This piece of writing focuses on the allocation of budget to tackle environmental issues and their impact on the existing situation. It highlights the reasons that should have been the driving factor for the allocation and inspect whether the aim has been reached or does the government still lack in its endeavours to provide for a safer and healthier environment to its citizens.
Every living being craves to live happily — to fulfil their desires, eat delicious meals, go on a journey of sightseeing and a grand house. But wait, don’t you think these desires are peaceful only when we can breathe? Living in a dreary place where every inanimate element is infuriated and seems to swallow us along with every other animate being is not, and can never be, a precursor to our joyful and spectacular desires. Needless to say, the government must make sure that we the people of India can fulfil our basic needs from “roti, kapda, makaan” to oxygen to breathe.
Every year, in fact, every month and week, we see the devastating effects of climate change on all life forms. Pollution in Delhi and other cities is choking innocent kids; Bangalore has been ranked as the city with the world’s worst vehicular traffic in the past year. Has anyone calculated the answer to these increasing numbers? And where is it leading us?
It’s hard to believe that the situation is getting worse, but it’s even harder to write that very few people are taking steps to undo the wrong. Amidst all this chaos, I would like to shed some light on the actions promised by our government to improve the environmental havoc in the Budget 2021-22.
Our Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitaraman, in her Budget speech, addressed the concern of rising pollution and what the Ministry has planned to curb it. She talked about allocations covering matters including air pollution from vehicles and construction, biodiversity conversation in deep seas, promoting green energy, and urban issues such as sewage and waste management.
The budget has critically looked into matters related to the healthcare sector, the reason for which is clear. Covid-19 has brought the whole world to the brink of death. Fear whirled around every country and superpowers made it obvious to the government that the health of citizens comes first. This is an appreciable step, but that’s just one side of the story. Though health has been given a lot of importance, there has been a reduction in the sum allocated to the environment ministry — from Rs 3,100 crores last year to Rs 2,869.93 crores this year.
This implies that there might be a halt in environment-related activities. This will tend to indirectly affect the healthcare sector as a lack of a healthy environment leads to weak immunity and lungs, making our bodies fragile and more prone to diseases. A sum of Rs 2,217 crores has been kept aside for improving air quality in 42 urban centres with a population of over one million by implementing the voluntary vehicle scrap policy.
However, the loophole here is that the how and when of the implementation of these policies are still unknown. Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist and founder of NGO SAFE (Social Action for Forest and Environment), said that last year, the government announced Rs 4,400 crores for ensuring clean air, but how this fund has been utilised has still not been revealed on any public platforms. Moreover, the reduction in this allocation shows that the government is not serious about climate change, says Tongad.
The Budget allocated Rs 470 crore under ‘Control of Pollution’, which takes into account allocation to the NCAP, and pollution control boards and committees. There are mere 122 cities under the NCAP and the Greenpeace India’s Annual Airpocalypse Report 2020 surveyed that 231 out of 287 cities have PM10 levels exceeding 60 µg/m3 limits, thus deducing that the allocation is not enough and portrays the lack of optimum funding.
Jai Dhar Gupta, CEO and Founder of Nirvana Being, expressed his dissatisfaction:
“I have to mention that I am disappointed by the reduced allocation for Clean Air. Air pollution is a far greater public health emergency than Covid. While Covid claimed 1.5 lakh lives in 2020, air pollution is responsible for about 18 lakh deaths across India. However, I do want to highlight other things in the Budget that will impact the environment positively, such as the voluntary vehicle scrapping policy and allocation for waste management to reduce plastic waste.”
The vehicle scrap policy may be beneficial with the right plan of action. With some traces of greys in it, the Budget has been a shock for many and a blessing for a few. The allocation of the National Hydrogen Energy Mission to be launched in 2021-22 has come as a big hope for us, but in a country where coal industrialists still believe that “coal is our soul”, bigger stumbling blocks lie ahead and it would be interesting to see how the government overcomes them by fulfilling the expectations of the environmentalists as well as Mother Nature.
Here is a link to check out a detailed list of government policies related to the environment.
Keeping in mind the consequences of the current Budget, its various aspects would be both positive and negative effects on us. We should keenly look into its prospects and be individually responsible for playing our parts in subscribing to its outcomes. With this, I am leaving it to the readers to interpret the aforementioned opinions as to how successful these policies are and how they can be more efficient.