Environmental Issues and Challenges (EIC)

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSUS1FC0094

Semester and Year Offered: 3rd and 4th semester (2nd year)

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Sumana Datta; Dr. Swati Shresth; & Dr. Pulak Das

Email of course coordinator: sumana[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in/ swatishresth[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in/ pulak[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: The aim of the course is to introduce students to the concept and importance of various ecosystems; to highlight contemporary issues related to degradation of natural resource bases and un-sustainable development/consumption patterns, and their impacts on health, climate and society across socio-economic hierarchies.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be:

  1. able to value nature and its multiple components, and appreciate nature as a dynamic system with interdependent components
  2. able to understand the impacts of ongoing economic model, lifestyle and personal choices on the environment
  3. able to contribute as informed citizens to public discourses on common environmental issues

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

In consonance the syllabus proposed by the University Grant Commission the course has been structured to present an interdisciplinary perspective on environment and ecosystems highlighting contemporary concerns on water, agriculture, forests & biodiversity and climate systems as also on population, health and justice.

Unit 1. Introduction to environmental studies

In the introduction, the multidisciplinary nature of ‘environment’ will be problematised – that there are multiple meanings of environment, multiple ways of seeing it, multiple ways of diagnosing the ‘environmental problem’ and hence different solution, multiple ways of balancing between environment and development, and influence of humans on environment. The unit will also briefly discuss the evolution of the concept and scope of sustainable development and sustainable consumption.

Unit 2. Ecosystems

This unit introduces the concept and types of ecosystems, their functions (ecosystem services) and interdependence especially in Indian context. The module also covers important national and international policies, treaties and politics of ecosystems management including Payment for Ecosystem services, Millennium Ecosystem Services, Convention of Biological Diversity, CITES, Ramsar Convention etc. Special emphasis will be given to explain student the social and economic importance of various ecosystems for specific socio-economic groups; top-down and bottom up conservation policies; and how these impact on equity across class, caste and other social hierarchies with reference to different ecosystems like forests, grasslands and wetlands.

Unit 3. Biodiversity Conservation

This module will introduce students to the concept of biodiversity, biodiversity resources of India (biodiversity hotspots), and endangered and endemic species. The unit will also discuss briefly the threats to biodiversity from habitat loss, poaching, and unsustainable lifestyle/consumerism. Human-wildlife conflict, State-led conservation, community driven conservation, restoration ecology, international and national laws, policies and Institutions of Conservation.

Unit 4. Renewable and Non-renewable Natural Resources: uses and abuses

This unit introduces the students to an important challenge in today’s world- to manage a limited and fast depleting resource such as land, water & energy. It will focus on the use of land and water, and agricultural diversity over time and space. The unit also presents the exchange and understanding of food and its associated politics leading it to serious cases of Hunger and Malnutrition. Various factors reflecting the impact of the growth of population and urbanisation. The unit discusses the above issues threadbare through case studies to show that there are difficult choices/trade-offs involved in dealing with these seemingly simple issues, and also how our own lifestyle choices are directly connected with the larger issues of pollution, conservation, environmental damage, diseases, poverty, etc.

Unit 5. Environmental Pollution

This unit discuss issues related to environmental pollution (air, water, soil, noise, thermal and radioactive). Students will also be exposed to the problem of waste management including the problem of solid waste management in urban areas, dispersal of industrial wastes into water bodies etc. Some success stories and innovative solutions on waste management will also be presented. For example, introduction of CNG vehicles in Delhi to mitigate vehicular pollution.

Unit 6. Environmental policy and practice: Climate change policy

This module introduces the impact of human civilization on environment, and thereby the place of humans in nature and to what extent have they been able to influence change. This unit will discuss these issues through the case of Climate Change. This will include a brief overview of climate change and its various manifestations such as ozone layer depletion, acid rain and global warming; climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, politics and programmes from Kyoto Protocol to Paris Climate Agreement. This will also deliver briefly India’s role in international climate discourse and India’s action plan for climate mitigation and adaptation.

Unit 7. Environmental Justice and Movements:

This unit provides students an understanding of injustices in resource sharing. It further discusses the theoretical understanding on the third world environmentalism through a case of Chipko movement, and issue of resettlement and rehabilitation through the case study of Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Unit 8. Field Visits

types of field visits will be undertaken by the students. The university organises visit to an area with environmental significance, for example, a natural farm in NCR to give them understanding on practices and feasibility of natural farming as an alternative to industrial/HIV agriculture or to Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary to see varieties of butterflies. In addition to these organised field trip, students visit local biodiversity parks, wetland reclamation sites, ridges, waste dumping sites, baolis as part of their project works.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Continuous assessment comprising class test, book reading and class participation (40%)
  • Mid semester examination (30%)
  • End semester project work in group and presentation (30%)

Reading List:

