Passing the buck

The industry puts the onus of a clean environment on government agencies

Published: Wednesday 15 November 2000

once again, a half-hearted attempt has been made by the Indian industry to address the issue of surviving in a global market where businesses are driven by sound environmental practices. At a workshop 'The Environment Summit 2000' organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry ( cii ) in New Delhi from October 10-11, industry representatives failed to show any signs of accepting corporate responsibility or an interest in how greater environmental consciousness can lead to improved competitiveness. Instead, they begged the government to impose strict laws.

Dilip Biswas, chairperson, Central Pollution Control Board, was quick to pour cold water over their eagerness to shift the onus on to the government. He expressed the inability of the government machinery to enforce any regulations. This, he added, was because of ineffective laws that were full of lacunae and an enforcement machinery that was non-existent.

"The entire organisational structure of the pollution control boards ( pcb s) is flawed. Municipal councillors, industrialists and businesspersons, who are responsible for harming the environment, are members of the boards. How can you take action against your own members?" he wondered. "Officials in pcb s at the highest level are mostly on deputation with no specialisation in environment," he added.

Non-governmental organisations ( ngo s ) came in for criticism at the conference. Sylvia Ostry of the University of Toronto said that ngo s, with their vast assets and transnational affiliates, had made effective use of the lack of coherence among the various multilateral environmental agreements on trade. Responding to allegations against ngo s, the lone ngo representative at the conference, Pradeep Mehta of the Consumer Unity Trust Society, said that only the industry, and no one else, was to be blamed for their misery.

Taking the example of phasing out of ozone depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol, Mehta said that the refrigeration industry was more interested in adopting weaker alternatives like hfc134a and not the hydrocarbon technology that European countries have long since adopted.

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