New Delhi: In the Interim Budget presented by the stand-in Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on February 1, Centre’s decision of a steep 50 per cent cut in the budget for pollution control has drawn severe criticism from environment experts. The budget for pollution abatement has been reduced to Rs. 10 crores from the Rs 20 crore allocated in the last fiscal and has not witnessed any allocation towards new and renewable energy. The experts believe that while the nation reels under severe air pollution problem, it was shocking that the government has reduced its budgetary allocation.
An official from the CPCB refused to comment on the reduction of budget for pollution control saying he was yet to go through the document.
A member of the think-tank Centre For Science and Environment (CSE) condemned the move labelling the interim budget as an “election friendly” one and said that it does not clarify on several taxes associated with renewable energy.
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The environmental activists also criticised the government for barely mentioning about environment and climate change and not elaborating on the financial allocation to the recently-launched National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aims towards reducing the air pollution by 20-30 per cent by 2024.
Advocate and activist Gaurav Bansal called the budget rhetoric and said that the government has “failed to implement NCAP”. He said,
If there is no budget how will the authorities tackle this problem. This budget is rhetoric with elections in mind. They have failed to implement NCAP by not giving any budget regarding it. They have reduced air pollution budget which is an insult to the national capital which has already become a gas chamber. Uttar Pradesh is also facing severe air pollution problems.
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Sharing a similar view, Priya Sreenivasan, renewable energy expert at CSE, said,
It appears to be an election-friendly budget. The renewable sector was awaiting a lot of clarity. The tax clarities in the renewable sector would have been helpful.
Talking about the amount allocated to pollution abatement, another member-activist of the CSE, Polash Mukherjee said,
Pollution and climate change are big issues. The government needs to have a look at the problem properly. Even NCAP was launched without any budget allocation or framework which should have been mentioned in the budget.
The union budget has not changed the budgetary allocation for climate change action plan from last year by keeping it constant at Rs 40 crore. A statement released by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) said environment and climate change issues hardly found mention in the budget.
The finance minister emphasised on the rejuvenation of rivers and water bodies as among the grand vision for the next 10 years. Increasing the use of bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides and reducing the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides is an important aspect of cleaning rivers and water bodies, which the budget could have addressed.
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When it comes to the wildlife arena, the government-initiated projects – Project Tiger and Project Elephant, saw no change in budgetary allocation and continued to remain at Rs. 350 crores and Rs. 30 crores respectively.
The interim budget however saw a marginal increase in the allocation for the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body under the Ministry for tiger conservation, to Rs 10 crore for 2019-20 from Rs 9 crore in the last fiscal year.
Nishant Verma, the Deputy Inspector General of the NTCA, welcomed the allocation towards these projects and said that the amount is appropriate. He said,
The amount allocated by the government for Project Tiger is absolutely appropriate. We wanted this amount only.
The Animal Welfare Board (AWB) got an increase of Rs 2 crore in the interim budget, from Rs 10 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 12 crore in this fiscal. The budget for National Commission for Green India has also been increased from Rs 210 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 240 crore in 2019-20.
With inputs from PTI.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.