Saturday, May 22, 2010

U.S. and Us, A Dollar to Rupees 50, maybe more...

This entry reflects on the British Petroleum oil rig explosion that took place in April and how US' double standards affect the rest of us.

On 20 April, 2010 BP oil rig Deepwater Horizon (under lease from Transocean) blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to a massive oil spill and continued spewing of crude from the bottom of the sea. This disaster of an accident is expected to cause major damage to the Gulf's ecosystem and economy. Efforts are underway to limit the extent of the damage.

Thankfully, for the US and its Citizens/Taxpayers, the US has in place the Oil Pollution Act (1990). Under the Act, the owner/operator of the facility from which oil is discharged into US waters, shorelines and economic zones, is liable for the cost of restoring, rehabilitating and replacing the equivalent of the damaged natural resources. As BP owned the license to drill at the site, it is liable to pay for the clean-up and any other resulting damages.

This falls in line with the principle of polluter pays.

The polluter pays principle, also known as the extended polluter responsibility (EPR), shifts the burden of dealing with the waste - from the government and the taxpayers to those producing it. As the cost of waste disposal is internalized into the cost of the product, it can be reasonably expected that the manufacturer will make a better product and the operator will practice due diligence in its use.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines EPR as:

A concept where manufacturers and importers of products should bear a significant degree of responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the product life-cycle. Producers accept their responsibility when designing their products to minimize life-cycle environmental impacts, and when accepting legal, physical or socio-economic responsibility for environmental impacts that cannot be eliminated by design.

It is not uncommon for foreign firms to provide sub-standard or even fake products at very high costs. At times the products fail to do even the basic jobs required of them. Case in point is the selling of thousands of fake explosives-detectors (ADE 651) by a British firm to Afghanistan, Iraq and some 20 other countries (I do not know if India is one of them). As Iraq was struggling with suicide bombings on an almost daily basis, in desperation it apparently paid $40,000 for each device and a total of $85 million for this useless piece of crap. God only knows how many lives have been lost due to the 'use' of this device at several checkpoints in Iraq.

Against this backdrop, the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill 2010 which caps the compensation for a nuclear accident at just Rs.500 crore is plain ridiculous and a stab in the back of the Indian Citizens / Tax Payers. A nuclear accident/disaster will bring greater destruction than any oil spill to both human lives and the environment for generation to come. The decontamination/containment costs alone could be so high as to use up the entire the Rs.500 crore in a matter of months. It's unthinkable that in the event of a nuclear accident/disaster any meaningful rehabilitation can be worked out within this amount.

Furthermore, the wordings of the Bill are such that the burden of compensation and restoration will fall on the Indian government and hence the Indian Tax Payers. The US manufacturers of the nuclear plant and the 'fly by night' operators will alone benefit due to the shifting of the liability. It will be like giving licenses to US firms to make bigger and even more expensive ADE 651s, costing billions of dollars, which the Indian government will buy at the cost of its citizens' future and lives. Each Indian politician will receive hefty kickbacks/favors of course, in one form or the other.

Have we forgotten Chernobyl, Bhopal and Union Carbide!?

It does not take a genius to figure out that if you lift accountability off a person or firm, he/she/they will sell you to the dogs... our politician and bureaucrats are the biggest examples in front of us!

Mr/Ms Politician, with your millions you might be able to eat and drink imported food stuff and water, but you will still breathe the same air as the rest of us. And that air will be filled with nuclear radiation and the stench of the blood of innocent victims. It will affect you too!

The US and our politicians have mastered the art of serving their self interests - which includes the interests of Mega-Corporations. It is only natural for the US administration to squeeze as many concessions out of the Indian administration as possible for safeguarding the interests of its Corporations - human tragedy can go to hell as far they are concerned. However, it seems the Indian government of the day is light years behind in securing the interests of its citizens.

Just like the exchange rate, a US citizen's life must be worth more than the lives of 50 Indians... maybe even more if our government could have its way.

No comments:

Post a Comment