Bhargavi S. Rao graduated in Environmental Science and is a Botanist with an M’Phil degree in Aerobiology from Bangalore University. She also has a post graduate diploma in Journalism. Her initial research experience was in the areas of Microbiology and Cell Biology and she has worked at the Microbiology and Cell Biology Department of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. She has co-authored research papers in journals like Current Science and Virology. She has had teaching experience as a lecturer in Botany and Microbiology at The BMS College for Women, Bangalore and also as a high School Teacher in Geography and Economics at the Sri Aurobindo Memorial School, Bangalore.
Her interest in Environmental and Social justice issues brought her to Environment Support Group (ESG), where she has led a wide variety of research and educational projects and campaign initiatives. She coordinated educational and training programmes at ESG with a focus on enhancing awareness and critical engagement in social and environmental justice issues. She has co-worked as Coordinator and Faculty of the India sector of the ‘Cities of the 21st Century’ and ‘Health and Community’ courses of the International Honors program, a study abroad program from 2002-2009, and as Co-Director of the India Centre of the Minnesota Studies in International Development, a division of the Learning Abroad Centre of University of Minnesota, USA (2014-2017).
Bhargavi has also been a guest faculty at the Simpson Centre for Humanities, Washington University, Seattle in 2013. She has been a co-speaker at many of the talks and workshops on the issues of Environment and Social Justice in Universities across USA, Germany, Vietnam and China. In recognition of her long-standing contribution in the voluntary sector, the Association for India’s Development has awarded her the AID “Saathiship” (2010-2013).
Her interests include Environmental Education, Experiential Education, Environmental health, Biodiversity, Traditional and Indigenous knowledge, Governance, Gender Issues, Law, Public Policy and Urban and Community studies. She is now associated with Public Health Foundation of India, having worked before that with Azim Premji Philathropic Initiatives.
Joe Athialy is Executive Director of Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi. He has previously worked with the Bank Information Centre, Amnesty International, Narmada Bachao Andolan, and various other human rights and accountability institutions in leading positions. He is a key organiser on issues of accountability of International and National financial institutions with regard to the impact of their activities on human rights and environment.
Dr. Shirdi Prasad Tekur, MBBS, MCH, following an illustrious career in the Armed Forces Medical Core, retired as Captain from the Indian Army. He has since worked in the formation of the Community Health Cell (now Sochara), in establishing Community Health Departments in varoius hospital and medical collesges, and is a much sought after General Physician and Paediatrician. He has extensive training experience in various public health and counselling services, and is also a consultant on disaster management and rehabiliation matters. He is also widely consulted on AYUSH systems.
Suprabha Seshan, lives and works at the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary (GBS) in the Western Ghat Mountains in India, a small conservation centre and community concerned with plant conservation, habitat nurturance and nature education. At GBS a small team, consisting largely of rural women, employs skills that place them among the world’s most advanced plant researchers and conservationists. Through a combination of scientific and traditional knowledge, this team has achieved successful plant conservation results for a deforested region, where many species face extinction. The 25-hectare sanctuary area has been restored to a far higher level of biodiversity. This involves thousands of plant species and animals, as well as nurturing habitat at scale, spurring collaborative action with groups in other parts of the Western Ghats that undertake restoration work. The same team has also created the School in the Forest, a rubric covering residential programmes and daytime exposure visits concerned with plant diversity, forest ecology and a life in harmony with nature.
In her work, Suprabha honours traditional and indigenous peoples from rainforest areas through cooperative community based actions and mutual support. She also endeavours to educate students, land-based peoples, NGOs, government servants and forest activists on issues of ecological destruction and renewal. She envisions a “Green Phoenix,” or a movement that supports resilience and restoration to arise from the ashes of modern industrial culture. Suprabha is a recipient of Whitley Award in 2006 on behalf of the GBS team, and an Ashoka Fellow.