  • Lele, S (2006), ‘Thinking about ecological sustainability’, Seminar, 564.
  • Marten, G. (2001), Human Ecology: Basic Concepts for Sustainable Development, Earthscan [Chapters 1, 5, 6 & 9]
  • McNeill, John R. (2000) Something New Under the Sun: En Environmental History of the Twentieth Century.
  • Rangarajan, M (edited) (2007) Introduction in Environmental Issues in India: A Reader. Pearson p xxi- xxvii
  • Aggarwal A and Saberwal V (2007) South Asian Pastoralism: The Environmental Question. in Environmental Issues in India, A Reader ed. Mahesh Rangarajan, Pearson Longman
  • CSE (2017) Environmental Reader for Universities: selected chapters. Centre of Science & Environment. Delhi
  • Gadgil, M., & Guha, R. 1993. This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India. Univ. of California Press
  • Gopal Brij (undated) Wetland Conservation for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Policy Brief National Institute of Ecology, Delhi
  • IGNOU & WWF (2015) Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996 in National Environmental Law and Policy. Pp 19-37.
  • IGNOU & WWF (2015) The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006 in National Environmental Law and Policy. Pp 38-55
  • Odum, E. P., Odum, H.T. & Andrews, J. (1971) Fundamentals of Ecology. Philadelphia: Saunders
  • CSE (2017) Environmental Reader for Universities: selected chapters. Centre of Science & Environment. Delhi
  • Groom, Martha J., Gary K. Meffe and Carl Ronald Carroll. Principles of Conservation Biology. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates, 2006
  • Savyasaachi (1994), ‘The Tiger and the Honey-bee’, Seminar 423: 30-35.
  • Cheryl Colopy, Dirty, Sacred Rivers: Confronting South Asia’s Water Crisis, Delhi, 2012 (chapters 3, 15 and 16).
  • CSE (2017) Environmental Reader for Universities: selected chapters. Centre of Science & Environment. Delhi
  • McCully, P. 1996. Rivers no more: the environmental effects of dams (pp. 29-‐64). Zed
  • Books.
  • Mishra, Anupam (1993). Abhi Bhi Khare Hai Talaab
  • Paul Robbins et al., Environment and Society, 2010 (Chapter 13: Bottled Water)
  • Praveen Singh (2006), ‘Bridging the Ganga Action Plan: Monitoring failure at Kanpur’, Economic and Political Weekly, February 18, pp. 590-592.
  • CSE (2017) Environmental Reader for Universities: selected chapters. Centre of Science & Environment. Delhi
  • Environmental Chemistry, (Unit 14) (
  • Pollution of air and water, (Chapter 18) (
  • Environmental Issues (Chapter 16) (
  • Pepper, I. L., Gerb, C. P. & Brusseau, M.L. (2011). Environmental and Pollution Science. Academic Press.
  • CSE (2017) Environmental Reader for Universities: selected chapters. Centre of Science & Environment. Delhi
  • Patwardhan A (2007) Global warming in India in Rangarajan, M (edited) (2007) Introduction in Environmental Issues in India: A Reade. Pearson. pp 550-558
  • Dubash, Navroz K. (2009) Climate Politics in India. Policy Brief. Centre for Policy Research. New Delhi
  • Baviskar, Amita (2006), ‘Red in Tooth and Claw? Looking for Class in Struggles over Nature’ in Raka Ray & Mary F. Katzenstein (eds.), Social Movements in India: Poverty, Power and Politics, OUP, 2006.
  • Gadgil, M., & Guha, R. (2008). ‘Ecological Conflict and the Environmental Movement in India’ in Mahesh Rangarajan (ed.). Environmental Issues in India: A reader, New Delhi: Dorling Kindersley Pvt. Ltd. (pp.385-428)


  • In addition to reading materials, a series of documentaries are used to provide students lived experiences on various environmental issues.
  • Documentary: Who Killed the Honey Bee? BBC 4 documentary
  • Documentary: Forest Rights: Jung, Jungle, Aur Jangle Ke Logon Ka by Purabi Bose
  • Documentary: Rolgol, A documentary from Kutch by Karan Dilip Worah.
  • Selected portions- Suttie, J. M.; Reynolds, S. G.; C. Batello. 2005. Grasslands of the world. Rome: FAO
  • Documentary: Call of Life (mass extinction)
  • The Broken Food system in India (Oxfam documentary, 13 minutes).
  • Deolalikar, A. (2012). ‘A national Shame: Hunger and Malnutrition in India’. Retrieved from
  • Documentary: FLOW: For the Love of Water
  • Documentary: Hunting Down Water
  • Documentary: Modern Day problem of small scale farmers in India
  • Documentary: Food Inc
  • Documentary: Drowned Out
  • Documentary: 11th Hour
  • Documentary: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
  • Documentary (Waste management: India's need of the hour) (
  • Documentary (Waste management - Garbage to Gold, An initiative by UNICEF) (