ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

THE JUDICIARY-Not above Accountability

which make up the dyes. Testing for these every time, say, a textile manufacturer buys a batch of dyes is near-impossible. This in turn would mean that dye-users would opt for 'reliable' sources or, in other words, reputed large companies which presumably satisfy the required standards. Secondly, the introduction of substitute green' products or processes involves a cost factor, the 'transaction cost', which too works against small industries in third world countries. A recent UNCTAD report on the environmental impact on technology transfer recognises that a number of small and medium enterprises could be driven to ruin by high environmental standards. These firms and the labour employed in them would then become the responsibility of the state. In the case of azo dyes, the concerned departments of the Indian government have acknowledged that changeover to safer dyes could render unemployed a large number of workers. The change thus involves financial inputs, which the state is hard put to find. The labour issue has also come up in the case of greenhouse gas emissions, where powerful labour unions, such as the German coal mining union, have opposed the country's climate policy which will eventually put the squeeze on coal mining. That brings us to the third issue: who is to bear the cost of making technology and products environmentally sound? This is an issue which had come up as early as 1979 at the UN Conference on Science and Technology which first focused attention on technology transfer. At that time the issue was linked to development, while today UNCED's Agenda 21 links it to environment. But then as well as at Rio, the stumbling block has been resources. Agenda 21 declares that "access to and the transfer of environmentally sound technology are essential requirements for sustainable development", but it has left open the question of "financial resources to acquire environmentally sound technology". This issue is coming into focus more clearly in the course of implementing the Global Environment Facility, the first international arrangement which explicitly finances activities in third world countries directed towards reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. The north-south debate has centred on whether the north, which bears the major responsibility for causing the climate problem, should not accept the burden of transferring the required resources and technology so that further damage is not caused to the environment by the use of environmentally-damaging technologies in third world countries. The UNCTAD report recognises that the long-standing problem of the divergence in technological trajectories between the north and the south is likely to be exacerbated by environmental requirements". In addition and this is something the UNUTAD report interestingly does not mention there is the question of what the emphasis on environmentally sound technologies will mean for the research infrastructure which many third world countries, like India, have created. Industry, especially in a liberalising environment, will opt to buy proven technology from the north rather than promote indigenous research, especially when the change to the new technology needs to be accomplished with the shortest possible 'downtime'. Moreover, it is not as if there are readily available alternatives. In India, and in most developing countries, little attempt has been made to come to grips with the Ievels and types of technological inputs required to make the changeover to more environment-friendly processes and products and as a result no comprehensive programme to undertake relevant research in this area has emerged.

Dear reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top