MUMBAI: With the Union budget providing for zero amount for pollution abatement, cutting the provision for Project Tiger and National Mission for Green India, environmental care has taken a beating in the Union Budget for 2021-22.
Nature lovers are upset that the overall budget allocation for the Ministry of Environment and climatic change has been slashed by Rs 231 crores from the last year’s provision of Rs 3,100 crores.
Environment protection and sustainable development has to be contended with a reduced allocation of Rs 136 crore from Rs 192 crores, B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation said analysing the budget details.
The official explanation says protection, management and sustainable development support development of clean technologies and also abatement of the pollution in industrial plants. The growing recognition of the threat of the Climate Change and its significance as an area of domestic policy making and planning is recognized under this umbrella scheme which funds support to programmes/projects on Pollution Abatement, Hazardous Substances Management, Climate Change Action Plan, National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change and National Mission of Himalayan Studies, the official explanation says.
The concern for environment, thus, appears to be merely on paper as the allocation is half of what the government proposed in the last year’s budget, Kumar said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi harps on increasing awareness to preserve nature, but the allocation for environment education and awareness training is down to Rs 77.13 croers from Rs 114 crores last year, Kumar said.
Modi talks so passionately about preserving tigers, but the budget provision for Project Tiger has been slashed by Rs 50 crores from Rs 300 crores provided for last year, Kumar said and lamented that the provision for Integrated development of wildlife habitats (Rs 414 crores from Rs 532 crores).
Swachch Bharat, Swasth Bharat very proudly talks of allocation Rs. 1,41,678 crores over 5 years for Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 with the aims of Complete faecal sludge management and waste water treatment, Source segregation of garbage, Reduction in single-use plastic, Reduction in air pollution by effectively managing waste from construction-and-demolition activities, Bio-remediation of all legacy dump sites.
But looking at the drastic reduction in budget allocations for key areas shows the half-hearted approach, NatConnect said. R&D for conservation development is sadly down to Rs five crore from the Rs 8.5 crore of 2020-21 allocation.
Even provision for air pollution control has been drastically cut to Rs 2,217 crore from the last fiscal allocation of Rs 4,400 crores which shows the government’s so-called concern for clean air, Kumar pointed out.
A close examination of the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change shows that the climate change action plan gets reduced budget of Rs 30 crore from the Rs 40 crore provided for last year, NatConnect said. Pollution.
Some of the other heads whose budget provisions are slashed include: Centre of excellence (zero from Rs 14 crores), National Biodiversity Authority (Rs 19.5 from Rs 23 crores), Bio-diversity & Conservation (Rs 12 from Rs 13 crores) and National Mission for Green India (Rs 290 crores from Rs 311 crores),
“Allocation on public health infrastructure gets reduced to a joke when you continue to play with the health of the people,” he argued.
Thankfully, the allocation for National Coastal Management Programme is up from Rs 103 crores to Rs 200 crores and the Ministry is responsible to ensure livelihood security of coastal communities including fisher folks, to conserve, protect the coastal stretches and to promote sustainable development based on scientific principles. But this provision appears to be merely on paper as we have not seen any development activity for the fishing community in Maharashtra, said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan. On the contrary, Pawar said, the sad plight of the fishing community has worsened in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The fishing zones are being deleted by the day under the guise of infrastructure development, he said.
Air pollution during winter has become a permanent feature in major cities including Delhi-NCR and the so-called planned cities such as Navi Mumbai. Recent surveys showed that industrial pollution is a major cause of concern in Panvel and Kharghar areas of Navi Mumbai, while people often complain of and unbearable stink during nights and early mornings, Kumar pointed out.
The policy on scrapping old and so-called unfit vehicles has been there earlier too. But where is the execution, Kumar asked. Heavy vehicles owned by the rich and influential continue to ply, billowing dark smoke and carbon monoxide about which the authorities do not seem to bother. Blame it on the lack of resources or apathy, either way the ordinary citizen is the sufferer, he said.