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The Union budget 2021-22 was placed in the Parliament a few days ago. Taking a quick look at its Environment & Climate provisions, here is a brief snapshot of the dismal picture of the Modi governments “Environmental Championship” (after all, he was conferred the “Champion of Earth” ‘honour’ by the UNEP a few years ago) and his “Great Climate Change Response”.

The Letdowns 

1. The allocation for SAPCCs (State Action Plans for Climate Change) has been cut from an already measly Rs. 40 crores last year (yes – 40, not 40,000) to Rs. 30 crores !! For the entire country !!! The States are supposed to fend for themselves if they wish to do anything regarding Climate Change !!!. 

This, at a time when the GST has taken financial powers away from the States, and they are groaning under the additional burden of Covid-19 responses. 

2. The entire budgetary allocation of the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, has also been cut, from Rs. 3100 crores last year to Rs. 2869.93 crores this time. It has been reduced to a minor ministry, in effect. 

3. Budgetary allocation for Green India Mission, which is supposed to be key for India’s 3rd NDC pledge (made in the Paris Climate agreement), of an additional CO2-sequestration of 2.5–3.0 billion tons, in the period 2016-2030, has also been cut to Rs. 290 crores, from last year’s Rs.311 crores.

Out of which, ‘National Afforestation Mission’ budget got cut to Rs. 235 crores from last year’s Rs. 246 crores .

4. The two “wildlife conservation” targeted projects, Project Tiger and Project Elephant, got cut to Rs. 250 crores and Rs. 33 crores, from Rs. 300 crores and Rs. 35 crores last year.

Please note, even the single Project Elephant gets a higher allocation that State Climate Change Action Plans SAPCCs, while “saving tigers” (these budgets go mostly to hard infrastructure and evicting traditional forest dwellers) gets 10 times as much. 

Glimpses of Hope

1. Air pollution seems to be on priority (high time). The budgetary allocation for tackling air Pollution in 42 cities with 1 million plus populations, is a good Rs.2217 crores. This is besides the MoEF&CC budgetary allocations. 

One critical question – there is a huge population outside these 42 cities who also faces high levels of air pollution. How long will they have to wait? 

2. There is a Rs. 20 crore allocation for the newly constituted Commission for Air Quality Management, another bureaucratic structure outside the PCBs. Question is, what are the roles of the PCBs, both Central and States, on air quality? One “manages”, the others “control”??! Confusing, unless air pollution is no longer the domain of PCBs?

3. Out of the total MoEF&CC budget, an allocation of Rs. 470 crores have been made for pollution control. This will enhance support to Pollution Control Boards PCBs.

4. The relatively new National Coastal Mission gets a substantial hike in budgetary allocation, to Rs. 209 crores, up from Rs. 103 crores in last year’s budget. Please note, this should be watched closely, as this NCM will include all phases of the earlier Integrated Coastal Zone Management projects, which were strongly opposed by most coastal populations, including coastal fish-workers, on grounds of pushing large scale infrastructure and displacements of traditional coastal people. Also, with the government’s huge push for mega coastal infrastructure, in the name of “Sagarmala”, “Bharatmala” etc it might lead to projects for evicting coastal dwellers and “resettling them”, while the coastal areas become more accessible for big ports, power plants, tourist complexes etc. The NCM was launched after the ‘inter-ministerial consultations’ in November 2017, and despite many objections in the plans as they are there. 

Soumya Dutta is with South Asian People’s Action On Climate Crisis (SAPACC) & MAUSAM

Photo credit: Joe Athialy

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