Driving to environmental disaster?

Hi, Martin here: 

The Indian company, Tata, is set to launch on Thursday what is thought to be the world’s cheapest new car, which will retail at around $2,500. 

Tata hopes to create a new market for its People’s Car by selling them to India’s burgeoning middle classes, which some experts say are set to grow from around 50 million now to more than 500 million by 2025.

It also says it wants to make a safer mode of travel available to some of the millions of Indians who currently use motorbikes to transport themselves and their families.

But some environmental experts have warned that a big increase in the number of cars on India’s road will be a major threat to the enviroment.

Does everyone who can afford it have the right to own and drive a car?  Are Indians merely being offered something that many in the developed world take for granted? Should there be limits on the number of cars on the planet’s roads? 

14 Responses to “Driving to environmental disaster?”

  1. 1 Vijay
    January 7, 2008 at 15:42

    Driving to environmental disaster?

    Indias middle classes won’t be buying this car ,they are very status conscience and they don’t want the cheapest car around,at the moment there is a car called the Maruti Suzuki 800 which is priced around $4500 and its sales are declining in favour of the next model up the Maruti Suzuki Alto.
    I am sure Tata are aiming at the motorcycle and scooter owners ,and easy finance and trade ins will be available to encourage entry into car ownership.

    As far as any Environmental concerns ,well I am sure living in mud huts and walking everywhere on foot ,defecating in a field is more environmentaly friendly but most people want to have a brick house ,electricity ,piped water supply,roads(transportation), education and healthcare .
    People from Industrialised developed countries should wait until the level of per capita emissions in India and China equal there own level before they complain plus of course some countries have been industrialised for 200 years ,India and China have only just started.
    If there are more car owners there will be more complaints about the poor infrastructure(due to corruption and incompetence) and may be the government might take action.

  2. 2 pendkar
    January 7, 2008 at 16:24

    Being assertive about the right to emit carbon is not going to really help India. India cannot afford to make all the mistakes that the developed world has been making. It is way too late for making mistakes of that kind and the sheer numbers are of a different order of magnitude. It is not concern for the global environment, but the immediate conditions in the country that should prompt India to think of longer term solutions. Private transport in cars for most of the masses is not the long term solution. Already, most of the the cities and towns are nightmarish, with exhaust fumes and clogged roads. Even with most urban people owning only motorbikes, the roads in cities like Hyderabad are clogged and the air is thick with traffic fumes. If these people all shift to cars, the roads will be jammed shut. India will have to skip the car phase and move ahead to the next step – use technology to provide good public transport. there is also a need to reduce tha amount of commuting the city dwellers do by restructuring the cities, connecting up offices and by making public services available over communication channels.

  3. 3 George
    January 7, 2008 at 18:09

    Status conscious?

    I have had my vacinations against status envy.

    Flip me a Tata.

    Sounds just my speed.

  4. 4 Zak
    January 8, 2008 at 05:51

    The most interesting development in this story from my perspective here in the US is that this Tata car won’t be released in this country due to the construction of the body being made of glue products. It shows that every automobile industry push is for profit and that will always come at the cost of the environment. Even when you have an advancement in one country it still amounts to an overall setback for global pollution for the lack it brings to the other countries.

    The problem has been outlined on all of the economic based topic discussions on WHYS: driving down the oil market is the equivalent of driving down that worlds major economies. Unfortunately it’s still going to come down to each individual solving their own travel requirements in the most environmentally friendly manner as possible. In Viet-Nam it’s still going to be the bicycle that dominates the flow of traffic.

    EU mandates are desperately in error and WHYS NEEDS TO EXPLORE THIS TOPIC. The demand for alternative fuels is causing 10’s of thousands of acres in Indonesia’s Rainforest to be slashed and burned by people who have no legal rights to the land – supposedly to plant oil palms but in some cases the land is torched and left unused. The EU needs to recognize, and is just now beginning to acknowledge it, that the proper fuel choice is not virgin SVO but waste WVO – that’s how I roll.

  5. January 8, 2008 at 12:50

    Zak, I agree with you completely.
    The BioEtrhanol route is a complete disaster and is driven by huge US backhanders to large US/International Agri concerns of the Monsanto type.

  6. January 8, 2008 at 17:01

    The $2,500 Tat car offers a huge opportunity for buyers smart enough to use such transportation for their immediate financial gain. My 6 visits to India taught me that millions of rural Indian people are intelligent enough to hold down good jobs but these jobs simply were not located close enough to their homes. These same people were smart enough to see the folly of packing up and moving to a larger city. I would often see them riding two on a scooter for a hour just to get to a slightly larger town.
    In addition, small business people will use such a car to carry products to a larger market and perhaps get better prices for these crafts and produce. The new Tata car offers many of the same benefits of micro-loans which are currently transforming the lives of many desperately poor.

    People in the lower classes have no concerns for greenhouse gas emissions, nor should they. It is up to the rich and highly educated to address these issues, the lifestyles of the wealthy will always generate the lion’s share of waste and pollution.

  7. 7 Gopal Kr Jha
    January 9, 2008 at 10:12

    Dear TH Williams.
    I agree your comment. This samll car will encourage the middle class Indians to stay in their villages rather than seeking shelter in the big town for their jobs. It will also increase the productivity of the rural India. As far the green house effect is concerned I think developed country should be more responsible for it. Let the poors also enjoy the luxuries of 21st century.But at the same time we should all be serious about the green house effect as well.
    Gopal Kr. Jha
    Kathmandu, Nepal

  8. 8 Vikram
    January 9, 2008 at 18:29

    OMG India develops a $2500 car and it is an environment disaster; millions of gas guzzling SUV’s are sold every year in the west and that is kosher? Fix your environment record first before accusing someone else.

  9. 9 Josh
    January 10, 2008 at 10:44

    Seems to me that the only practical thing to do now is research on how to clean our air. Rather than waste time blaming poeple for wanting better lives. Lets put all our effort on a new “Policy Clean the air”. for a better future. (am a scientist i know about cleaning fluids/liquids). if the biggest poluters invested in heavy research we can do it.

  10. January 10, 2008 at 12:14

    Vikram, you said it.

  11. 11 John P.
    January 10, 2008 at 13:04

    In an effort to match US standards of living, I have 2 vehicles though only one works, Indians are going to rush to buy Tatas and then sit in smoggy traffic and enjoy the resulting plague of lung disease and traffic deaths.

    The government of India could have made the choice to greatly expand mass transit and even leapfrog over Western standards by creating a personal rapid transit system. Instead you have chosen climate change and pollution.

    Please don’t complain to the rest of the world when petrol and food prices rise out of the reach of your poor. You’ve chosen to become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

  12. 12 Ray (in London).
    January 10, 2008 at 13:42


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