India’s feisty – and effective – environmental champion


Don’t lecture Sunita Narain. You might just find yourself on the losing side of an epic showdown.

That’s what happened in 2003, when the nonprofit group Ms. Narain directs, the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), published a report about unsafe pesticide levels in bottled water.

Not long after, a senior executive of PepsiCo paid Narain an unexpected visit.

You don’t know what you’re talking about, she was menacingly told.

Narain was confused. The CSE’s report had given Pepsi‘s bottled water a good rating. Why should the company care?

So Narain ordered her researchers to test Pepsi’s soft drinks. The result: lots of pesticides.

A year later, Narain found herself staring down, as she likes to put it, “the might of the American empire.” Soft-drink giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo united against her and her 130-person organization in the biggest fight of her 30-year career.

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