Suprabha also offers a talk on request titled Rainforest Etiquette in a World Gone Mad, based on two premises: that nature is primary and that the planet is in peril. She draws on stories from her 27 years of experience in the forests of southern India, and the lives of plants, animals and humans she shares her mountain home with, as well as the environmental biography of their locality, the Wayanad plateau. She invites an exploration of a life in community with plants and animals and the two contrasting aspects of nature that ecosystem gardeners work with: resilience and fragility. The whole forest and its myriad beings can indeed return, but only when certain conditions are met and only with the right kind of help. This is critical: with the right kind of help, the whole forest, and all its beings, grows outwards again. 93% of the Western Ghats are already destroyed. The remaining habitats are fragmented badly. Her talk calls attention to the vital beauty of these mountain forests and their precarious toehold in an India that annihilates the environment as its technocrats push for economic might.The questions that drive the Sanctuary’s work echo through her presentation: What must we do to bring the forests back? What is it to listen to the natural world? What do the plants have to say? Whom do we love? She is Managing Trustee of Munnarakkunnu Trust (MKT) which supports Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary, the Green Phoenix and the School in the Forest.
Arthur Pereira is an active human rights activist in Mangalore and has successfully led the demand for fair compensation by Dalit and minority communities due to the Bajpe airport for over a decade now. He played a key role in mobilizing communities affected by the Airport expansion plan in Bajpe and also fought the expansion of the airport at the State High court and later at the Supreme Court on grounds of safety. He is well versed on matters relating to Land Acquisition and has helped hundreds of farmers to benefit from the provisions of Land Reforms Act. His expertise also lies in building homes and rain water harvesting units to ease the struggle for water in major cities such as Bangalore, Mangalore and Mysore.
Dr. Robert John Chandran is a Tropical Plant Ecologist and works full time as Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Science Education and Reasearch, Kolkota. He is also an Adjunct Fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Bangalore. He has worked as a Smithsonian Fellow at the Dept. of Botany, University of Georgia, USA and University of Illinois. He has a Ph.D. from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and his past degrees include M. Sc. and M Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. His research interests include tropical forest ecology and management, conservation biology, protected area management and land use policy.
Leo F. Saldanha is full-time Coordinator and also Trustee of ESG. He has gained wide-ranging experience in the areas of Environmental Law and Policy, Decentralisation, Urban Planning and a variety of Human Rights and Development related issues, working across many sectors for over a decade. He is a keen campaigner on critical environmental and social justice issues and has guided several campaigns demanding evolution of progressive laws and effective action. He has creatively supported various distressed communities to secure justice through public interest litigations and advocacy efforts, arguing as party in person several public interest litigations, many of which have resulted in remarkable judgments. He has a background in Environmental Science. Leo has been invited as a speaker by organisations and universities across the world, and in August 2010 was invited to speak at the International Forum on China’s Rural Reform in the 12th Five-Year Plan Period organised by the Chinese Institute for Reform and Development. He assists various Government agencies in evolving law and policy relating to environmental justice. In recognition of his contribution to environmental and social justice efforts, Association for India’s Development, USA, made him their first AID Saathi.
