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Indian minister says adopting US lifestyle a 'disaster'

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Nov 24, 2010
India's outspoken environment minister has attacked wealthy Indians' embrace of the American consumer lifestyle, saying the US model of development was a "recipe for disaster."

"You can't blame the Americans. The US lifestyle has become the world lifestyle," Jairam Ramesh told Britain's Guardian newspaper in an interview published Wednesday.

"If we are going to replicate this model, it is a recipe for disaster for India as well as for the rest of the world," he said, ahead of leaving for UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

He said there were many in India who wanted the country to "grow now, pay later. They say, let's follow the Western model -- or even the Chinese model."

Ramesh, a member of the ruling Congress party, has made a name for himself as a "green campaigner", halting major projects through his insistence that procedures to protect the environment are followed.

His willingness to stand in the way of road and infrastructure development has made him enemies in the cabinet and a troublesome figure for industrialists.

Earlier this month, he described gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles (SUVs) that run on state-subsidised diesel as "criminal."

Ramesh will head to Cancun shortly for the November 29-December 10 climate talks where nations will have a second go at striking a deal to curb greenhouse gases after 2012, after last year's failed Copenhagen summit.

India has maintained that the burden of cuts should be on developed countries and that it cannot commit to binding targets in the future because they might impede its ability to lift its population out of poverty.

Ramesh told the Guardian that he had to "protect Indian economic interests", describing the Cancun meeting as "all about politics, not the environment".

He said he did not expect any breakthrough, but the meeting could help make progress towards a final agreement.

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