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Corporate Environmentalism

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 12:01 AM

Note; Automobile industry and its myopic profit mongering is one of the root causes of the current ecological crisis. Using its corporate funding for political parties, it has attempted to kill public transport and ensured that pedestrians do not have the right to exist and be alive.

Prior to Greenathon of NDTV, TERI TOYOTA, sometime back Doordarshan had a programme wherein it said Global Warming means Sulagata Brahmand (Burning Universe). Doordarshan anchor introduced R K Pachauri is a Noble laureate and his organisation The Energy Research Institute (TERI)has been awarded Noble Peace Prize at a special programme on Global Warming. Sunit Tandon and editor of India Live were anchoring
the programme. Anchors and all the panelists were seen dying to demonstrate their agreement and pay obeisance to Pachauri, who is accused of being an environmentalist by corporate media.

One is amused to note the manner in which NDTV chose to follow the footsteps of Doordarshan. Even the content analysis of TERI's work published in media and Pachauri's role can illustrate that TERI has consistently been against environmental health. Remember the CNG debate, it was opposed to CNG. Most recently it is in favour of Commonwealth Games Village in the riverbed of Yamuna. It feels the
Village is more important than Yamuna. TERI has proposed solutions like "a major expansion in nuclear power, use of GM crops to boost biofuel production, and reliance on unproven technologies" to mitigate adverse climate change. The remedies suggested are worse than the disease.

Such solutions have put likes of TERI on a collision course with those who argue that simply replacing one set of technologies with another set of technologies won't work. Nuclear reactors are dangerous and land clearance and chemical pesticides and fertilisers used to grow fuel crops can cause huge environmental damage. Pachauri is also a known supporter of Interlinking of Rivers project involving massive
land use change-a listed cause of climate change as per Kyoto Protocol.

It is shocking to note that Pachauri headed TERI is advising the Government of India to undertake polluting incineration technology based municipal waste to energy projects that has failed in US and Europe. Rationalising the same, he says, The stress is on India because we are a developing nation so we need energy more. But
developed countries shouldn't be pointing fingers at us because they have done their bit to pollute the environment. So they should set their own house in order first. TERI in its study done for Indian Environment Ministry estimates that municipal solid waste to energy projects have the largest potential of around $400,000 every year.

In fact TERI itself in one of its other studies on solid waste management in India has pointed out that the techno-economic feasibility of such projects is not established. Therefore, their recommendation to undertake the same is baffling given the fact that waste incineration is mentioned in the annexure A of the Protocol as a
source of green house gas emissions. Although by now it is fairly well known that carbon trade does not alleviate poverty, Pachauri remains a votary of this trade in the name of poor.

It must be remembered that Pachauri, an Indian engineer and an economist had replaced Robert Watson, a US atmospheric scientist in 2002 as the Chairman of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Watson has been the chairman of IPCC since 1996. Pachauri received 76 votes as a result of George Bush administration's reported campaign against Watson who got only 49 votes. At the behest of fossil fuel
lobby, the US campaign worked on a strategy for Watson's removal to ensure industry friendly officials at IPCC. The world's biggest oil company, Exxon-Mobil among others had proposed this strategy in liaison with oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia. His industry friendly approach manifested itself in all the seminars,
conferences and workshops he organized either as IPCC or TERI by taking sponsorship from all those corporations who are known for heinous corporate crimes. When the Indian Ministry of Water Resources Resolution dated 24 February, 2003, made him a member of the Task Force on Interlinking of Rivers project constituted with a view to
bringing about a consensus among the states, it became evident that he
represents corporate interest and not the public interest that has rejected the mega project. A December 2002 resolution of Government of India has presented it as a panacea of all water problems that cannot be questioned.

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited in his speech Transforming India Towards a New Development Model said, We can converge civil engineering and agriculture to build a trans-India water resources system. This can be done by linking rivers on an unprecedented scale. It can result in adequate water resources for agriculture, particularly to put marginal land to
productive use and benefit marginal farmers. He was speaking at the sixth Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture organized by TERI.

Pachauri, TERI, Ambani and others who support the ecologically disastrous networking of rivers project ignore the way it would contribute to global warming by replumbing of the earth and rewriting of geography. Among other environmentally destructive consequences, it is noteworthy that Prof V. Rajamani of Jawaharlal Nehru University had brought out consequences of the proposed project on the South West monsoon. Unmindful of the fact that one of the major outcomes of development is water-scarcity, according to Pachauri this mega project would flood proof and drought proof the country, improve agriculture through canal irrigation, provide alternative transport, additional electricity, higher GDP growth, employment etc. What he does not pay attention to is that these projects cause near total removal of suspended sediment load from the stream flow, which would otherwise get deposited on land through flooding. Consequently, irrigation water would become nutrient depleted and this would necessitate the extensive use of chemical fertilizers for agriculture.

Connecting the rivers is an engineer's dream but Pachauri chooses to remain oblivious of massive human displacement, disappearance of villages, water logging of millions of hectares of agricultural land for the benefit of contractors, engineers and industrialists. According to a report of earth scientists, The benefits of the monsoon rainfall to the entire ecology of India as well as to the human-centric economy need no reiteration. The adverse effects of reduced run-off to the Bay of Bengal because of river linkages appear to be real. This report was co-authored by earth scientists such as Prof. Rajamani, U. C. Mohanty, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, R. Ramesh, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, G. S. Bhat, P. N. Vinayachandran and D. Sengupta, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India; Prasanna Kumar, National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, and R. K. Kolli, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and published in Current Science.

