Cheap car disaster

The launch of the new cheap car, costing just $2,500, by the Indian firm Tata poses one of those awful dilemmas for us environmentally conscious but comfortable westerners. How can we deny the benefits of mass car ownership to the developing countries when we have enjoyed its advantages for a couple of generations?
However, anyone who has been to India knows that many cities are already at breaking point in terms of transport, and cross town journeys in the larger ones can take hours. Replacing motorbikes and cycles with cars will just exacerbate the problem. The individual’s gain will be society’s loss. This process is already happening in China where the car is seen as a key engine of economic development and bicycles are now seen as old-fashioned and only for the poor – although recent visitors to China tell me that this attitude is beginning to change as the bicycle in some cities is beginning to enjoy a renaissance.
This issue goes to the heart of the debate not only on transport issues but on the very basic tenet of the economic system. Economic growth seemingly inevitably leads to greater mobility but not necessarily greater convenience, let alone happiness. The environmental damage in terms of pollution and CO2 is clearly unsustainable. The new Nano will wreak destruction on countless Indian cities as they are forced to adapt to mass car ownership b building highways and possibly destroying whole districts. Can anyone seriously argue that ultimately this is a positive development?

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