The environment does not find any mention in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget speech. While the allocation for the Ministry has actually increased in this year’s Budget (from ₹2327 crore in the revised estimates for this fiscal to ₹2,675 crore for next year), key schemes have seen their allocations reduced. Hence, Project Tiger outlay has fallen from ₹365 crore in the revised estimates to ₹345 crore for 2017-18. Coastal zone management and clean energy funds have been increased, but funds for prevention of water pollution and climate adaptation are meagre. The Climate Change Action Plan, incidentally, has received a princely sum of around ₹40 crore.
The silence of both the Budget and the Economic Survey 2016-17 is at odds with India’s commitments in the Paris agreement. A reduction in the emissions intensity of the GDP cannot be achieved through a renewables drive alone. It is estimated that just one of the targets — of adding additional carbon sinks of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent — would need investments of ₹1lakh crore annually for afforestation. There is no reflection of this commitment in the Budget. Despite the country being lambasted on all fronts for rising air pollution, the Government has failed to conduct comprehensive impact studies. Two-year-old guidelines on air pollution control are yet to be implemented and no additional allocations have been made for the same.
An allocation of ₹2,675 crore is simply not enough. The grim story goes beyond just allocation figures. It lies in relaxation of laws and regulations, in existing funds continuing to be under-utilised despite needs. Above all, it lies in focus on speedier approvals and not on more efficient, transparent processes.