Budget misses a chance to facilitate Climate change
- 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.
Budget from an environmental standpoint
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% 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.
Focus on natural and organic farming
- There is a welcome stated focus on natural and organic farming, and on promoting millets.
- No details on allocation: 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.
- Missing focus on rainfed farming: Completely missing is a focus on rainfed farming that involves 60% 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
- 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.
- Missed opportunity for decentralised renewable energy: 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.
Concerns with focus on infrastructure in Budget
- 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.
Missed opportunity on 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.
- Another chance to turn the economy towards real sustainability and equity — a real “Amrit Kaal” as India heads to a centenary of Independence — has been missed.