Skip to main content

How the Union budget defines development, deals with environmental crisis


By IMPRI Team
On 1st February 2022, the Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget for the Financial Year 2022-23 and allocated Rs 3,030 crore to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, higher than last year’s allocation of Rs 2520 crores. The Finance Minister also identified Climate Change as one of the strongest negative externalities that affect India and other countries. She emphasized the need for mindful and deliberate utilisation instead of mindless destructive consumption.
To delve deeper into the topic and gain detailed understanding of the same, the IMPRI Center for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD) organised a panel discussion on ‘The Environment and Union Budget’. The discussion was organized under #WebPolicyTalk series The State of the Environment- #PlanetTalks.
The discussion had an esteemed panel of eminent professors and scholars consisting of Ashish Kothari, Founder-member, Kalpavriksh, Pune, Dr Madhu Verma, Chief Economist, World Resources Institute (WRI), New Delhi, Debadityo Sinha, Senior Resident Fellow and Lead, Climate and Ecosystems, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, New Delhi, Dr Sharachchandra Lele, Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Policy and Governance, Centre for Environment and Development, ATREE, Bengaluru, Soumya Dutta, Co-convener, South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis (SAPACC), VR Raman, National Convenor, Public Health Resource Network; Policy Advisor, WaterAid India.
The discussion started with Ashish Kothari thanking the IMPRI team and panelists for putting together and participating in the discussion on such a pertinent topic. Mr Kothari pointed out that there are three main aspects that one needs to keep in mind while analysing the budgetary allocations for the environment. These are direct allocations, such as the increase in the total outlay to MOEFCC, which is a mere 0.8% of the total budgetary outlay. He recalled a speech given by our former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on the need to develop resources to deal with the environmental implications of the new economic policies. India significantly lacks in such resources.
Moreover, the Union Budget also slashed the budgetary allocation for the statutory body Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), which works for the air quality management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, from 20 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 17 crore this fiscal year.
The second aspect is the indirect allocations oriented towards the environment in the fields of energy, environment, etc. The third aspect is the allocation towards the sectors that deal with the implications of the environment. In this year’s budget, the maximum allocation has been towards building infrastructure. We also need to look at the implications of these allocations on women, Dalits, forest dwellers and other marginalised communities to get a more intersectional approach to truly understand the implications of the budget. Mr. Kothari expressed his concern about the fact that several key terms such as ecology, environment, pollutions, forests, nature, wildlife, and biodiversity were not a part of the budget speech, reflective of the level of seriousness of the government.

Critical Analysis of Budget from an Environmental Perspective

Moving on to the panel discussion, Mr Kothari asked the panelists to reflect on their significant observations of the budget. Debadityo Sinha pointed out a significant push for sectors such as textile and food production, roads, coast and ocean development. The FM allocated a sum of Rs 650 crore for the Deep Ocean Mission, as against Rs 150 crore allocated in the revised estimates of the previous year. The National Coastal Mission too saw an increase in its budgetary allocation. The focus has been laid on the Lakshadweep and Andaman Islands.
The budget for research on the environment saw a hike as well. Even though the government has increased its spending on several environmental domains, they are minuscule in terms of the budgetary allocations made to other sectors and the urgent demand of climate crisis. No specific focus has been laid on the conservational aspect.

Development and Sustainability Go Hand-in-Hand

Dr Madhu Verma discussed how the Budget 2022-23 has been given the name of “booster budget” but the boost has not been given to all the sectors. On one hand, one can observe an increase in the value given to ‘Clean India’, ‘Project Tiger’ and ‘Project Elephant’. On the other hand, the budgetary allocation required to meet India’s commitments and targets at the international level to deal with the environmental crisis are insufficient.
She further elucidated on 2022 being announced as the ‘International Year of Millets’ and its ecological and economic benefits. Models of states such as Orissa, Uttarakhand, and Chhattisgarh have shown the connection between millets and small farmers. It would certainly help in reviving traditions, practices and providing livelihood opportunities.
Dr Verma was, however, expecting more support for natural and organic farming. The budget may have load emphasis on organic farming, but more incentives and safety mechanisms are required as reaping the monetary benefits of organic farming takes longer. She believes that the interventions need to be holistic. On the face of it, the Budget might seem to have certain positive aspects, but the details are certainly missing. She looks forward to wildlife conservation receiving more attention and getting the focus it deserves. She emphasized nature being the base of development and the need to stop looking at development and conservation as opposing forces.

