Poverty and environmental inequality in India

By Sunita Narain

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This article by Sunita Narain features in the World Social Science Report 2016. This contribution discusses the importance of addressing inequality for environmental management.  Narain highlights that in considering pollutants, it is important to distinguish between the ‘survival’ emissions of the poorest – for example, their use of polluting cookstoves which cause severe health damage – and the ‘luxury’ emissions generated by rich and powerful elites to maintain their consumer lifestyles. It is also important to acknowledge that current systems of water and waste management are capital intensive and create divisions between rich and poor. Narain argues that the current discourse on environment and development must be reframed so that it is built on the premise that sustainable development needs to be equitable. In other words, growth has to be affordable and inclusive.

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