Anil Agarwal is raising public consciousness of environmental issues through publications in order to create a sensible development policy.

This profile below was prepared when Anil Agarwal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1982.
2005 Stockholm Water Prize, Stockholm International Water Institute, March 20, 2005


Anil Agarwal is raising public consciousness of environmental issues through publications in order to create a sensible development policy.


In the rush for development, many projects in India have had devastating effects on the environment. Anil Agarwal's publications have, for the first time, presented the facts about the destruction of India's environment to the people and government.


In order to keep up with population growth, food production in India will almost have to double by the end of the century, from 130 million tons per year to 240 million tons per year. Consequently, India has concentrated on its development needs. However, Agarwal feels that, to ensure that development is long-lasting, it needs to be balanced with environmental concerns. High-yielding, fast-growing crops have allowed farmers to reap two or three harvests instead of one, but the soil is getting drained as nutrients are not replaced. The Yamuna River, which flows through Delhi, has become unfit for drinking or washing as 200 million liters of untreated sewage and 20 million liters of industrial wastes are tipped in each day. Overgrazing, over-cultivation, and deforestation is causing erosion and, as a result, an estimated 150 million hectares of land has become unusable.


Agarwal founded the Center for Science and Environment, a technology and development information service. This institution published a state-of-the-environment report in 1982 and another one in 1984. The reports are independent, comprehensive reviews of what India is doing wrong in dealing with environmental problems. Topics include forests, rivers, dams, land, and air. These reports are ground-breaking because the government has not shown much interest in environmental issues in the past. Its attitude was reflected in the following quote from the late Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi: "Poverty is the biggest polluter." In addition, Agarwal has a widely circulated syndicated column. By pointing out the ineffectiveness of past initiatives, Agarwal hopes that more sensible action will be taken in the future. The state of the environment reports have received international acclaim and wide circulation in many languages, as well as being profitable financially. The impact of the reports in India has been great because they address questions previously unanalyzed in India. The reports are being used by high-level government planners to define the country's agenda on dealing with environmental issues. The impact in India is great. The reports have defined the country's agenda on dealing with the issue. Agarwal has been called on to give presentations of his work to the Council of Ministers and to the Secretaries to the Government (civil service heads). The Ford Foundation has now given $250,000 in funding to Agarwal's Center. In addition, Agarwal's column has won circulation in hundreds of Indian newspapers.


Agarwal, a scientifically-trained journalist, graduated from Ashoka in January 1984 when his achievement and reputation allowed him to become independent of Ashoka support. Agarwal is committed to building public understanding of both the scientific and environmental consequences of careless development and to offering sensible alternatives.