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Environment Ministry’s allocation cut by 25%

                                                                                                                             Business Line, New Delhi, 28th February, 2015


Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seems to have taken some small steps toward better environmental health in the Budget, such as doubling the carbon tax on coal and tax benefits for contribution to the Clean Ganga Fund, but allocation to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has shrunk by a fourth.


A number of crucial projects — including Project Tiger, National Afforestation Programme and Biodiversity Convervation — have fallen victim to the cuts, with allocation plunging to ₹1,681.6 crore for 2015-16 against ₹2,256 crore last year.


“There is disconnect between the environmental challenges and the Budget proposals,” said Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, Centre for Science and Environment.


The Budget, he said, is silent on burning issues such as pollution control, even after the country has been in the news for the highly polluted air in its cities, especially Delhi. It also does not address other forms of pollution, including water, given its focus on the Clean Ganga initiative.


While the Budget did not make any special mention of pollution or ways to tackle it — such as promoting public conveyance — the already resource-strapped Central Pollution Control Board has been further crippled by reduced allocation — ₹72.1 crore from ₹81.02 crore last fiscal.


A senior official said infrastructure needs for effective pollution control, monitoring of compliance by industries and other such activities may be hit by Budget cuts in the long term. The official said there was need to invest greatly in infrastructure, which may now be difficult.


Bhushan, who lauded moves such as the doubling of carbon tax on coal to ₹200 per tonne, also said, “The increase in carbon tax on coal is good, but only if they are used specifically to clean up coal-based power plants.” CSE had recently conducted an audit of coal plants and found most were violating environmental norms and causing heavy pollution.


However, climate change and adaptation is one area where resources have jumped several fold in the past year to stand at ₹160 crore.


(This article was published on February 28, 2015)