Mother of Indian Environmental Science: The Legacy of Sunita Narain

Sunita Narain, the “Mother of Indian Environmental Science,” has dedicated her life to advocating for sustainable development and environmental justice in India. As the Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and the Editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth, Narain has played a pivotal role in shaping India’s environmental policies and practices. In this article, we will delve into the life and legacy of Sunita Narain, her contributions to Indian environmental science, and the impact of her work.


India is a country of contrasts, where rapid economic growth has come at the cost of severe environmental degradation. The country faces challenges such as air and water pollution, deforestation, climate change, and a lack of access to clean energy. Amidst this, Sunita Narain has emerged as a leading voice for the environment, advocating for sustainable development and policy reform.

Early Life and Career

Sunita Narain was born on October 23, 1961, in New Delhi, India. She earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, in 1982. Following her graduation, she joined the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in 1982 as a researcher, where she has remained ever since.

Narain’s early work at the CSE focused on urban air pollution, where she played a critical role in highlighting the harmful effects of vehicular emissions on public health. She was instrumental in the development of the first-ever fuel efficiency standards for cars and two-wheelers in India.

Contribution to Environmental Science

Over the years, Sunita Narain has made significant contributions to Indian environmental science. Under her leadership, the CSE has been at the forefront of environmental research and advocacy in India. She has been instrumental in the development of sustainable development policies, including India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.

One of Narain’s most significant contributions has been in the area of water management. She has advocated for decentralized water management systems, including rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge. Her work has influenced policies such as the National Water Policy, which emphasizes the need for water conservation and management.

Narain has also played a crucial role in raising awareness about the impacts of industrial pollution and hazardous waste. She has been a vocal critic of the waste management practices of multinational corporations in India, highlighting the environmental and social costs of their operations.

Impact of Narain’s Work

Sunita Narain’s work has had a profound impact on Indian environmental science and policy. Her efforts have led to significant policy reforms, including the introduction of fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, the adoption of sustainable development policies, and the implementation of water conservation measures.

Narain has also been a key advocate for environmental justice in India. She has spoken out against the exploitation of natural resources and the impact of industrial pollution on marginalized communities. Her work has helped to raise awareness about environmental issues in India, and she has been a prominent voice for sustainable development on the global stage.

Leave a Comment