The trend now is to produce, consume and buy locally as much as possible. In no way does it mean the revival of past utopia
Green transportation in Vancouver. Photo – vancouver-ca
By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
It is common knowledge that imported goods drain huge sums out of the country and the taxes levied on them fill government coffers. It is also widely acknowledged that preserving world environment should top the list of priorities.
Right now decision makers, economists, scientists and citizens know that their business is to keep the right balance between innovation, job creation and securing health. The Netherlands, France and Hungary are gearing up for the promotion of clean energy by the use of electric bicycles. Holland is years ahead in implementing green transportation and providing cycle lanes for bike users. France considers expanding the use of bicycles to the suburbs so that suburbans can commute to city centres by their own means. Cycles enable seven times more people to travel to their workplaces than individual cars and require less space for parking. It is facilitating transport for city dwellers in Paris itself. Dutch citizens living in France are pushing for the use of clean energy. Hungary is seriously considering to adopt such measures.
Obviously, the first advantage is to reduce the oil import bill and dependence on foreign raw energy, keep money in the country and cut down air and noise pollution.
Currently, there is a significant hike in the sales of bikes, and bike sellers are looking forward to manufacturing bikes in Europe, and set up a Made in France label in the near future. The basic materials such as aluminium have to be imported from Asia. The goal is to become more independent and cut down imports from China for items which they can manufacture locally. Besides, Hungary has a leadership which has a pronounced leaning to nationalist sentiment, and its president shows much interest in reducing oil import and adopting greener means of transport.
What about Mauritius? Can it do without the incentive to buy cars and collect taxes from high interests? The road network in villages and towns has little space for providing cycle lanes. For years, there have been no efforts to give due attention to the issue of alternative mode of transport. Year in year out the annual budget looks like the choices are limited and the country is stuck in living above its means and overspending on imports despite the more or less ‘social’ leaning of different ministers of Finance. Most of the roads are narrow and congested with cars, buses, lorries and vans at peak hours. A chaotic situation in the surroundings of the two bus stations in the capital is viewed as part of the local folklore.
Introducing bicycles implies some modification in the itinerary of other vehicles in the four towns . A different option can be studied in the villages. Progress does not mean more expensive and modern stuff which other countries manufacture and sell to us. Port-Louis and its streets were built at a time when horse carriages were a common means of transport for a small minority of well-off citizens. Not much has changed in its road infrastructure ever since though the population has gone up significantly. Any suggestion for motor rickshaws is likely to be frowned upon or derided. Yet it looks like a practical means of transport in cities, thus sparing pedestrians long walks from one place to another end of the towns. Indians travel by rickshaws and invest in space programs.
Are we too advanced compared to Indians to introduce motor rickshaws over here? We find it very handy when visiting around in Indian cities. So why not here? Already in Triolet someone moves around with a rickshaw of his own making. It is such a headache for some elderly sick people to go to hospitals or mediclinics, taxis are far too expensive. The manufacture of electric bikes and electric motor rickshaws does not require skyrocketing technology. They could also be exported to other countries. Traffic congestion in big African capitals like Lagos in Nigeria is chaotic and messy. Either we manufacture or we import from India, South Korea or China, but we cannot go on increasing the fleet of cars and the fuel bill, and let money pour out of the island.
In India there has been an exponential use of solar energy. For instance, the Sai Baba ashrams have several solar panels installed on rooftops and use solar energy instead of electricity and gas to cook and serve thousands of free meals on a daily basis. Women in remote villages make a living by selling small solar panels. Can’t we envisage the use of solar energy for cooking in individual households and hospitals? Hospitals in quite a number of Asian countries optimise solar energy to meet their needs.
Besides, in India, China, Singapore and other countries, vegetables are grown on rooftops of hospitals for consumption. Other natural methods are experimented – to cool down the temperature during summer season, and reduce the use of air-conditioners.
It seems that this country is stuck in old habits and is unable to innovate. It must be depressing for the younger generation to put up with the narrow vision of decision makers. Modern technology, robotics, clean energy are clearly not on the agenda. Not even a life-threatening pandemic can prompt the leadership to get off beaten tracks. The focus is only on more lands for agriculture, which should not lead to too much competition among planters. New sectors in modern technology, etc., were already mentioned in previous budgets and have remained quite vague in their development. Without a political culture of transparency, investments of a few millions here and there does not mean much to the public.
What we all agree upon is that we have to import less, consume moderately, save more energy and money, innovate and manufacture new items. Over here successive governments opted for easy money generated by policies dictated by big business. Locals hardly have any know-how to manufacture anything. We are now feeling the pinch. Covid-19 should jolt one and all into a new awareness.
Many advanced countries which have been competing for a few more dollars or euros by locating key industries in lower income countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and North Africa are pushing for ‘localism’ even before the pandemic outbreak. The trend now is to produce, consume and buy locally as much as possible. In no way does it mean the revival of past utopia either, something which is being rekindled by far-left wing die-hard supporters.
* Published in print edition on 9 June 2010