CDM on small industries' agenda

By Nivit Kumar Yadav
Published: Thursday 31 January 2008

CDM on small industries' agenda

-- If the invitation letter was anything to go by, the organizers of the International Conference on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises seemed in dead earnest. The card quoted a World Bank report. "India has 4.5 million small and medium enterprises that contribute 40 per cent of the industrial production but create 70 per cent of the industrial pollution," it said. An international conference to look into pollution problems of small industrial units naturally raised expectations.

But I had herky-jerky premonitions--the ardent message on the card notwithstanding. To begin with, the venue, Hotel Intercontinental in Delhi, seemed a little too luxurious for a small industries' meet. It was perhaps chosen to fit the conference's international character, I assured myself. But then why was the Confederation of Indian Industry (cii) organizing the meet? Was this big industry cabal finally shedding its blinkers towards small industry?

Anyhow, I reached the venue on December 7 at the appointed time: 9.30 a.m. The programme list at first glance seemed assuring. The list of speakers did include some in the business of controlling pollution in the country. But then why were a majority of presentations about the small industry's cdm potential? Was I at the wrong place?

I read the invitation letter again, only to find the now-familiar lament on the indifference towards pollution by the small industry. There was absolutely nothing on carbon trading. And yes, I was at the right venue. Only there seemed to be no small-industry representatives. Or were they lost among the international dignitaries?

Before I could gather my thoughts, R K Jain, director, Eicher Limited, had begun waxing eloquent about the big industry's initiatives to control pollution. It was supposed to be a small industry meet, eh?

I was getting baffled big time. But then Jain did go on to talk about small industries. By the time he had finished his sermon, I was pleasantly educated on how the emerging carbon trading market was a big opportunity for small industry. There was also a statement or two upbraiding ngos for not helping this sector realize its potential.

But I decided to hold my horses. The next few speakers were from government agencies. Maybe they would say something about small industries. Sure they did. B Sengupta, member secretary, Central Pollution Control Board, talked on how his agency was trying to encourage sponge iron units to supply their charcoal to thermal power plants. There was some platitudes on the amount of pollution from this industry as well.

But then we were running behind schedule. The main business had to take precedence. B Datta, senior programme manager, and Sunil Kathuria, EcoSecurities India, offered their company's expertise on carbon trading. The small industries had only to pay the registration cost; EcoSecurities would take care of all other overheads, the company's representatives assured.

All this seemed a little too saccharine sweet. Not for long though. EcoSecurities representatives quickly came down to business: the company would take the carbon credits in lieu of its services.

The presentation set the tone for the bankers. B S Prakash, consultant, Green Banking, State of Bank India, and Manoj Mittal, deputy general manager, Small Industries Development Corporation of India, held forth on how their institutions aid small industries. But they had very little to share except a few stray examples. Prosanta Pal, senior fellow, teri, was similarly stingy on details: he talked of his organization developing some technology for small industries, but did not elaborate. Perhaps because we were running short of time.

Yes, I was at the wrong place. I had allowed myself to be led by the text on the invitation card. It had promised lunch as well. Was disappointing: I had to wait until the throng of international dignitaries had their fill. But then disappointment was the order of the day.

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