In Focus

Published: Sunday 31 March 1996

Ultimately, it could be a victory for the much abused environment. With US industries and environmentalists at loggerheads for the past one year over the now familiar tug-of-war between environment and development, it seemed unlikely that a joint consensus could ever be achieved. But a presidential panel consisting of adversaries from both camps, members of Clinton's cabinet and Labour and civil rights groups seem to have pulled off a major coup last month.

The panel succeeded in its achievement of a rare agreement on how the existing system can be improved, if not weakened, by not removing environmental regulations as has been demanded by many Republicans. It bestows on the industries the freedom in future to prevent pollution on their own account, but on the condition that they learn to perform better than is required under the current system of exacting safeguards.

This is being interpreted in political circles as a shot-in-the- arm for Clinton's election campaign. The President has been trying to distance himself from the Republicans as being a steadfast supporter for the cause of environment. The panel report along with the industries' support (considered until now to be staunch Republican loyalists) now adds credence to his stand.

The report has called for increasing and not removing, a layer of environmental protection. While the current system will be modified, it will be retained to act as a green safeguard. On the touchy subject of environmental regulations, the report states that while industries could benefit from flexible and cost-effective way to handle environmental goals, there could be no compromise on public health. The panel concluded its report thus: efficiency, profit and environmental protection are all linked. Pollution is waste, waste is inefficient and inefficiency is expensive.

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