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India's the greenest of them all

Indian consumers are the greenest in the world, said a global survey of 17 countries, released on a day when the Municipal Corporation of Delhi became the nation's first civic body to cash in on cutting down carbon emissions. Abhijit Patnaik and Jatin Anand report. On top of the heap | Solar advantage

delhi Updated: Jun 05, 2010 12:31 IST

Indian consumers are the greenest in the world, said a global survey of 17 countries, released on a day when the Municipal Corporation of Delhi became the nation's first civic body to cash in on cutting down carbon emissions.

A municipal compost plant in Okhla — run by the private sector ILFS group — generated a first, modest cheque of of Rs 5 lakh in carbon emission reduction (CER) credits for its plan to keep more than 9,000 tonnes of carbon over the next 10 years by stopping methane leaks from garbage.

"In an age in which American consumerism has nudged most of the developing world into aping its values, such success stories illustrate public-private partnership model is the way to go," said Dr Rajendra K Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change.

CERs, or carbon credits, are environmental currency, issued by the United Nations — after a rigorous procedure that can last two years; the Okhla plant was cleared in one — to a project that cuts carbon emissions. The credits can then be traded on international exchanges like shares.

Conducted by the National Geographic Society and GlobeScan, an international opinion research consultancy, the survey of 17,000 consumers said India not only retained its first position from 2009, but increased its lead over other nations.

Brazil is ranked No 2, while US consumers are ranked last.

The survey uses an index of consumption habits and their environmental impact in five categories: Goods, food, housing, transport and attitudes.

India's proclivity for small cars, its relatively low vehicle density (India has 12 vehicles per 1,000 people; the US has 765 per 1,000), the penchant Indians have for fruits and vegetables and locally grown foods over imports - these contribute to the score.

"India has a good baseline," said Anumita Roy Choudhury, a transport expert with Delhi's Centre for Science and Environment.

"Our carbon footprint is low in part due to our sustainable transport practices - high usage of public transport and non-motorised transport."

Indians prefer motorcycles or scooters and are likely to choose to live close to their destinations, the survey noted.

At the Okhla compost plant, the MCD Commissioner was handed over the Rs-5-lakh cheque. The MCD keeps 25 per cent of the carbon credits generated by the plant, which it runs in partnership with Infrastructural Land and Finance Services (IL&FS) Waste Management & Urban Services Limited, New Delhi.

"The CERs issued to the MCD from the Okhla composting project are not only the first for any municipal solid waste management project in the country, but also the first for any such project in the world," said an MCD officer, requesting anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the press.