Policy Police | Centre for Science and Environment

Policy Police


Transit conundrum

We never expected public transport to catch the political imagination in the car maniacal city of Delhi. So we were pleasantly surprised by the recent budget of the Delhi government. The transport sector has hogged the biggest pie of the total budgetary allocation – nearly one-fourth of the total plan outlay. Apparently this is spurred by its commitment to complete all public transport projects in the pipeline – high capacity bus system, and electric trolley bus system within three years.

Fueling Economy

The oil price surge has left the market watchers and media agog. Expert views sparred on price insulation, energy security and our vulnerability. It was fascinating to follow the desperate bid to brag that the global crude price hike will not hurt Indian incomes as much as they did the last time. Oil dependence of Indian income is on the downturn as we are earning more from non-oil based IT sectors. Reportedly, India’s oil consumption to GDP ratio has fallen by 56 per cent since the nineties.

Air quality assessment: More spin than substance

This was announced with great élan and machismo in a public meeting recently -- The ministry of environment and forests will take charge of the controversial pollution inventory study that is being carried out in five cities and billed to four oil companies. The top brass in the ministry are still not willing to confirm this as their final decision. More meetings are planned to help them make up their mind.

Requiem for the state bus

Kill. The ultimate scalpel operation as the final sign of life ebbs away. Let it die, rather than drag a colossal waste. We were probably expecting this to happen. Not just to this state-owned bus transit undertaking in India’s largest state -- Madhya Pradesh -- but to numerous other undertakings that have state governments as their bosses. Bankruptcy at monthly losses totaling Rs 50 million, indignity of unpaid salaries for 11,500 staff members that run only 1500 buses forced this euthanasia in Madhya Pradesh.

MMT: Courting poison

We had no clue this was happening in India. We were suspicious ever since we read the illuminating study on the deadly octane enhancer, MMT (Methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl) from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). Scary. Manganese particles from MMT burning as a petrol additive, is a potent neurotoxin that damages the brain when inhaled. Manganese deposit fouls up vehicle components and emission control systems. As an octane booster, MMT is expected to save fuel. But in reality, as evidence shows, it barely makes any difference.

War on MMT won

We welcome the swift intervention of the Union Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, to ascertain the status of the use of the MMT (methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl), a manganese-based octane enhancer in petrol. This has elicited voluntary admission from the national oil companies that they will not blend MMT in petrol "any more". For the first time, Indian oil companies have volunteered to discontinue the use of a harmful substance in the face of strong public concern.

Learning from Lahore

Sometimes beginning late can be an opportunity – more advantageous then even the beginners’ advantage. If a city has done nothing so far to clean up, and begins now, it is easier to steer clear of the gaffes and the clangers of the early birds. Avoid the sheer burden of false moves of the past. Begin right. Lahore, one of the most happening metros in Pakistan, is poised to do just that.

Small cars – big dilemmas

The farmers of Singur in West Bengal are desperate to save their land from transforming into an assembly line for cars of Tata Motors priced at one lakh rupees (US$2222). While the state’s left front government is eager to oblige with cheap land deal, the Union government is ready with more tax cuts to shorten the fuse and set off explosion in car sales. In promising unconditional support our regulators forgot to ask about the product itself, -- an unusually cheap micro car – whose impact will reverberate much beyond Singur.

Policy Police: Is air pollution a problem any more?

Way back in 2007 we had said Delhi would wake up that winter to more smog and pollution; more wheeze and asthma. Air pollution was on its way back up. Every winter would turn back the pollution clock. At stake was our health. Newly released official air quality data now reconfirms our worst fears. It is not only Delhi, but other cities as well – Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Kanpur, are climbing the smoggy spikes after a little respite.

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