Indians don’t have the right to cheap, safe transport. Or so the British Friends of the Earth seem to be saying.

Their spokesman Tony Bosworth has greeted the advent of India’s $2,795 Tata Nano, trumpeted as the world’s cheapest car, by saying “The Tata Nano makes motoring cheaper and growing car sales in India will lead to big rises in carbon dioxide emissions. This is another blow to efforts to tackle global climate change.”

Tata Chairman Ratan Tata says “I have observed families riding on two-wheelers – the father driving the scooter, his young son standing in front of him, his wife seated behind him, holding a baby.” He hopes these people can now own a Nano.

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“It fulfils the need of the common Indian who aspires to move from a two-wheeler to a four-wheeler,” India’s Commerce Minister Kamal Nath says.

The left in the West used to support the aspirations of people in developing nations to a better quality of life, including better transport.

Do they still? A car is safer and more comfortable than a scooter. But it also creates higher carbon emissions.

“My first reaction when someone says they need to buy a car is to say don’t buy it,” the London Independent today quotes Soumya Brata Rahut from Greenpeace India as saying in a cover story headed “Can the world afford the Tata Nano?”. “But people are buying cars, I cannot stop them. The revolution in small cars means there will be more and more.”

He’s right – and if activists in the West try to deny these people their aspirations, they are guilty of a new eco-imperialism.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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