New Delhi: The Environment Ministry said it was taking steps to improve utilisation of funds after it was pulled up by a parliamentary panel which observed “unsatisfactory” trend of fund utilisation for pollution abatement during the last few years. The panel had said as per documents furnished by the ministry, in 2016-17, to the Budget Estimate (BE) allocation of Rs 20 crore for this scheme (pollution abatement) was reduced to Rs 9.60 crore at Revised Estimate (RE) stage, and the ministry could utilize only Rs 6.22 crore during the year.
This trend of reduction in allocation at RE stage and unsatisfactory utilisation of funds seem to reflect that pollution abatement is not among the priority areas of the ministry, it had said.
The rising environmental pollution in the country not only results in a number of pollution-related human diseases and health conditions, but negatively impacts our ecology too. This scenario of environmental pollution is indeed very grim and has been affecting one and all. This committee, NGOs and civil society members are regularly holding meetings, seminars and workshops with different stakeholders to make common people aware of the menace of pollution. In such a scenario, reduction and under-utilisation of funds for pollution abatement is not the least desirable, the committee had said.
The 321st report on action taken by the ministry is on the recommendations contained in the 313th report of the department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technololgy, Environment and Forest on Demands for Grants (2018-2019) of the Environment Ministry chaired by Congress leader Anand Sharma.
The ministry in its action taken report said, Action being taken to improve utilisation of funds: in order to ensure timely and judicious release of funds under pollution abatement to various State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB)and Pollution Control Committees (PCC), efforts have been made to ensure that their utilisation certificates/statements of expenditure is submitted well within time. Letters have been written to organisations concerned to expedite the pending utilisation certificates.
It also said the issue of pending utilisation certificates and settlement of accounts is being taken up with organisations concerned to ensure timely submission of the requisite documents so that the release of funds is not stopped in the ministry despite availability of funds.
The ministry further added that a draft Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) was in process as per directives of the Ministry of Finance to improvise pollution abatement scheme. The reasons for under-utilisation of funds in 2016-17 include non-receipt of competitive proposals meeting criteria for funding under the scheme, amount available for funding not attractive to investors among others, it said.
The ministry said during 2017-18, the budget estimate of Rs 21.29 crore was revised with allocation of Rs 7.50 crore at RE stage and Rs 7.45 crore (99.3 per cent) was utilised. It said the reduction in the allocation at RE stage was due to several reasons, including no new proposals were received from weaker SPCB/PCCs as per existing guidelines and non-receipt of utilisation certificates from SPCBs for releases made in the past years for ongoing projects.
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