Centre’s budget push for a ‘V’ shaped economic revival translates to compromises in environment spending
In some disheartening news for activists and climate crusaders, the Centre slashed the environment ministry’s budget for 2021-2022. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman allocated ₹ 2,869.93 crore for the environment ministry, much less than the previously allocated ₹ 3,100 crore.
Schemes such as the Climate Change Action Plan (CACP), National Adaptation Fund (NAF) and Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) suffered major cuts. The budgetary allocation for ‘Control of pollution’ and the National Coastal mission, however, has been increased.
Gradual drop in CCAP allocation over the years
The total allocation for CCAP has been reduced from ₹ 40 crore in the 2020-2021 budget to ₹ 30 crore for the new fiscal year.
The CCAP is a government programme launched to mitigate and adapt to the adverse impact of climate change.
National Adaptation Fund is not a government priority
A similar trend is being followed for the National Adaptation Fund (NAF), which has seen a gradual decrease in the budgetary allocation. After enjoying a robust budget of around ₹ 110 crore in 2017-18, the amount has gradually reduced to the current ₹ 60 crore allocated in the 2021-22 budget.
The NAF was established in 2015 to meet the cost of adaptation to climate change for the state and Union Territories. The fund seems to be on the low priority list for the government because the actual expenditure in 2019-20 was a mere ₹ 33.82 crore out of the ₹ 100 crore allocated.
Centrally sponsored schemes face cuts
Funds allocated to centrally sponsored schemes have also been cut from ₹ 926 crore in the last budget to ₹ 766 crore. These schemes under the MoEF&CC comprise programmes related to the environment, forestry and wildlife. They are jointly funded by the Centre and states.
The budget allocation to Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH), one of the centrally sponsored schemes has also been slashed. It has decreased from ₹ 560 crore in 2019-20 to ₹ 414 crore.
Under IDWH, the expenditure on Project Tiger and the development of wildlife habitats has been decreasing consistently. But Project Tiger has faced the most cuts – shrinking from ₹ 300 crore in 2020-21 to ₹ 250 crore in the current budget.
The decrease in the expenditure of Project Elephant, another scheme under IDWH is not the same as Project Tiger. The funds allocated to Project Elephant has decreased from ₹ 35 crore in last year’s budget to ₹ 33 crore in the current financial year. Considering the elephant census 2017 in mind, which reported a decrease in the population of Asiatic Elephants, the fund for Project Elephant should have increased. However, in the current budget, it has decreased by ₹ 2 crore.
‘Control of pollution’ a top priority for the government
The ‘Control of pollution’ fund has shown an upward trajectory since its inception in the budget 2019-20. In the current budget, ₹ 470 crore is allocated to control pollution – ₹ 10 crore more than the last budget.
The fund for ‘Control of pollution’ includes financial assistance provided to pollution control Boards/Committees and funding to National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), launched in January 2019.
However, the fund allocated for ‘Control of pollution’ is lower than the amount demanded as per the report of the parliamentary standing committee on Demand for Grants of the MoEF&CC in budget 2020-21.
Reportedly, the committee wanted ₹ 600 crore for ‘Control of Pollution’ during budget 2020-21, but got only ₹ 460 crore. The Union environment and forest ministry had then told the House panel that its efforts to check pollution would be affected because it has received 30% fewer funds than what it demanded in the annual budget.
This outlay is separate from the Finance Commission grant of ₹ 2217 crore for air quality improvement in 42 urban centres across the country, as mentioned by Sitharaman in her budget presentation.