Mere Allocation of Funds not Sufficient

Dr Sharachchandra Lele shared his insights on the emphasis given to infrastructure development. He exclaimed that only a minor portion of it is “semi green”. According to him, the renewable energy transition model that the FM talked about is no different from the non-renewable energy economy model. In terms of structure, there isn’t any significant difference between the two. Hence, it is essentially a capitalist model of transition and any kind of scheme or subsidy introduced will get redistributed.
Any government has three tools at its disposal for effective the implementation of schemes- fiscal, administrative, and legal tools. The budget is a fiscal tool of the government. Merely allocating funds and not laying focus on the administrative and legal domain will not produce any positive outcomes. Higher funds alone, therefore, do not ensure anything, unless significant changes are made to structure and functioning as well.
For instance, when we talk about the energy sectors, we talk about subsidies, it is imperative to investigate the question of who is actually receiving the energy and availing subsidy benefits. There has been little support for discount improvements. There have been no talks about demand side management either.

Budget 2022 and its Underlying Hypocrisy

For Soumya Dutta, the significant aspect of the budget is its hypocrisy. On one hand, the FM called climate change the greatest risk, on the other hand, we saw a budgetary push for high emission and high energy sectors. The Ministry for Civil Aviation, which is one of the major polluters, was allocated RS. 10,667 crores, more than thrice of what the MOEFCC was allocated. Road infrastructure projects too saw a major hike in funds, which would mainly go to NHAI and not the development of village roads. Several important angles such as air quality, disaster resilience, environmental sanitation, and eradication of manual scavenging have not been given much consideration.
Building on the three key aspects for analysing the environmental budget by Mr. Kothari, Soumya Dutta talked about the sectors connected to the environment. Air pollution has become a major concern over the last 5-6 years and has reduced the life spans by 6-7 years in India, especially in the metropolitan cities. An efficient social infrastructure is a must to deal with the issue. Encouraging electrical public transport could have gone a long way. Rather than making high investments in high pollution and high emission infrastructure, efforts should have been put into developing climate connected infrastructure.
With an increasing risk of climate catastrophe, disasters, change in rainfall and cold spans, risk reduction is increasingly becoming important, which is also something that has been completely ignored in the budget. A mere Rs 30 crore is not sufficient for a population of 1.3 billion. What the budget is claiming to do, is not actually being done. Certain aspects of the budget such as Vande Bharat Mission have the potential to do well. Giving the example of Delhi, where there has not been any increase in the number of buses and more focus is laid on the metro and is not only responsible for high emissions but is also for a more elite population, Mr Datta talked about the urgency and need to give more attention to the development of an efficient and cheap public transport.
VR Raman expounded on the absence of an integrated action plan for addressing air pollution, which is a major environmental concern. He further elaborated on the need for an effective NCAP program to prevent air pollution. While the budget did lay emphasis on climate action, climate disaster prevention was largely ignored. As per VR Raman, the hikes in budget to meet the climate action targets and deal with environmental concerns are nominal. Every year, funds are allocated to deal with the issue of manual scavenging, however, not much data is available on the ground realities. People working for environmental sanitation are environmental soldiers and yet no plan to build their lives has been talked about.

