Jan 112008

Before you ask, I was aware that the new Tata Nano car was being launched as I wrote my optimistic blog post about India and sustainable development. I know many environmentalists are horrified by the prospect of such a cheap car hitting India’s roads and today’s Independent front page is dedicated to asking ‘Can the World Afford this Car?’So I just re-read what I wrote yesterday, and I still stand by it, because despite the horrific pollution across the country, I still believe that countries like India and China, who will feel the effects of our climate crisis before we do in the West, have the potential, spiritually, culturally and intellectually, to grow sustainably. Or at least a lot more sustainably than Europe and America have shown themselves to be capable of so far.The truth is that we are not in a position to lecture India about sustainable transport policy. Nor is it our right to deny 1.3 billion Indians affordable transport that allows them to avoid cramming 4 passengers without helmets (sometimes with small children) onto dangerously rusting scooters. Anyone who has been on an Indian road, large or small, will know what I mean. It’s interesting that Western NGOs like Friends of the Earth have been diplomatic in their criticism, rightly pointing out that it’s only by leading from the front that we can start to win the right to teach developing nations about sustainable development. And as I said yesterday, my money is on India getting there faster than we have (although the Tata car only does 65km/hour).

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