Pachauri does not take into cognizance several ecological and social consequences. If only little water is returned to the oceans because of interlinking of rivers, there are at least two major consequences. Marine life is deprived of nutrient supply and marine productivity is adversely affected. If the monsoon system from the Bay of Bengal slowly shuts itself off on a decadal or a century scale in the event
of land-water not reaching the sea, then rivers on the Indian continent may not exist to sustain their linkages.

Is it believable that likes of Pachauri and TERI do not know about these grave ramifications of their megalomania-a psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, genius, or omnipotence?

Gopal Krishna

Go green or smoke screen?
Is it logical to have the leader in one of the most polluting industries in the
world as a sponsor for an environmental campaign? ANAND BALA has a problem with
NDTV’s choice of a partner for its green initative.

The choice of Toyota as a sponsor for the NDTV Greenathon, was conspicuous. The
automobile industry in not the cleanest of industries when it comes to the
environment and Toyota produces a lot of diesel fumes in India.

Before I get into that, I would like to congratulate NDTV on roping in such a
large number of celebrities for such a noble cause. I hope that some these
celebrities decide to give up on their SUVs and settle for less polluting modes
of transport (even if it has four wheels). NDTV has kindled something positive.
Thank you.

I am sure when the pundits at NDTV debated the choice of Toyota and it must have
crossed their minds that it does not make logical sense to have the leader in
one of the most polluting industries in the world as a sponsor to an
environmental campaign. They must have come across reasons(s) above and over the
sponsorship fee. I am hoping they will be able to share those reasons at some
stage. I am not too sure if this was a CSR initiative of NDTV. If it was I think
it raises a few questions.

Fact: Toyota is the world's largest auto maker.

News reports in late December and early January indicate that Toyota is the
world's largest automobile producer with over 8.9 million units produced in
2008. The silver lining is that this was a dip of about 4% compared to the same
period last year. These figures (other than the decline) cannot have a positive
impact on the environment. Let us do some math with this number of 8.9 million
units. If we were to get very conservative with this number (assume all these
cars are small cars, they all run on petrol, they all clock less than 10,000 KM
a year and they sold only 8 million cars) – we would need to plant 96 million
trees a year to offset the carbon emissions! (This is a global figure)

Fact: Toyota sells/has sold a lot of diesel engines in India.

Japan (the home country of Toyota) has a ban on diesel cars in some urban
centres. This is in an effort to reduce rising pollution levels. Some Indian
cities have made attempts to ban diesel cars but this has not yet happened.

There are over 160,000 Innova vehicles on the road. The vast majority of which
(to my understanding) run on Diesel. Let us assume that they have sold 100,000
diesel cars, each clocking up approximately 15,000KM/year (conservative again as
many Innova vehicles are taxis). We would need about 1.7 million trees to offset
the carbon footprint of the Diesel Innovas! This excludes the Qualis (now out of
production) and petrol variants of the Innova. If Toyota wants to make a profit
out of India they should (at the very least) plant about 5 million trees a year
to offset emissions from all their models and past sales.

Pundits will argue with me on the assumptions that I have used to arrive at
these numbers. In my defense, these numbers are about as conservative as you can
get and if we were to sit down and make these calculations the number of trees
required would be much higher than 5 million in India and 96 million globally
for Toyota. I have been very generous is selecting the footprint calculators on
the net and have discounted some of the results as well.

I believe that Toyota chose to sponsor NDTV because it felt it was a great
Corporate Social Responsibility vehicle. Toyota, like any other company that has
ever been in India, has the right to advertise and engage with the media. The
onus of taking a position and choosing the right company as a sponsor should be
with the media. Will NDTV be willing to run a researched piece on the number of
trees required to offset the total number of cars that Toyota has produced over
the years?

Toyota has a green image. That image however has more to do with environmental
norms for cars in Japan than with anything else. Their hybrid models are
available in certain countries and hopefully will make an entry into India
someday soon. If they were truly green – they would have phased out diesel
engines on their cars. Unfortunately, hybrids are still polluting. The
electricity that we use for these cars still needs to come from a thermal power
plant or hydro-electric plant (read as large dam). Both these have an
environmental cost. The question about cars is not about how clean they can get,
but about how we can take them off the roads and substitute them with mass
public transport.

Toyota is trying to be green. Good for them. They need to be told that they are
doing what is expected of them (the bare minimum). Anybody who produces millions
of vehicles should not be cast as an environmental champion, particularly by the
media.

To end, let me give a rather extreme analogy. Dow Chemicals has a lot of CSR
initiatives. But the Indian media would hesitate to engage with them because
they manufacture hazardous chemicals and companies under their control have a
disastrous environmental track record (especially in India). Should they be
considered "green company”?

I would venture to say that cars are a big issue when it comes to pollution and
we need to be careful when we paint their manufacturers as champions of the
environmental cause.

The Hoot
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