The Way Forward

Following an engaging and fruitful discussion, Mr Kothari opened the floor for questions. Participants gave some interesting insights, reflections, comments and raised quite relevant questions on a variety of themes such as the impact of climate change on women and other marginalised communities, electrified public transport, sovereign green bonds, etc.
Moving towards the end of the panel discussion, The Chair, Mr Kothari asked the panelists to give their final remarks. While Dr Madhu Verma called for greater involvement of the private sector in dealing with environmental issues, Soumya Dutta, held a contradicting view to that of Dr Verma. He emphasized the need to reclaim corporate initiative to public ownership and profits under public regulation. The panelists criticised the approached of the present government in dealing with the environmental crisis and on a contrary the definition of “development”.
Dr Sharachchandra Lele talked about how governments focus more on the number of projects they complete than their environmental implications. VR Raman called for a proper understanding of proper rules, regulations and policies and their implications for the environment. The IMPRI team then concluded the event by delivering a final vote of thanks to all the panelists for participating in the discussion and sharing their valuable insights.

Comments

TRENDING

Although sporting genius, Wasim Akram was mascot of cricket globalisation era

By Harsh Thakor*  Since Independence India and Pakistan produced a galaxy of cricketing stars that permeated cricketing artistry of legendary heights. Amongst this bunch.Wasim Akram manifested pure cricketing genius to the greatest height.I speculate how India’s fortunes would have changed had partition not taken place and Wasim playing for India. Wasim Akram explored realms untranscended in bowling wizardry, like a painter devising new art forms or a scientist experimenting. He simply re-defined the art of reverse swing, reversing the ball in and out. There were bowlers quicker, more accurate and with better records, but none equalled Wasim in an all-round package. He was more lethal with a new and old ball than any fast bowler ever. Wasim could produce balls that were surreal, with his reverse swing, defying laws of bio mechanics He was simply the epitome of versatility, possessing a repertoire of six different deliveries within an over itself, disguising deliveries in the manner of

Zakir Naik tumult, Catholic Church power abuse: will Anwar Ibrahim save Malaysia?

Anwar Ibrahim By Jay Ihsan*  Anwar Ibrahim, a hardcore reformist who took a punch to his eye in 1998 from then inspector-general of police, Rahim Noor, has finally been given the mandate by Malaysians to serve as the nation's 10th prime minister. Anwar knows too well the burden of staying true to both trust and faith the people have in him requires every once of commitment and dedication. The question is will he be apologetic for his transgressions enroute to "rebuilding" Malaysia? In his overzealousness to get the job done, Anwar, 75, needs to safeguard every bit of gumption to address prickling issues plaguing the safety of the nation especially those involving communal sensitivities. For one, dare Anwar get rid of terrorist hate preacher and fugitive Zakir Naik for inciting religious unrest in Malaysia? In November 2016, India’s counter-terrorism agency filed an official complaint against Naik, holding him responsible for promoting religious hatred and unlawful activi

Galileo-Catholic church affair: must history repeat at Malaysia’s St Francis Xavier church?

By Jay Ihsan*  Christianity is the enemy of liberation and civilization -August Bebel Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence -Jacques Maritain Real Christianity can be summed up in two commands: Love God and love people. - Joyce Meyer Pious XI was too neutral to mention the gas chambers; decent people like my own family were turned into devils by crude Christianity - Lionel Blue Religious doctrines cannot escape the liberty of thoughts and expression. To each their own, so it is said. From all things nice to all things that make one cringe - religion is polarised and in this regard, Christianity has over time faced the wrath of bigotry espoused by those "bequeathed" to protect it. Take Pope Francis for example. He had a secret meeting with giant pharma Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla last year while the world struggled to make sense of the word "lockdown" and suffer adverse effects of the Corona virus vaccines produced by Pfiz

Qatar World Cup has a strong Bangladesh connection: stadium construction, t-shirts