In 2007, he co-authored “Green Tapism: A Review of the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification-2006” (2007) with team members at ESG. He has since co-authored “Tearing through the Water Landscape: Evaluating the envionmental and social consequences of POSCO project in Odisha, India” (2011), “Forfeiting our Commons: A Case for Protecting and Conserving Challakere’s Amrit Mahal Kavals as Livelihoods-Supporting, Biodiversity-Rich and Ecologically-Sensitive Grassland Ecosystems” (2013), and a comprehensive review report of Environmental Decision Making in Karnataka State, in particular the State Environmental Clearance Committee (2014), amongst others. His papers and articles have appeared in many leading new papers, journals and magazines. Recently, he has contributed papers in “India’s Risks: Democraticing the Management of Threats to Environment, Health and Values” (OUP, 2014) and “Living Rivers, Dying Rivers” (OUP, 2015). Leo facilitates a variety of learning programmes on environmental and social justice concerns for a wide range of audiences. He was the Country Coordinator and Faculty of the “Cities in the 21st Century” and “Health and Community” courses of the International Honours Programme, USA (2002-2009) and has worked as Co-Director of the Minnesota Studies in International Development, University of Minnesota (2014-2017). Email. leosaldanha[@]esgindia.org
Sana Huque has a Masters degree in Geography from Delhi School of Economics and Ph.D. in Sociology from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. In her Ph.D. thesis, Sana has studied wetland loss, as well as its conservation, from a sociological perspective, and with a special focus on the East Kolkata Wetlands. Sana is associated with ESG as a Senior Research Associate. Email: sana[@]esgindia.org
Ashwin Mario Lobo has an undergraduate degree in Commerce from Christ College. A Young India Fellow from Ashoka University, he has lived with and learnt from several voluntary communities engaged in restoration ecology, across India. Ashwin’s interests include rewilding, eastern philosophy and environmental justice. Ashwin is associated with ESG as a Research Associate.
S. Subha ensures a warm lunch is ready for us every day. And takes care of keeping the ESG office and workshop space clean and healthy.
Dr. Swetha Rao Dhananka is a sociologist and teaches at Haute Ecole de Travail Social, Fribourg, Switzerland. Swetha consults with ESG in matters of urban governance, in developing training workshops for various audiences, in studying participatory processes, supports fund raising and in optimizing organizational learning. She obtained her PhD from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and was a post-doc fellow at the Development Planning Unit at UCL (London) and the Indian Institute of Human Settlements (Bangalore). Her research examines urbanisation in the Global South – particularly with regard to its social effects, various institutional responses and political claim-making. She consults with ESG on research and educations projects. Email:swetha[@]esgindia.org
Mr. Varun John is an Innovation Consultant with 14 years of broad experience in Research, IT, Operations and Management. He has worked on a plethora of projects with international firms, startups and non-profit organizations.
His work with Innovation & Management involves leveraging Design Thinking strategy for empathizing with the users, citing out the need for understanding & observing the pain points of the end-user. An individual of manifold interests, Varun possesses a logical and human-centric approach towards challenges. Email: varun[@]esgindia.org
Mallesha K. R. is with ESG from the time of its inception. He has a degree in Sociology and has more than two decades of experience in field assisting in various ESG campaigns, educational programmes, Public Interest Litigation and administration work. He hails from Coorg and has a deep understanding of the agricltural practices in India and the changing scenario. He was invited to University of Washington Seattle in 2013 to speak on “Who knows what, what it means”. Till 2020, he was the administrator of ESG, assisted in all campaign, advocacy, research and litigation initiatives, and also oversaw all the field activities.
Dr. T.B Dinesh is the Founder and technology Director of Servelots (1999), which develops cost-effective open source solutions and services. Servelots develops Pantoto, a collaborative open source platform. Dinesh is also an active member of the environmental group Hasiru Usiru and has provided open source web-based technology support to National Folk lore institute, and various community-based tourism initiatives, pastoral communities as well as NGOs through Janastu (a non-profit trust). His current projects also involve browser-based Open Course Ware in Computer Science education and Web accessibility for Inclusion of non-literate communities. Email:dinesh[@]servelots.com
Madhu Bhushan worked with Vimochana, meaning liberation, initiated in 1979 by women and men from within the Centre for Informal Development Studies (CIEDS)collective, that had come together in 1975 to seek a just, humane and creative society rooted in transformative politics. Vimochana grew out of the need for a public forum that would stand for organised resistance to the increasing violence on women and would be assertive in challenging the pervading apathy to the problems of women in the context of larger structures of violence and power. Madhu is a leading activist in India to assert the rights of women and disenfranchised communities. She is currently an independent researcher. mail: madhu_bhushan2005[@]yahoo.co.in