2010 was a loud year for the environment. High profile projects—from Vedanta to Posco and Navi Mumbai airport to Lavasa—hit the headlines for non-compliance with environmental regulations.

Why did you choose public interest litigation (PIL) as a strategy for environmental activism?

When we started Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), the country had just emerged from a long period of martial law. People were distanced from the administration. We wanted to activate the administration and law-makers through judicial pressure. This was not easy because of the general erosion of values of all institutions.


Last fortnight we discussed the clandestine endgame afoot at Cancun to change the framework of the climate change negotiations to suit big and powerful polluters.

As I write this, some 24 hours are left to finalise the agreement at the 16th Conference of Parties to the climate change convention being held in Cancun.

The definition is contested as the answer has immense economic implications. If bamboo is a tree or timber, it belongs to the forest department and can be auctioned to the paper and pulp industry, often at throwaway rates.

What is exposome?

Exposome is the record of every interaction an individual has with his or her environment since conception. These interactions could be external, such as exposure to air and water pollution and diet, or internal such as the body’s response to infection or psychological stress.

On the government decision not to pursue Bhopal gas victims’ case in the New York court

There is no doubt US President Barack Obama was in India on a business trip. His recent electoral losses weighed heavily with him when he stitched up deals, reportedly worth US $10 billion, that would create about 50,000 jobs back home.

On a brief visit to Pakistan this week I noted that the recent floods have left deep impressions on the country’s policy and political leadership. They spoke about the scale of devastation, human suffering and the massive challenge of rehabilitation. They also noted, interestingly, that in their view there was a link to climate change.

What inspired you to monitor air pollution through a cellphone?