Nity Jayaraman & Raquel Najera Gutierrez
Nityanand Jayaraman from Chennai, India, visited ELAW in June with his wife Karen Coelho and daughter Rahel Madhura. He says, “I practice journalism for a living and activism for the soul.”
Nity has worked for 15 years with grassroots defenders in India fighting against pollution and corporate crime. His writings and youth awareness work highlight the racism inherent in environmental pollution and solutions.
“Be it environmental degradation or a proposal to remediate it, the worst burden is always borne by the poor, the marginalized -- such as the dalits and minorities in India, and the communities of color in North America.” Nity has collaborated with ELAW since 2001.
India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is also home to the world’s largest concentration of people living in poverty. Rapid industrial growth and miles of new highways have not remedied this poverty, and may have made it worse.
“The problems are daunting and the task is enormous, but there is no choice but to keep the fight on for a better way,” says Nity.
Mark Chernaik, ELAW Staff Scientist, has worked with Nity for years. “We provide information about how pollution from particular industries impacts human health and the environment, how these industries are regulated in other countries, and what industries in India can do to reduce their impact on communities,” says Mark.
Nity recognizes the immensity of the challenges he faces in India, but sees promising signs in the struggles of marginalized people and the possibility of awakening youth:
“In March this year, 15,000 people who were drinking contaminated water in Bhopal got clean water. That’s half the population of the area. The rest will get clean water by August. This is the culmination of many years of hard work. Local women have braved batons and abuse to have the Supreme Court’s order of 2004 uphold their right to clean water.
Waste management is another enormous issue. We are drowning in garbage. In my community, we are using street theater to tell people that it is possible to set up local composting operations for apartment complexes and individual households. It’s a system that works and a local youth collective is active in this. The area where we live is where the bureaucrats live. We are showing them a better way and sending a good message to the next generation.”
Award-winning partner Raquel Gutierrez Najera, Mexico
ELAW partner Dr. Raquel Gutierrez Najera received a 2009 Environmental Merit Award for her inspired work protecting Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest fresh water lake.
This award recognizes Raquel’s tremendous work helping citizens speak out for the wise use of Mexico’s natural resources. ELAW has worked closely with Raquel since 1995.
Raquel helped secure international protection for Lake Chapala, which was declared a Ramsar site earlier this year. Under the Ramsar treaty, Lake Chapala will be protected as a wetland of “international importance.”
Mexico’s National Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources presented Raquel’s award as part of a UN World Environment Day celebration in June.