Tuesday, July 6, 2004

"Commitment is the watchword"

Sunita Narain
Sunita Narain

SUNITA NARAIN, the Director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), hogged news space in August last after the centre reported high level of pesticide residue in 12 brands of cold drinks.

But there was a time when Sunita drank soft drinks like everybody else (Now, of course, she ''knows too much about them''). She was in Class X in Modern School, Barakhamba Road, when she joined a group of like-minded students to set up an organisation to protect the environment, called Kalpvriksh.

Recalls Sunita: "At that time, people were just confused about this career option. Though my mother, a businesswoman, has always been very supportive.''

Today, she feels that a career in environment is unusual but very fulfilling. "You are very much part of the change that is needed. It demands a very high order of professional skill, knowledge, passion and commitment.''

She says that youngsters interested in a career in environment can look at options such as environmental journalism, environmental law or history.

After completing matriculation, Sunita left Delhi to work for the Nehru Foundation in Ahmedabad and pursued her graduation through correspondence. Later, she joined the Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai. In 1980, she came back to Delhi and began doing voluntary work at the CSE.

Its founder Anil Agarwal wanted to a do a citizen's report on the state of India's environment. Sunita and others across the country gathered the data. In 1981, she joined the CSE. Her first job was to go and sell the book priced at Rs 125 and not come back till she had sold enough. Since then she has faced various challenges at the CSE; she even learnt how to write balance sheets. "I think, I've been very fortunate. The CSE is the kind of place which tends to throw you into the deep end and you learn not to drown.''

—Tripti Nath