Indian Environmental Activists to Speak on "Contested Terrain: Securing Environmental Justice in a GDP-Driven Economy," Nov. 23

On November 23, Leo Saldanha and Bhargavi Rao, environmental activists with extensive experience in challenging environmental threats in India, will make a presentation at the College of Law.

Saldanha founded the Environment Support Group (ESG), Bangalore, in 1996. ( Since then, he and, subsequently, Bhargavi Rao, have been involved in many of the controversies arising from India’s environmental and development policies. Their advocacy has included challenges to:

  • Dams and power plants in the Western Ghat mountains that rise from the Arabian Sea;
  • Development projects within protected coastal zones;
  • Roadwork destroying trees bordering some of southern India’s important highways as well as within Bangalore and other key cities;
  • Private acquisition of public lakes and ponds;
  • Hazardous waste contamination of fields and water bodies; and
  • Repeated demands on environmental authorities at all levels for more serious attention to the environmental consequences of both private and government resource, industrial and commercial developments

Their work has also included the publication of policy critiques, as well as workshops on a wide range of topics. When the current regulations governing Indian environmental impact assessment were adopted in 2006, Saldanha, Rao and a team from the Environment Support Group prepared an extensive, detailed and widely circulated critique: “Green Tapism: A Review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006.” (Introduction and contents available at

Saldhana and Rao have built ESG into a force to be reckoned with, not only by the Karnataka State government and local entities in south India, but also by the national Ministry of Environment and Forests whose decisions affecting  environmental values have been repeatedly contested by ESG. Through many cycles of financial drought Leo has held together a committed team, often working at compromised salaries, to continue their work.

The College of Law and the U are fortunate to have the opportunity to share Saldanha and Rao’s insights and experience on November 23 at 12:15 p.m. in room 106. They will discuss the environmental threats their work addresses, with a focus on the roots of those threats in India’s intensifying efforts to maximize its GDP.  For further context, see the attachment “Who Pays For India’s 9% Growth Rate.

A light lunch will be provided to attendees. For more information on the event and a second event sponsored by the University’s Humanities Department.