Today in New Delhi, India
Nov 17, 2018-Saturday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

Consumers must fix accountability on manufacturers, government for pollution

We’ve got to talk about planned obsolescence when products are designed to get outdated fast, so more can be sold. We’ve got to support local groups fighting pollution.

environment Updated: Jul 02, 2018 08:01 IST
Bharati Chaturvedi
Pollution,Air Pollution,aluminium smelting
A traffic policeman, wearing an anti-pollution mask, mans traffic amid smog and air pollution which continues to be above dangerous levels, at Vijay Chowk in New Delhi. (PTI File Photo)

An acquaintance on a Whatsapp Group recently asked why mining companies alone should be held accountable for the pollution emitted by them when it was the consumers that drove demand which eventually drove mining.

This pushed me to think. How did this even make sense? Yes, consumers must cut down overconsumption. But what if the aluminium pan you’ve been using for years for your morning chai is the progeny of terrible bauxite mining and highly polluting aluminium smelting? Are you to blame?

If you have several other pans stacked away, underused, you are guilty of overconsumption. But you aren’t guilty of the havoc caused by mining and smelting, unless you’re sharing their profits. Here’s why: First, most companies are set up to make as much profit as possible, including avoiding what’s not mandatory. So, there isn’t an incentive to shift to clean production if it costs.

Second, huge projects are extraordinarily damaging, but mega returns are based on mega investments. India’s economic model believes in ‘big,’ which offers financial (but inequitable) returns, so there’s state encouragement for these. Third, you aren’t a partner but the market, the part where the profit cycle is closed. You are key to the business model.

This doesn’t mean we reduce consumption and sit back. We’ve got to proactively educate ourselves and hold accountable the manufacturers and government. We’ve got to talk about planned obsolescence when products are designed to get outdated fast, so more can be sold. We’ve got to support local groups fighting pollution. On an increasingly fragile planet, being agnostic is not an option.

(The writer is Founder and Director Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)

First Published: Jul 02, 2018 07:59 IST