Budgetary allocation to Environment

News: One can analyse the budget from three standpoints: Direct allocations for the environment sector, allocations for environment in non-environment sectors, and allocations for other sectors with environmental impacts.

What does the Budget say?

Allocation for MoEFCC

  • There is a slight increase in the budget of the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) from 2021-22’s revised estimate of Rs 2,870 crore to Rs 3,030 crore. This is a meagre 0.08 per cent of the total budgetary outlay. While some sectors like forestry and wildlife have seen a healthy rise in allocation, the outlay for others like the National River Conservation Plan has declined.

Natural and organic farming

  • There is a welcome stated focus on natural and organic farming, and on promoting millets.
  • There are no details on the allocations, including for linkages necessary to make such farming viable, such as manure and markets. Also, given the major push for food processing in the budget, without making reservations for community-run businesses, there is a danger of big corporations capturing the organic space.
  • Completely missing is a focus on rainfed farming that involves 60 per cent of the farming population and is ecologically more sustainable than artificially irrigated agriculture.
  • The FM announced the government’s support to “chemical-free farming throughout the country,” but she has also allocated a massive chemical fertiliser subsidy of Rs 1,05,222 crore.
  • A recent announcement that palm plantations are proposed in Northeast India and the Andaman Islands, both ecologically fragile, makes this a worrying prospect.

Positive provisions:

  • On the climate front, there are several positive provisions — use of biomass for power stations, boost to batteries, energy-efficiency measures in large commercial buildings, and sovereign green bonds.
  • Renewable and “clean” energy has received substantially higher allocations. But the focus remains on mega-parks in solar/wind energy, nuclear power, and large hydro that have serious ecological impacts.
  • The additional budget for farm-level solar pumps and rooftop solar generation is welcome, but it’s minuscule compared to mega-projects.
  • Another chance to shift towards decentralised renewable energy with less ecological impacts and greater community access has been missed. The budget does promise greater support for public transport, something demanded by citizens’ groups for decades. Unfortunately, most of the allocation in this will go to metros that are extremely carbon-intensive in terms of construction.
  • The National Climate Action Plan gets an abysmally inadequate Rs 30 crore — the same as in 2021-22.
  • And there is no focus on a “just transition” that could help workers in fossil fuel sectors, like coal, to transition to jobs in cleaner, greener sectors.

Lack of focus on infrastructure:

  • As highlighted by the FM, this is predominantly an “infrastructure budget”. While investments in infrastructure for small towns and villages are urgently needed, much of what is proposed are mega-projects.
  • The proposed 25,000 km increase in highways will further fragment forests, wetlands, mountains, grasslands, agricultural lands and bypass most villages. A shift in paradigm to decentralised, sustainable, and community-oriented infrastructure is missing. Several specific allocations are of further concern. For instance, the Ken-Betwa river-linking project, given over Rs 40,000 crore, will submerge valuable tiger habitat. The Deep Ocean Mission and the Blue Revolution allocations are oriented towards commercial exploitation rather than conservation and sustainable use.

Green jobs

  • The budget misses out on a major shift to “green jobs”. This includes support to decentralised (including handmade) production of textiles, footwear, and other products. Even the MGNREGS, which could have been used for regenerating two-thirds of India’s landmass that is ecologically degraded, has got reduced allocation.