Securing a future for nature in an inclusive and viable way requires a blend of insights across the science/society interface. With this in mind, NCBS sets off this new series: The Future of Nature.The wider thematic of The Future of Nature needs little introduction. More than the paucity of resources, it is the epochal changes we are living through that often have irreversible, even damaging consequences for the fabric of life on earth. Yet, scholarship as well as practice sheds light on ways to moderate the human impact on the ecological systems of the planet. Inevitably, due to its significance in terms of demographics and rich biological diversity as well as its growing economy, India is a critical arena in the contests over nature. The first set of lectures in this series looked at the present, in three settings, the city, the forest and the sea. The lectures asked how we came to be where we are: each also sought to to ask if there are better ways forward embedded in the contemporary.


We now present the

second set of lectures in this series focuses on the present, on mountains, rivers and the metropolis. Each of these is undergoing significant shifts and changes. Our speakers all look at the present and connect different ways in which we deepen our knowing of Nature. Their insights will provide ample starting point for enriching discussions and on-going dialogues on the way forward.


10:15am- Introduction – Mahesh Rangarajan

10:30am to 11:30pm – Arupjyoti Saikia

11:30am to 11:45 am - Tea

11:45am to 12:45pm – Rinki Sarkar

12:45pm to 1:45pm - Lunch

2:00pm-3:00pm – Ravi Agarwal

3:00pm - 4:00 - Panel style Q&A

4:00pm - Tea


Regenerating Himalayan forests: Conserving the Chilgoza pine

Rinki Sarkar
Independent Researcher & Environmental Social Scientist Himalayan Studies

Rinki is a visiting faculty at the Ashoka University’s Environment Studies Program and she is an independent researcher. Her interdisciplinary research work focuses on unearthing the nature, pace and impact of development and change in ecologically fragile rural mountain tracts of the Western Himalayas. In course of her research studies, she engages herself intensively in field-work for gathering ‘ground-truthing’ evidence on relevant socio-ecological dimensions for a holistic analysis of a transforming natural landscape. Long-term monitoring through visits and re-visits has been an integral part of her research methodology that enables her to track intricacies of a fragile ecosystem intermeshed with livelihood linkages and to assess unsustainable trends, jeopardizing the overall environment.


Her doctoral work at the Delhi School of Economics highlighted the significance of public transport alternatives for mitigating urban environmental costs. In course of her research pursuits she has been associated with the Centre for Development Economics at Delhi School of Economics, the Planning Policy Research Unit at ISI Delhi, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment & Development at ISEC, Bangalore and the Centre for Research in Development Economics at FUNDP, Belgium. She has authored and co-authored research papers and is currently engaged in writing her book on her vast and long-term engagements in these mountain tracts.

Inter-connected ecologies: Delhi's river and the ridge forest - An illustrated talk 

Ravi Agarwal
Director Toxics Link and artist

The talks examines the two main ecological features of the city of Delhi - its river Yamuna and the Delhi Ridge, and their interconnections.  These form networks of water and biodiversity, which have been critical for the various settlements of the city over time. Both are today under severe development pressures, especially over the past few decades. Institutionally they have been managed as distinct features at best, rather than as a contiguousecologicalsystem which impact the urban space. The talk will also outline the ongoing and long history of citizen’s action to help protect these features.


Ravi Agarwal is founder director of Toxics Link ( , an  environmental NGO working on areas of chemical safety, toxics and waste, for over two decades. He helped lead the citizen’s Save the Delhi Ridge campaign in 1994 and was member of the apex Ridge Management Board for over ten years (2002-2013). He is also part of the Yamuna Jiye Abhigyan, a civil society group working for the protection of the river Yamuna. Ravi erves on several environmental policy panels, both nationally as well as internationally and writes extensively on sustainability issues.Alongside, Ravi is a well-established artist and curator working with photographs-video- installation and public art, and has been invited to many important curated international shows, including the Kochi Biennial (2016), Sharjah Biennial (2013), and Documenta XI (2002). He has published several photo books and catalogues including one on the river Yamuna. Ravi was awarded the IFCS -WHO Special Recognition Award (2008), and the Ashoka fellowship (1998), and is a communications engineer and MBA by training.

So Far, So Good: When Nature Speaks in India’s North East



Professor in History

IIT Guwahati

Aurangzeb’s soldiers found Assam’s nature as most troublesome and obnoxious. Rains, malaria and jungles tormented them like anything. When nature was at odds with the Mughal Empire, the latter had no option but to retreat. The British Empire also struggled to withstand those odds. Their wins were temporary. Away from this big political development, the humans, and non-humans as well, over last couple of millenniums, regularly made friendship with the nature. Nature was not always benevolent on them, yet life went on. As we move into the more recent times, we have increasingly romanticized those hilly, mountainous, swampy and watery landscapes as the ideal nature. But will there be a lasting friendship between man and nature? If it is, how long will this hold true? This talk unpacks the historical meanings of nature in India’s Northeast by drawing attention to the structure and function of it as well as lessons learnt in the pasts. 


ArupjyotiSaikia is Professor in History, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati. He also holds the Suryya Kumar Bhuyan Endowment Chair in Assam History in IIT Guwahati. A post-doctoral fellowship recipient in the Agrarian Studies programme at Yale University, Saikia’s research interest is in the economic, political and environmental history Assam. He has published in Modern Asian Studies, Journal of Peasant Studies, Indian Economic and Social History Review, Indian Historical Review amongst others. He regularly writes in Assamese and English dailies. His published works include A Forest and Ecological History of Assam, 1826-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2011) and A Century of Protests: Peasant Politics in Assam since 1900 (Routledge, 2014). In 2015 Saikia has been awarded SrikantDutta Book Award given by Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi for best social sciences and humanities book on North East India for the years 2009-2014. His next book entitled The Turbulent River: An Environmental History of the Brahmaputra will be published by Oxford University Press.