12 Jan 2008

Tata Nano: stolen land and polluted air

The world's cheapest car looks set to eventually allow millions to buy cars that they could not previously afford. Although the Tata Nano car, produced in India, is high fuel economy and low emissions, this will still be a disaster in terms of climate change.

I don't drive and I am aware that mass car ownership makes my life more difficult, if many people drive, local services disappear and those who don't drive suffer. Cars are convenient but think

- Rising Carbon Dioxide and other climate change gases.

- High mortality on the roads

- Loss of habitats and housing to build the roads to take the cars

- Loss of play space as it becomes unsafe for children to play outside

- Giant mining projects to get the metals for cars

- Extraction of oil, a very dirty process

- The increased use of biofuels with energy crops replacing rainforests and farmland used for food.

- The creation of micro particles that lead to lung disease

The protesters are buring the car because they say the factory building it, is on stolen land, enclosed from peasants...same old story.

Even as the Tatas unveiled their Rs one lakh car in Delhi, West Bengal's main opposition Trinamool Congress on Thursday threatened to stall its manufacture at Singur plant.

''Until farmers get back their land forcibly acquired for the Tata Motors small car plant at Singur, we will not allow the company to manufacture cars there,'' Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Partha Chatterjee told a press conference here.

Chatterjee warned ''if pressure is put, there will be trouble.''

Alleging that 347 acre was forcibly acquired by the Left Front government to enable Tata Motors to set up the plant, he said ''the matter is still sub judice.''

''We are warning Ratan Tata that he should not dare to go to the Tata Motors Singur plant without returning land to farmers who were forced to part with it,'' he said.

The Communist Party government of West Bengal is copying the Chinese government approach of seizing land for free trade export processing zones, corporations can use cheap land, cheap labour and minimum regulation to cut costs. Prosperity for some, loss of land for others.

There are some interesting Indian critiques of the drive for high growth for some

The problem is: when businesses are making profits and the rich are getting richer, no one in a position of authority wants to disturb the cycle, even if its long-term evils are easily comprehended.

Acquisitive materialism – selfishness, not to put too fine a point on it – is at the heart of this dynamic. In the urban context, in the higher strata of Indian society, me-first is the ethic of the age. Sure, I hear people talk a good game about the application of Vedic, Islamic, Jain, and other ancient Indian religious traditions to timeless issues like the environment and social harmony. I hear even more about Indian ideals of lack-of-attachment and egolessness. But I certainly can’t see any of these principles exercised to any meaningful extent as the country defines and develops itself.

Even the aesthetic sensibility of contemporary India has been lost to the new materialism. Think of all the building that has occurred in India within the last decade – or since Independence, for that matter. How many good designs have been built? I have only experienced one truly great, intellectually ambitious (if also deeply flawed) piece of contemporary architecture in India; are there more? How many world-class painters or plastic artists does India boast these days? Only in literature, music, and perhaps film does India propagate voices that speak in even remote proportion to its share of the world population.

India will persist in creating prosperity for the corrupt, the already-wealthy, and the urban classes poised for upward mobility. In the process, it will continue to cash-in its rich natural and cultural heritage for easy money and the material trappings of affluence. It will defile its landscape while replicating America’s unsustainable consumer society.

What an appalling waste of opportunity!

200 million middle income Indians could buy the 'peoples car' causing huge environmental prolems. Ownership in the USA is 477 for every 1,000 people, 373 in the UK and in India at present just 7. This could rise with the Tata Nano with plans to produce 250,000 a year.

So we in the UK and the USA need to be saying goodbye to cars, public transport and localised economies should be used to drastically reduce miles driven.

Many of us, not me love the car, but we need to be less car dependent not more.


Tall Economist said...

Derek, The economic argument is lost on me here: it is clear the killer fact is that in the UK and US we have too many cars. Why are the Indians with "ecological space" to burn a focus for big-burning Brits? Why should global environment limits limit opportunities for the poor not the rich?

Given lower income and access to capital and cheap maintenance and parts in most developing countries, the actual cost of car ownership is far far higher than in the UK. We have the cheap cars, not the Indians?!

Is the solution encapsulated by; how can we divert clean technologies [including clean automobiles] to fast developing countries [BRIC] while stopping car ownership in developed countries?

Any attempt to curtail opportunities for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty should be scorned by eco-socialists - balancing social and environmental, not arbitrarily trumping!

Pratibha Rathore said...

Your blog gains relevant today as the nano is getting launch. To discuss this issue further join the group on facebook. I have started a discussion based on your blog and also your blogs link. u can discuss the issue further on facebook..quite an interesting take


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Vote No Heathrow

Just had this via Roger Hallam of Vote No Heathrow, please spread the word. Things are rapidly taking off for the campaign now the hung...