Published: Monday 31 January 2000

Debating on diesel

This is with reference to the editorial 'A brush with industry' by Anil Agarwal ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 10; October 15). Even though you have not named our company, the reference is unmistakably to us. The editorial makes a number of inaccurate statements and baseless allegations against our company. Among these are statements like "the battle has moved underground", "the pr company quickly disown any responsibility when called up" and "certain scientists are being called upon by the same pr company and being offered money to write articles in support of diesel."

Our work is designed to bring clarity and better understanding on important issues. The newsletter published by us on behalf of Citizens Against Pollution, a non-governmental organisation, is a professional service rendered by us. The newsletter clearly states that we are publishing and printing it. There is, therefore, no question of getting into a battle or taking it underground.

In order to look at the issue of pollution more holistically and to ensure that the information we use is both accurate and technically correct, we have met with medical and automotive fuel experts. We have also sourced an extensive base of international information, most of which shows that experts, globally, are recognising the inherent strength of diesel engines and its enormous potential for the future.

To suggest that we have offered scientists money to write articles in support of diesel is totally false. All our work is done on the basis of verified and internationally accepted information. There is no "misinformation" -- rather information backed by globally accepted findings.

Public health and air pollution is not just the prerogative of a self-appointed few -- it is the concern of every citizen. We subscribe strongly to the belief that decisions that affect people must be informed ones. As concerned citizens of India and a company with a strong track record for ethics and excellence, we are involved in disseminating factual and valuable information. This is designed to provide people with exhaustive and unbiased information in order to motivate result-oriented action that tackles the real issues effectively. Pollution is a concern for all of us living in Delhi. We want real solutions, not action based on selective information that serves a one-point agenda.

Chief operating officer and public affairs practice director,
Burson-Marsteller Roger Pereira Communications Pvt Ltd.
New Delhi

Down To Earth replies
You are right that "public health and air pollution is not just the prerogative of a self-appointed few -- it is the concern of every citizen". But if hired agencies like yours are to 'take on the concern', then there must be total transparency in your dealings.

If indeed you were above board in your interest in air pollution and the health effects of diesel, you would have pointed out very clearly in your so-evocatively titled newsletter Citizens Against Pollution who has hired you to do all this. We still do not know from you who is behind this mystery ngo called Citizens Against Pollution.

When we asked you about your interest in this work, you had directed my colleague, Sunita Narain, to speak to a leading manager of telco , a company that is keen to promote diesel vehicles despite their health effects. If indeed it is telco which is funding you, then you should have said so clearly in your newsletter. Then the public can decide if they want to trust information being dished out under the auspices of a car company or not.

You may deny having approached scientists with offers of sums of money to write articles in the press obviously to skew the public debate..

Polluting vehicles

After a long battle to phase-out old vehicles from Kathmandu, the government of Nepal finally took the bold decision to phase-out 541 two-stroke diesel three-wheelers about three months ago. To replace this fleet, the ministry of population and environment has announced that it would import only euro- 1 compliant vehicles. However, many people in Nepal are not aware of the details about euro -1 norms. Down To Earth should publish information about these norms....

Dying lake

The article on the Dal Lake 'The Lake Colony' ( Down To Earth, Vol 8, No 8; September 15) made interesting reading. Even though I stay near the lake, I was not aware of the methods being used by the local people to change this beautiful lake into a land form.

However, one thing has not found mention in the article. The existence of the Dal Development Project, where engineers are working to save the lake. I believe that the whole project should be handed over to the scientists. Also, the Dal Lake should be well-demarcated and all illegal encroachments should be demolished....

Lead kindly light

I have been a fan of your work since the time you published the State of the Environment series. Down To Earth is doing a wonderful job by raising awareness about the environment as well as fighting the government and big corporations.

Your article on corruption in the construction of embankments in Bihar was so good that it can easily qualify to be a collector's item. Your children's supplement Gobar Times is also excellent....

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