CUTS IN MEDIA-October 2006


India’s eco-mark leaves no mark
Down To Earth, New Delhi, October 25, 2006

CUTS-ARC calls for dialogue on EPAs
October 21, 2006

Trade agreements must yield broader human development – Prof Seshamani
POST, October 21, 2006

Ecomark scheme cries for industry attention
The Financial Express, New Delhi, October 06, 2006


India’s eco-mark leaves no mark

October 25, 2006, Down To Earth
New Delhi, India

World over, eco-labelling has emerged as an effective method to inculcate environmental sensitivity in consumers. Eco-labels are essentially certificates granted to products that satisfy certain environmental yardsticks — such as recycle-ability, use of natural or recycled materials in their manufacture and low energy use. India too has its an eco-mark, the matka (earthen pitcher), introduced by the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) as far back as 1991.

The ministry claims that the symbol is apt, for the matka is a perfect example of a biodegradable product. “But,” contends Rajan Gandhi of Safety Action Group, Vadodra, Gujarat, “Agricultural topsoil is burnt at tremendous heat to make the matka . The process makes the soil lose all its physical and chemical properties. So, the earthen vessels are actually not as biodegradable as claimed by the moef ”.

In fact, question marks over India’s eco-mark transcend mere semiotics. In 1997, a study by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), a voluntary organisation based in Jaipur, Rajasthan, found that more than 80 per cent people in Indian metros were oblivious of this certificate. In contrast, 80 per cent of Germany’s population knew of the country’s eco-mark, the ‘Blue Angel’. What’s more, even a large section of the industry was in the dark on the matka till some years back. Says Siva Sankar, general manager marketing of Pune-based Ecoboard, “Our company has been making particle boards — used in manufacturing furniture — from agro-residues (an environmentally friendly procedure) since 1986, but we learnt of India’s eco-mark only in 2001.” Sankar blames this on moef ’s poor awareness campaign.

However, mere awareness is not going to make much difference in the international market. “India’s ecomark has little standing in the international market,” says R Birudh, of Tata International, a Devas-based company in Maharashtra that earns 85 per cent of its turnover by exporting leather products. This is because the moef’ s criterion for awarding the certificate is less stringent than that followed in most parts of the world. Says A K Agarwal of Orient Paper Mills,“The matka certificate is awarded after analysing the individual process that goes into the making of a product. This is much less stringent than that followed in the European Union. Here, the entire lifecycle of a product is put to test before an eco-mark is awarded to it.”

Meanwhile, moef’s eco-mark has come in for opposition within government circles as well. Says Sanjay Kumar, director, Union ministry of commerce and industry, “Eco-labelling must be voluntary or it will hurt India in the World Trade Organization’s negotiations. For, such labels amount to technical barriers to trade.”

Agarwal sums the issue aptly, “With the country becoming a manufacturing, hub, India must have a globally accepted yardsticks for eco-labelling.



Trade agreements must yield broader human development – Prof Seshamani

October 21, 2006, POST

The potential impact of any trade agreement such as the EPAs must go beyond pure economic gains, University of Zambia head of Economics Department Professor Venkatesh Seshamani has advised.

During a regional dialogue on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiations and economic development in Lusaka on Thursday, Prof Seshamani said trade agreements entered into by developing countries with the developed countries with the developed nations must yield broader benefits in terms of human development.

Prof. Seshamani said it was necessary to go beyond the text of the agreement, which may focus narrowly on the economic gains while looking at broader social consequences.

“Trade in developing countries of Africa should not be regarded as a value- neutral policy instrument but must also reflect social gains in terms of poverty reduction, addressing chronic and fatal diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS and improves access to social services especially by the poor,” Prof Seshamani said , “As has been defined in the Nairobi declaration, the development content of agreements must take on board among other things full market access, policy space and flexibility for implementation of Africa’s development programmes.”

Prof Seshamani said the trade agreements must also alleviate the supply side constraints that will help improve dynamic competitiveness of Africa’s products. He said African countries would readily welcome agreements that have the potential to raise economic growth as well as generate employment opportunities and improve livelihoods for the poor.

“But where positive economic benefits entail negative social consequences, one would need to take a harder look at such an agreement.”Prof Seshamani said. “For instance, an agreement may be seen to bring about a significant improvement in exports and foreign exchange earnings for the developing country in question but at the expense of damaging the environment in some way. The long-term impact of such an agreement may not be helpful.”

During the same function Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) secretary general Erastus Mwencha said there was need for additional support for a good outcome of the EPAs negotiations.

He said the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) countries would continue to demand for EPAs that were an instrument for development.

“The EPAs must support regional integration, they must help the African countries to attain regional development,” Mwencha said.

He said the EU had been doing a number of strange things behind the backs of the ESA countries. “One of them is the programming of the European Development Fund (EDF) resources, “said Mwencha.

CUTS-ARC calls for dialogue on EPAs

October 21, 2006

CONSUMER Unity and Trust Society Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC) has organised regional dialogue on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and economic development in the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) countries.

The purpose of the dialogue to be held mid this month is to debate the developmental value of the proposed EPAs with the European Union and Sub Saharan African countries by considering the progress made so far and various proposals on the table for further trade and investment liberalisation,

The regional dialogue, according to CUTS-ARC researcher Vladimir Chilinya, was expected to offer an opportunity to assess and target the development component of EPAs in relation to the national and regional development strategies.

“The objective of the policy dialogue is to take stock of the progress EPA negosiations and how it impacts the business and development opportunities of countries in the region.”Chiliniya said. “The context and background of the regional dialogue stemmed from the need to address and define specific development concerns of EPAs and difficulties that governments and non-state actors face in proactively engaging in the negotiation process.”

Some of the major topics to be discussed are the inputs into the formal review process of EPAs as envisaged in the Cotonou Agreement and strengthening of non-state actors and trade negotiators to effectively engage on the linkages between trade development and poverty reduction.

The meeting would also seek to progress consensus among the key stakeholders on benchmarking development component to be agreed upon and assess the policy coherence of the EPAs at national and regional level.

Ecomark scheme cries for industry attention

October 06, 2006, The Financial Express
New Delhi, India

Even 15 years after it became operational, the Indian Ecomark Scheme has not gained the attention of the consumer and the industry.

The National Environment Policy Statement of India, 2006 had recognised the role of ecolabels on products in promoting environmental conservation.

According to a study conducted by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS)

International, an NGO, just 12 manufacturers of products like paper, pulp, leather and wood particleboard have till now applied for the Ecomark licence.

Interestingly, the licensees have hardly bothered to use the Ecomark symbol ‘matka’ on their package as it was not found to be beneficial for them, CUTS said.

Another reason was the lack of a national communication strategy. Also there were no incentives of greater demand for products with ecolabels.

Manufacturers hardly bothered to apply for an Ecomark licence since a greater investment is needed to reach the high stringency standards of ecolabels.

Pradeep S Mehta, secretary general, CUTS International has pinned the blame on the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for failing to effectively implement the Ecomark scheme.

Mehta has advocated setting up an independent Ecolabelling Board to promote the Ecomark scheme with transparency. The BIS could be asked to provide experienced technical staff to such a board, he said.

According to the CUTS International study, there is lack of awareness of the Ecomark Scheme among the Indian industry, especially among the small and medium enterprises.

Even consumer awareness about the scheme was found to be poor.

The exclusion of the ministry of finance from the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on environment and forest for the scheme, was most inappropriate, Mehta said.

Incentives or rewards to manufacturers to reduce adverse environmental impact of products could be given to promote the scheme, he added.



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