The ongoing climate negotiations in Cancun have brought back into focus the debate that whether soot or “black carbon” is contributing to global warming, and having adverse impact on the health of Himalayan glaciers.
Indian Minister of Environment & Forest Mr. Jairam Ramesh has understandably opposed the developed countries’ attempt to include the “black carbon” issue in the main framework of the climate negotiations. It is quite evident that the developed countries have raised this issue to divert attention from their own drawbacks as far as addressing the greenhouse gases emission is concerned. Besides, Mr. Ramesh has rightly pointed out that India’s “black carbon” emission percentage is too negligible to create any serious impact on the environment.
Moreover, it is practically impossible for the Indian government, at least till near future, to restraint certain soot producing practices like burning of wood or cow dung. The poor people of India who are into these practices cannot overnight be provided with any affordable alternative. It is a practical problem that the government of India cannot wish away.
However, if there are reports of soot posing a threat to Himalayan glaciers, then the same cannot be completely ignored. And I feel that the government of India can take at least one step in that regard, which is banning of one soot producing practice in and around the Himalayan region. And the soot producing practice that I am referring to is the use of diesel vehicles.
I know that the government cannot overnight ban the use of diesel vehicles in that region. But it can certainly be done in a phased manner. Initially the government can at least try to restraint the use of such vehicles in that area. Then, slowly but gradually it can go for complete ban.
Of course there are some factors that will hinder the implementation of any such step. One such factor is the inevitable rise in the transport cost in that area if there is a complete shift to petrol vehicles from diesel vehicles. However, hopefully the government will be able to address that as well, through ways like subsidies, etc.