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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 government’s “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 Negatives

  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 & CC, has also been CUT, from Rs.3100 crore last year to Rs.2869.93 crore this time. It has been reduced to a minor ministry, in effect.
  3. Budgetary allocation for the 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 crore, from last year’s Rs.311 crore. 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 than the 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.

The Positives

  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 which also faces high levels of air pollution. They will have to wait and wait and….for actions ?!
  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 crore has 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 the 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 infrastructures, in the name of “Sagarmala”,  “Bharatmala”, 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, they are still there.

Picture Courtesy: Vanila Balaji/Flickr

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