NAGPUR: Though not as green as the BJP’s pre-election manifesto, the Union budget presented on Friday promised ‘Green Mother Earth and blue skies’.

The high point was the boost given to electric vehicles for ensuring an environment-friendly public transport system. “A thrust towards electric vehicles is good. When combined with increase in petrol and diesel prices, it sets a general trend towards future electrification. But it will need a matching of narratives,” said Aarti Khosla, director of Climate Trends.

While allocating Rs 460 crore for pollution abatement schemes including the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) was a welcome move, environmentalists felt more needs to be done to fight the battle. “Currently, qualitative monitoring and suggestive mitigation measures are the biggest hindrances in combating air pollution. In the Paris Agreement, India has made commitments regarding curbing greenhouse gases and promoting renewable energy but the budget didn’t do complete justice to these issues,” said Kaustav Chatterjee, founder of Green Vigil Foundation.

On the lines of clean energy, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated that government will use the LED bulb mission to promote solar stoves and battery chargers in the country.

However, according to experts, the budget missed on key elements that are required to achieve government’s ambitious target of renewable energy. “It does not make any special consideration for large-scale battery storage system which will be critical to achieve renewable energy grid integration,” said Vibhuti Garg, energy analyst at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

Adding that the Central Electricity Authority’s optimal energy mix scenario accounts for a conservative 32GW of battery storage systems, Garg said, “This will be difficult to achieve if the government does not plan from now. The budget should have included support for research and development or promote adoption of battery storage.”

Stating that one of the big highlights is availability of electricity to the states at affordable rates by 2022, executive director of Centre for Financial Accountability Joe Athialy said, “To achieve this, central and state governments must focus on producing electricity from the cheapest and the cleanest source. Both solar and wind energy in India is cheaper than coal, and therefore makes economical sense.”

Pointing out that reducing the cost of buying electricity can only help power distributing companies to improve their balance sheets, Athialy added, “This can only happen through renewable energy option.”

To sum up, the budget turned out to be a two-edged sword for the country’s environment. “Though water supply to every house by 2024, solid waste management in every village, promoting electricity car and Ujwala Yojna are the silver linings, the plans to use more of country’s rivers to move goods might destroy vital ecosystem,” said Chatterjee.

The article, first published on the Times of India, can be accessed here.

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