School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences


Amitangshu Acharya

Political ecology of water, Science and Technology Studies (STS), Consumption

PhD Thesis : Towards a political ecology of small things

Water, which is the basis of life on this planet, is witnessing significant stress from competing demands, and technologies are now playing a key role in mediating this crisis. I seek to understand how technologies of water production and consumption will shape the discourse of sustainability in the years ahead. My research explores the emergence and rise of reverse osmosis water purifying systems in the state of Gujarat in western India. I attempt to unpack both scientific discourse and everyday practice that leads to the proliferation of such water producing technology in emerging middle class households by bridging Science and Technology Studies (STS) with that of political ecology of water. This research is being supported under the Leverhulme Trust Perfect Storm Scholarships.

Supervisors : Prof. Emily Brady & Dr. Kanchana Ruwanpura

About me

I was born in the city of Calcutta (now Kolkata) in eastern India, a city known for its syncretism and celebrated as a cultural hub. It contributed to my lifelong passion for films, music and most importantly, food. I read English Literature in St. Xavier's College, Kolkata as an undergradate and moved on to pursue postgraduate study in Social Work in Mumbai. I briefly worked with tribal communities on ecological restoration in the state of Rajasthan in India, before joining Winrock International-India, a policy think tank based out of New Delhi. At Winrock, I was part of India's first Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) project (alternatively termed Incentive based mechanisms for Watershed Services). This involved managing the water quality of Bhoj Lake- a Ramsar designated wetland of international importance- through generating upstream and downstream trade-offs. I later joined Arghyam, India's first national hydro-philanthropic foundation where I managed projects on safe drinking water and groundwater management across eight states in India. I took a study break in 2010, and completed my MSc in Environment, Culture and Society at the University of Edinburgh. I then went on to work for Akvo, an international non profit, as Programme Manager, Asia, working on open source mobile data collection tools for international development. At Akvo, I picked up a strong interest in technology, and worked with Government departments and INGOs in India, Kenya, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia and Vanuatu I have been reporting and writing op-eds on environment and development issues for the last twelve years in various newspapers and magazines in India. This includes The Huffington Post, The Telegraph, India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times and I have now returned to the University of Edinburgh as a PhD student where I hope to study the politics and poetics of a substance that has forever fascinated me, i.e., water. 

Previous Studies 

2003-2005: MA in Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India (1st Class)

2010-2011: MSc in Environment, Culture and Society, University of Edinburgh, U.K (Distinction)

2016-Ongoing: PhD in Human Geography, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, U.K


Sir Ratan Tata Trust Scholarship, 2010

Leverhulme Trust 'Perfect Storm' Scholarship, 2016



Acharya, A and A. Ormsby. (2017), "The cultural politics of sacred groves: A case study of devithans in Sikkim, India", Conservation and Society, 15(2):232-242

Book Chapters

Acharya, A. (2015), The cultural politics of waterscapes', in R.L. Bryant (ed.), International handbook of political ecology, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 373-386

Acharya, A. (2012), ‘Managing water traditions in Uttarakhand, India: lessons learned and steps towards the future’, in: Johnston, B. R., Hiwasaki, L., Klaver, I.J, Castillo, A.R and V. Strang (eds.) Water, Cultural Diversity & Global Environmental Change: Emerging Trends, Sustainable Futures? USA, Springer, 411-432

Chatterjee, S., Singh, J., Acharya, A., Jha, A.B and R. Prasad. (2010), “Setting Standards for Sustainable Harvest of Wild Medicinal Plants in Uttarakhand: A Case Study of Lichens” in:  Gokhale, Y & A.K Negi (eds.) Community based biodiversity conservation in Uttarakhand Himalaya, TERI, New Delhi, India, 101-123

Working Papers and Policy briefs

Acharya, A and P. Poddar (2016), 'The River Itself Warns Us: Local Knowledge of Flood Forecasting in the Gandaki River Basin, West Champaran, India', HI-AWARE Working Paper 5, Kathmandu, Nepal, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development

Acharya A. (2008), ‘Developing markets for watershed services and improved livelihoods - Conservation of Bhoj Wetlands through Incentive Based Mechanisms’ in: Senaratna Sellamuttu, S., de Silva, S., Nguyen Khoa, S and J. Samarakoon (eds.) Good Practices and Lessons Learned in Integrating Ecosystem Conservation and Poverty Reduction Objectives in Wetlands, Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute; Wageningen, Netherlands: Wetlands International, 86-95

Agarwal, C., Tiwari, S., Borgoyary, M., Acharya, A. and E. Morrisson. (2007), 'Fair deals for watershed services in India', Natural Resource Issues No.10, London, UK, International Institute for Environment and Development

Newspaper and Magazines

A. Acharya and S. Krishnan. (Dec 28, 2017), 'Through the smog-screen: on Delhi's air pollution', The Hindu

A. Acharya. (July 24, 2017), 'Listening to Gandhi in the Age of Consumption in India', Huffpost India

A. Acharya. (Nov 27, 2016), 'Hilsa: The Future’s History', The Telegraph, India

A.Acharya. (Aug 29, 2016), 'Ecologist of the poor: Man who is fighting to conserve East Kolkata Wetlands', Hindustan Times, India

A.Acharya. (Aug 6, 2016), 'Wedded to uncertainty: Stories of women married into families in the floodplains of Bihar',

A.Acharya. (July 23, 2016), 'Falling off the map: Bureaucratic insecurity, not national security, has shaped the daft draft Geospatial Bill', Economic Times, India

A.Acharya and S. Sanyal. (May 27, 2016), 'Jerusalem of the East', Live Mint, India

A.Acharya. (April 25, 2016), 'Why blame only the IPL for water woes?', Hindustan Times, India

A.Acharya and N. Jacob. (March 17, 2016), ' 5 Blind Spots That Are Blocking Solutions To India's Water Crisis', Huffington Post, India

A.Acharya. (July 15, 2012), 'The Dark Side of the Loom', Tehelka, India

A.Acharya. (May 2, 2009), 'No Flavour Left', Tehelka, India


Room: 4.06; Geography Building, Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9XP

Phone: +44 (0) 131 650 9172