Time To Introspect

Policymakers must put public health above everything else to chart the future. Consumers must demand change so that industry can be forced to fall in line

Published: Friday 30 November 2001

Time To Introspect

-- Take a look around, if the roadside sign "stop pollution" is too hazy to read, it's because the government, indusry and the public are to blame. The government will not tax the polluting vehicles, the industry won't innovate and the public will not ask for its right to clean air.
For the government The government needs to stop subsidising polluting fuels like diesel. The poor do not benefit from subsidies. The rich do. The increasing number of diesel versions of car models hitting the market gives credence to this argument. So price fuels as per the cost. Instead, the government must give incentives for those who want to go for cleaner fuels like compressed natural gas (cng). It must pursue a policy that penalises pollutants -- say by imposing heavy taxes on a polluting vehicle. This will automatically make that vehicle a prohibitive option.

For multinationals wanting to indigenise, the government must set broader guidelines on indigenisation to make sure that the transfer of pollution, which is today shifting to the small-scale sector, does not take place. Pollution control boards must set up monitoring systems to check solid waste generated at the production plants and also formulate regulations for incinerators used in the plants. They must also monitor dangerous chemicals like dioxins, furans and must ban the cancer-causing Tri-chloro-ethane. Supply chain management must also become a part of the pollution regulations. The government also needs to check the pollution downstream -- service stations and workshops -- that have hitherto gone unchecked.

Multiutility vehicles are being used as passenger cars in cities. Therefore, they must be brought under the gambit of commercial vehicles as far as meeting emission norms are concerned. The government must also scrap old vehicles by giving incentives to consumers as well as for industry. The industry must also be made responsible for their product disposal. Most importantly, the government must make the emission norms stringent. Presently, the norms are too lax and automakers are actually getting away with slow murder.
For the industry Less than 50 per cent of the automobile companies have an environment policy. Even those who have it, less than 50 per cent have addressed the environmental aspects of their product in their policy. This must change.

The real pollution of a vehicle takes place during product use and disposal. This must be brought under the environmental management system (ems) certification. Also, iso 14001 certification does not take into account the polluting process the companies have coolly shifted to the small-scale sector.

A process to green the supply chain must be undertaken. The industry must also monitor the performance of its vendors. An environmental audit that takes into account both quantitative as well as qualitative aspects must be undertaken.

Multinational companies must stop dumping obsolete technology into India. Above all, companies need to invest in research and development (r&d) to improve fuel efficiency and engine technology. Multinational companies should invest in r&d in India, instead of relying on their parent companies.
For the consumer Consumers must use grp product ratings to make buying decisions. Vehicles pollute not with the manufacturer, but when it changes hands to the buyer. Therefore, maintenance must be the consumer's priority. For that, consumers must demand information on emissions, fuel efficiency, pollution control equipments and emission warranty.

Last word
grp is an exercise to sensitise the environmental aspects of the automobile industry. Change must begin at the top. Sadly, the Union government's ways have been such that it is seen to protect the interests of the industry, not the people. Being a seller's market, consumers in India have accepted their fate. With a friendly government and an indifferent consumer, the industry is making a killing.

In many ways the issue is also about a complacent mindset. At the release function, csir director-general R A Mashelkar had an interesting anecdote to narrate. Relaxing on a lazy afternoon beside a swimming pool in Indonesia, he saw a few children playing. When a dried leaf fell into the water, a child went out of his way to catch it. Instead of throwing the leaf outside the pool, the child went to the dustbin a few yards away. Just to make sure that the pool and its environment was kept clean. Now can we say that about Indians?

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.