By Mashrur Siddique Bhuiyan*  The FIFA World Cup fever has unquestionably cut through the minds of mass people all over the world. Stadiums in Qatar are buzzing with football fans and athletes representing their countries at the “Greatest Show on Earth". The magic of the FIFA World Cup is so enormous that even being unable to participate does not matter much to the fans who support different nations. This is one of the highest viewed events in the world, with the 2018 event viewed by about 3.6 billion people worldwide. But this crowd is not aware of the contribution of migrant workers who helped build the very stadiums where the matches are playing in. Qatar won the bid in 2010 to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, which got the oxymoron of celebration and controversy. This also created the potential for Qatar to Showcase its monumental economic achievements and unique culture on the global stage. The motto for Qatar’s bid team in 2010 was ‘Expect Amazing’ and migrant workers across th

A classic, 'Gandhi' ignores merciless cruelty unleashed on militant freedom fighters

By Harsh Thakor  The movie ‘Gandhi’ produced by Richard Attenborough, which was released 40 years ago on November 30th, 1982, was classic in it's own right. Ironical that it took an Englishman to embark upon the making of a film on this legendary figure. I can't visualize a better pictorial portrayal of Gandhi's life or an actor getting in the skin of the character an exuding the mannerisms as actor Ben Kingsley. Episodes are crafted and grafted surgically, illustrating how Gandhi wove fragmented bits into a cohesive force, to confront he British empire. Most boldly the movie unfolds how British colonialism subjugated the Indian people to barbaric cruelty. With great mastery the cinematography captures the vast Indian landscapes and essence of livelihood of Indians under colonial rule. The movie most illustratively shows the crystallisation of anti-colonial fervour from the embryonic stage and how it fermented into an integrated movement. In a most subtle manner it illustr

Film on evidence of viability of in situ communitarian urban water management

By Rahul Banerjee  Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that centralised urban water management in India is in deep crisis. Water supply is both inadequate and extremely costly, water harvesting and recharging and used water treatment and reuse are mostly absent and storm water management is a disaster. Under the circumstances, the only viable solution is communitarian in situ water management and this is what has been proposed in the latest guidelines of both the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation and the Swacch Bharat Mission. Our NGO, Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti , has not only implemented communitarian in situ water management but has also carried out research to provide evidence of the unviability of centralised water management and the suitability of the former. Here is a film based on a detailed research that I did on urban water management in Chhattisgarh for the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi, that succinctly critiques cen

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Terrorism and right-wing politics in Bangladesh: Exploring the nexus

By Shafiqul Elahi*  Although terrorism as broadly understood as violent extremism or militancy has long historical roots, in Bangladesh, it surfaced in the 1970s through leftist militants. Later, it shifted to Islamist extremism in the 1980s and flourished throughout the 1990s, and reached its peak in the early 2000s. The menace of terrorism particularly in the form of Islamic militancy has widely been felt in Bangladesh's society and polity since 1999. Since then, several militant groups have gained ground and started to challenge the government over the issues of the political process and social systems in the country. The central goal of the operations of the militant groups is to establish an Islamic regime in the country. The Fifth Amendment of the Bangladesh Constitution under the Zia regime in the late 1970s and the eighth amendments of the Constitution under the Ershad regime in the early 1980s have placed Islam at the state level to recognize its importance in the country

Chemical project promoters of Tamil Nadu have a lot to learn from Gujarat

By NS Venkataraman*  When good investment opportunities in chemical industry exist which are known in a region and which are yet to be exploited, it can be said that the chemical industry in the region is at the cross roads. However, when there are good investment opportunities in chemical industry but which are ignored and focus shifted to some other sector, it can be said that the scenario amount to poor strategy. Tamil Nadu government has now fixed a target for achieving one trillion dollar economy in the state by 2030. This is a bold and forward looking initiative and certainly this target is achievable, even though the year 2030 is only seven years away. With the target of achieving one trillion dollar size economy, it is necessary to give due role and importance for the growth of the chemical industry, since several chemical products are feed inputs for several other industrial sector such as automobile, electronics, textile and so on. Growth of such chemical in

Floods: As ax falls on most vulnerable, Pak seeks debt cancellation, climate justice

By Tanupriya Singh  Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18. The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November.  Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North. “The dystopia has already come to our doorstep,” Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told Reuters. By the first week of September, pleas for h