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Sunita Narain proposes more Government

September 5, 2009 Leave a comment
Dilbert knows all ...

Dilbert knows all ...

we bought samples of leading brands available in the market and analysed content for the toxin. What we found was staggeringly high levels of lead in virtually all samples we checked. India does not have a mandatory standard for regulating lead in paints. We only have a voluntary code laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which specifies that lead content should be 1,000 parts per million (ppm). Our tests found that the biggest and best companies had lead levels 180 times the voluntary standard.   

But we were not surprised, as I said. After all, the government has not set standards to phase out lead in this daily-use product. Something most governments had done some 20 years ago. In the US, lead had been termed the number one environmental threat to the health of children. But it was a non-issue for the industry in India. We were angry at this indifference and decided to write to all major paint companies asking them about their plans to phase out lead. We expected little response. But this time we were really surprised.   

Two of the major companies — Asian Paints and Nerolac — wrote back saying that they were planning to get rid of lead. They promised that this would happen soon, within a few months. So, instead of immediately releasing our report, we thought we should wait: To recheck and to validate if the companies kept the promise they had made to us. Some months later we went to the market and picked samples of the same companies.   

Our analysis found a change. Of the big five, three companies had no lead in their product. Asian Paints and Nerolac had indeed cleaned up. Berger and Shalimar still had lead in the samples we tested. Both are big companies and neither have any excuses. The fact is that companies have the technology to phase out lead. (via Sunita Narain: New coat of paint).   

Failed agency, failed agenda, failed model

Failed agency, failed agenda, failed model

Actions matter

 Much as I like Sunita Narain’s work, her reading of this situation is wrong.   

Unlike her fault-finding, this was good news. For three reasons.   

1. Three out of the five biggest companies voluntarily agreed and reduced lead content – at a significant cost to their own bottom-lines. Without a sword over their head or legal threats hanging over them. Just a gentle pointer did the trick. That is good news. This is possibly why Indians trust their companies more than the Rest of the World.   

2. The Government has voluntary codes – which are NOT enforced. Unlike the US. We should do more of this – and not less, Ms.Sunita Narain. Bigger Government, with greater enforcement agenda is a bad idea – and no good can ever come out of it.  

EPA does nothing about Environment and Justice does nothing to do with justice

EPA does nothing about Environment and Justice does nothing to do with justice

For you to call for greater Government activism is simply more bad news. The American model is faulty, expensive and prone to abuse. Why copy a failed model?  

3. Ms.Narain – Maybe, your organization can franchise a ‘प’ (Prakriti) logo – for all companies that voluntarily adhere to the highest global standards. And that will again be good news.   

Let us take away the regulatory load (which will soon become overload) from the Government and move towards self-regulation.   

I think it is time you took a 2ndlook.   

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