In India, the month of February brings in a lot of expectations every year, from every section of the society. Each of us anticipate to check how good this year’s budget would help us! On those lines, the Union Budget of 2018 – 2019 never missed garnering huge speculations. While you must have read what the ‘Big B Day of February 1, 2018’ yielded for agriculture in our previous article, in this piece let’s see what the Budget ’18 devotes for environment.
The very first announcement regarding environment in this year’s budget was made on ‘Solar Power’. The Finance Minister went on to say, “Many farmers are installing solar water pumps to irrigate their fields. Generation of solar electricity is harvesting of Sun by the farmers using their lands. Government of India will take necessary measures and encourage State Governments to put in place a mechanism that their surplus solar power is purchased by the distribution companies or licenses at reasonably remunerative rates”.
The next announcement was on the concurrent problem often maligning the Capital of India. The Budget promised a special scheme to curb air pollution in Delhi by supporting the efforts of the state governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the National Capital Territory of Delhi and also by subsidizing the farm machinery needed for in situ crop residue management.
When we talk about pollution, Indoor pollution is another growing glitch demanding attention. In order to make poor women free from the smoke of wood, the ‘Ujjwala Scheme’ which provides free LPG connections, annexes an increase in target to benefit 8 crore poor women.
To check pollution by reducing the use of firewood and other conventional fuels as power source, the Finance Minister promises to extend the ‘Prime Minister’s Saubhagya Yojana’ which provides free of charge electricity connections to all poor households.
Another major announcement in environment has been made on the most promising cleanliness drive of the government, ‘The Swachh Bharat Mission’. “Under this mission [SBM], Government has already constructed more than 6 crore toilets. The positive effect of these toilets is being seen on the dignity of ladies, education of girls and the overall health of family. Government is planning to construct around 2 crore toilets”, proclaimed the Finance Minister.
Likewise the Finance Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley also made a headway saying, “Our resolve of making our villages open defecation free is aimed at improving the life of our villagers. We will launch a scheme called ‘Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan’ (GOBAR-DHAN) for management and conversion of cattle dung and solid waste in farms to compost, fertilizer, Bio – Gas and Bio – CNG”.
Since long time, the River Ganga has always remained a matter of concern as far as environment is concerned. Cottoning on the issue, the Finance Minister made it clear that, “Cleaning the Ganga is work of national importance and it is our firm commitment. A total of 187 projects have been sanctioned under the ‘Namami Gange Programme’ for infrastructure development, river surface cleaning, rural sanitation and other interventions at a cost of ₹16,713 crore. 47 projects have been completed and remaining projects are at various stages of execution. All 4465 Ganga Grams – villages on the bank of river – have been declared open defecation free”.
Also, the budget made announcements on the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ and ‘AMRUT’ schemes, which help in building eminent cities contributing to a better environment.
As the budget shows pathways for many contemporary environmental issues, let’s see what the numeral digits in the budget picture us.
The allocation of budget for the ‘Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change’, ₹2,675.42 crore remains the same as that of the previous year. The most noteworthy feature is that the value is just the exact up to its two decimal places!
The fund allocation for ‘National Coastal Management Programme’ decreased from ₹446 crore in 2017 – 2018 to ₹165 crore for 2018-19. Similarly, the funds for the ‘Environment Protection and Sustainable Development Programme’ also found a fall from ₹275 crore last year to ₹235 crore this year. On the other side, the allocation for wildlife conservation shows a smiling face. Budget outlay for ‘Tiger Conservation’ has increased to ₹ 350 crore for 2018-19 from ₹345 crore. Also, the financial statement dedicates an increased fund of ₹30 crore for ‘Elephant Conservation’ from the previous year’s ₹27 crore. Conclusively, ₹165 crore is allocated for the ‘Development of Wildlife Habitats’, which was ₹150 crore in the last budget.
Similarly, institution like the ‘National Green Tribunal’ is allocated ₹75 crore, which was given ₹41 crore in the last budget. And the Central Pollution Control Board, will also gain an increased outlay of ₹100 crore, from the previous year’s ₹ 74 crore.
That’s all about what the ‘Union Budget 2018 – 2019’ speaks on the Environment genre. Moving on to see what the budget has forgotten to speak, you must have already felt it in your bone! Economic Survey is the always the authorized precursor of the Union Budget. The most saddening part of this budget with regards to environment is that, even as the pink clad Economic Survey raises a ruckus denoting that the impact of climate change is tragic and it could make a projected loss up to 25% in farm income, the annual financial statement has helplessly missed the crux. When the nation is heading vigorously to double farmers’ income by 2022, not fixing something that impacts it is a bulky blunder. Also, the field of sustainable energy, in specific the solar energy sector which has a determined target of achieving 100 GW of solar energy and 175 GW of renewable energy in total, by 2022 has been bestowed a very negligible portion in the Union Budget.
All things considered, the budget is commendable for its stake at environment, but it could have done even better as the suffering environment needs to get better!