Foot pumps as “appropriate technology”

In: Uncategorized

29 Sep 2007

spiked has published a letter by me on the desirability of encouraging Indian villagers to use foot pumps to provide themselves with water. It is in response to an exchange between Brendan O’Neill, who argued that carbon offsets were being used to encourage such primitive technology, and Michael Buick of Climate Care who advocated such technology.

Whether you side with Brendan O’Neill or Michael Buick on the use of foot-powered water pumps in Indian villages depends on what you consider appropriate. Those who believe that Indians should enjoy Western living standards and the best modern technology should side with Brendan. Those who favour a life mired in rural poverty should support Michael.

Michael’s claim that Indian farmers choose pedal pumps of their own free will is ridiculous. It is like asking a person who is starving to death whether they are prepared to eat bread infested with maggots. They would probably eat the bread but only because better options are not available to them.

The real question is whether it is right for Indians to aspire to develop a modern industrialised and urbanised economy. As long as 70% of the population remains in the countryside, typically eking out a meagre living from tiny plots of land, the vast majority of Indians will remain poor. The solution to the lack of development is to change the character of the Indian economy rather than selling foot pumps.

Of course if Michael wants to use a foot pump to provide water for his own home that should be his free choice.

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