Imagining Sustainability Beyond COVID-19 in India


  • Bejoy Thomas Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune
  • Soumyajit Bhar Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)
  • Shoibal Chakravarty Indian Institute of Science



COVID-19, Equity, Environmentalism, Degrowth


The COVID-19 lockdown in India saw a spate of news stories suggesting improvements in environmental conditions. In this article, we caution against optimistic narratives of environmental revival. First, we analyse air pollution data before and during the lockdown to show that these improvements were temporary and a by-product of the severe restrictions placed on the normal functioning of the economy. Second, drawing upon data on income and inequality, we suggest that the human suffering witnessed during the lockdown was a result of widening social disparities since the 1990s. We argue that environmental priorities cannot be separated from social concerns, and equity has to be at the centre of imagining sustainability beyond the pandemic.


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Author Biographies

Bejoy Thomas, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune

Associate Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Dr. Homi Bhabha Road, Pune, 411008, India

Soumyajit Bhar, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)

Doctoral Student, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, 17/589, M. G. Road, P. O. Chinsurah, Dist. Hugli 712101, India

Shoibal Chakravarty, Indian Institute of Science

Senior Researcher, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, India


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