Here are 3 Indian Environmentalists you Should Know This Earth Day

For a whole host of reasons — which include its coastlines, smog issues and rapidly disappearing forests —- South Asia is the center of many of the world’s biggest conversations about environmentalism and conservation today. With Earth Day this weekend, we’ve decided to round up three environmental activists that should be on your radar.

Sunita Narain

Since the early 1980s, Narain has been speaking out about the state of India’s environment. The director of the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based NGO, Narain’s work has gained international attention over the years and she was one of the activists interviewed in Before The Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary on climate change.

In recent years, Narain has been focusing on how India can play a pivotal role in the fight against global warming. “What we need today as a nation is a new paradigm of growth—whenever and however it happens,” she said in a speech to the Jaipur Literature Festival last fall. “This doesn’t mean we have to stop developing. Just we have to do it differently.”

Vandana Shiva

Perhaps the best known Indian environmental activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva has been focusing on the effects of globalization on India’s food supply for decades. Shiva has also talked extensively about how saving the environment is a feminist issue, particularly in India because much of the labor connected to the processing and preparing food is done by women.

“Globalization is creating degraded work. In fact, it has been destructive of women’s ability to provide for real needs,” she told News Deeply last month. “Has globalization given us better food? No, it has spread junk food. Has it given us better clothing? No, it has given us junk clothing.”

To combat those effects, Shiva co-founded the women-led organic farming and fair trade organization Navdanya in 1992. Since then, Navdanya has created 122 community seed banks located across India.

The River Connect Campaign

The Taj Mahal may be one of the greatest treasures in India (and the world) but that has not protected the ivory monument from the effects of air pollution and the contamination of the nearby Yamuna river. Last month, activists from the River Connect Campaign and other groups marched to the Taj to get both officials and the public to begin taking action on the environmental factors damaging the UNESCO site.

“Tons of polythene and leather cuttings from shoe factories had prevented seepage of water and polluted the river,” marchers Rahul Raj and Deepak Rajput recently told IANS.

But the River Connect Campaign believes that with planning and reforms the pollution surrounding the Taj can be managed and that both the environment and the tourism economy would benefit from the changes.

“We want the uninterrupted flow of water in the river to ensure that the ambiance around the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort, Itimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb and Ram Bagh was transformed and the air pollution brought down,” activist Devashish Bhattacharya explained.