Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Budget for the second time in her tenure.
Acknowledging that air pollution is a major concern, she allocated ₹4,400 crores to encourage states to formulate comprehensive plans for ensuring clean air. This is nearly ten times more than last year’s allocation of ₹460 crores for the said program.
“The government proposes to encourage such states that are formulating and implementing plans for ensuring cleaner air in cities above one million. Parameters for the incentives would be notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change. Allocation for this purpose is ₹4,400 crores for 2020-21,” said Sitharaman.
Talking about air pollution, Mr. Barun Aggarwal, CEO, BreatheEasy Consultants Pvt Ltd., said, “It is a welcome move by the Central government to encourage states that are formulating and implementing plans for ensuring cleaner air in cities above one million population with the allocation of Rs 4,400 crore. India is home to 15 of the 30 world’s most polluted cities.”
He added, “The government has the national level target of bringing down the concentration of PM 2.5 and PM 10 by up to 30% by 2024. But these targets are not notified under any act. There are no emission reduction targets for polluting sectors like transport and power generation. There are no targets for the cities. There is no regulatory body that has the authority to take action against air polluters and enforce NCAP measures. Without a legal framework and strict enforcement of pollution control regulations, the government’s well-intended targets are not going to be achieved.”
Apart from air pollution, she made several announcements in terms of climate change and solar energy.
With the implementation of the Paris Agreement commitments beginning on January 1, 2021, Sitharaman made a concrete push for solar energy signaled the end for old and polluting thermal power plants. India has about 48GW worth of coal power plants that are old and don’t comply with the new emission standards.
For Climate Change Action Plan, an amount of Rs 40 crore has been allocated, which is the same as last fiscal.
The budgetary allocation for National Mission for Green India has been raised from Rs 240 crore in the last financial year to Rs 311 crore this time with national afforestation programme alone being allotted Rs 246 crore, higher than last year’s amount of Rs 179 crore.
In the wildlife arena, the government-initiated projects, Project Tiger and Project Elephant saw some changes with the former getting reduced by Rs 50 crore and the other being raised by Rs 5 crore.
The fiscal’s allocation of Rs 350 crore for Project Tiger, an initiative for conserving the wildcat, reduced to Rs 300 crore and Rs 30 crore for Project Elephant, which was launched to conserve jumbos across the country, is now Rs 35 crore.
Also, the total allocation proposed for Swachh Bharat is Rs. 12,300 crore this time and 3.6 lakh crore rupees have been approved for Jal Jeevan Mission.
Setting up large solar panel capacity alongside the railway tracks on land owned by railways, a proposal is under consideration.
Apart from this, Rs 1.7 lakh crores are allocated for transport infrastructure in 2020-21.