February 2020.
  10. ^ Staff Reporter (21 October 2013). "Environmentalist Sunita Narain injured in a road accident". The Hindu. Retrieved 24 December 2018 – via CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Thekkethil, Dileep (1 November 2016). "Sunita Narain features in documentary 'Before the Flood' co-produced by Leonardo DiCaprio". The American Bazaar. Retrieved 24 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain (31 December 1990). "Global Warming in an Unequal World: A case of environmental colonialism". India Environment Portal. Centre for Science and Environment. Retrieved 25 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ Green Politics: Global Environmental Negotiations, Anil; Sunita Narain, Anju Sharma, Centre for Science and Environment (1999)
  14. ^ Dying Wisdom: Rise, Fall and Potential of India's Traditional Water Harvesting Systems, (State of India's Environment, Volume 4), Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain, Centre for Science and Environment (1997)
  15. ^ Cited in The No-Nonsense Guido International Development, Maggie Black, New Internationalist (1 October 2007)
  16. ^ Honoris Cause Archived 8 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit