Explainer: Is Sitharaman's environment allocation in budget 2020 green enough?
New Delhi, Feb 06: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Union Budget 2020-21 presentation on February 1, allocates Rs 3,100 crore to the Ministry of Environment while Rs 4,400 crore was allocated to encourage states to formulate plans that will ensure clean air in cities with a population of above a million.
The allocation for the environment ministry is increased by nearly five per cent for 2020-21 from last fiscal with no change in the amount allotted to pollution waning and climate change action plan.
As the Paris Agreement commitments will begin from January 1, 2021, Sitharaman in her speech said, "India submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution, under the Paris Agreement in 2015 on a 'best effort' basis, keeping in mind the development imperative of the country. Its implementation effectively begins on January 1, 2021".
The allocation for National Mission for Green India has been raised to Rs 311 crore from Rs 240 crore in the last financial year.
The budgetary allocation for Project Tiger which is an initiative for conserving tigers and for Project Elephant were reduced to Rs 300 crore and Rs 30 crore from Rs 350 crore and Rs 35 crore respectively.
While National Coastal Mission sees a slight raise to Rs 103 crore from Rs 95 crore.
The allocation for one of the important sectors the power and renewable energy sector which will have to work on lowering greenhouse gas emissions, increased to Rs 5,753 crore from Rs 3,891.74 crore.
Also, the scheme KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan) will be extended to provide 2 million farmers with stand-alone solar pumps. Sitharaman said, "A scheme to enable farmers to set up solar power generation capacity on their fallow lands and to sell it to the grid would be operationalised".
The budget announcement signalled the end for old and polluting thermal power plants as the Finance Minister announced that old thermal power plants with emissions above prescribed norms will be closed down, and the lands put to an alternative use.
As Nirmala Sitharaman had presented her second budget the experts across the nation are expressing their thoughts and concerns over the budgetary allocation against the fight over the climate crisis.
"It's good to hear a special mention of climate change and air pollution in the budget speech. Union Budget earmarked Rs 4,400 cr for National Clean Air Programme. However, it is not clear how the allocated funds will be used to clean the air," Avinash Chanchal, senior climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace India said to PTI.
Nambi Appadurai, Director at Climate Resilience Practice, WRI (World Resources Institute) India said, "Maintaining integrity of ecosystems and community-level management of natural resources are critical to build resilience, especially at the sub-national and local level".
Where WRI's Deepak Krishnan has welcomed the Centre's plan to shut down power plants with high carbon emissions.
India currently is the fifth most vulnerable country to the climate crisis in the world as some 1.2 million people die every year from pollution-related diseases.
About 70 per cent of the cities are critically polluted while blanket of smogs has engulfed Indo-Gangetic plain.
The nation certainly needs significant step up in spending the fiscal budget across the states, cities and their forests, plains and rivers.
Also, waste management, transportation need serious and immediate intervention.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated at the United Nations in October 2019 that India is committed to protect the environment, his citizens hope India will commit its best effort to choose a low carbon path.