The Centre on Monday earmarked a separate Rs 2,217 crore for 42 urban centres to tackle air pollution and announced the much-awaited voluntary vehicle scrapping policy to phase out old and polluting vehicles, even as it shrunk the budgetary allocation for the environment ministry from the last fiscal by nearly eight percent.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her budget speech for 2021-22, announced a total of Rs 2869.93 crore for the ministry, Rs 230 crore less than the last fiscal.
Officials said the outlay has been lesser this time as the economy is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Centre almost doubled the amount allotted to National Coastal Mission from Rs 103 crore in the last fiscal to Rs 200 crore in 2021-22, the allocation for the climate change action plan has been reduced from Rs 40 crore to Rs 30 crore and for Project Tiger from Rs 300 crore to Rs 250 crore.
The minister, in her speech, also announced a separate sum of Rs 2,217 crore for combating air pollution at 42 urban centres.
“To tackle the burgeoning problem of air pollution, I propose to provide an amount of Rs 2,217 crore for 42 urban centres with a million plus population in this budget,” Sitharaman said.
Speaking to PTI, Environment Secretary R P Gupta said the budget for the environment is less than last year as the economy is recovering from the pandemic.
"Yes the budget may be less than last year but it is also because we are recovering from the pandemic,” Gupta said.
Out of Rs 2869.93 crore allocated to the ministry of environment, the minister allotted Rs 470 crore for 'control of pollution', which is Rs 10 crore more than last year.
Control of Pollution has been conceptualized to provide financial assistance to Pollution control Boards/Committees and funding to National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), launched in January 2019.
For the first time, a budget provision of Rs 20 crore has been made for the newly formed statutory body Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) for the national capital region and adjoining areas.
In yet another step for combating air pollution, Sitharaman on Monday announced the voluntary vehicle scrapping policy under which personal vehicles would undergo fitness test after 20 years while commercial vehicles would require it after completion of 15 years.
Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs Minister Nitin Gadkari said the policy would cover over one crore old light, medium and heavy motor vehicles that are estimated to cause 10-12 times more pollution than the latest vehicles.
"We are separately announcing a voluntary vehicle scrapping policy to phase out old and unfit vehicles. This will help in encouraging fuel-efficient, environment-friendly vehicles, thereby reducing vehicular pollution and oil import bill," the finance minister said.
The budgetary allocation for National Mission for Green India has been reduced from Rs 311 crore in the last financial year to Rs 290 crore this time with the national afforestation programme alone being allotted Rs 235 crore, lower than last year's amount of Rs 246 crore.
In the wildlife conservation arena, the allocation for government-initiated projects -- Project Tiger and Project Elephant -- saw some changes with the former getting reduced by Rs 50 crore and the other being shrunk by Rs 2 crore.
The fiscal's allocation for Project Tiger saw a reduction of Rs 100 crore in the last two years. From Rs 350 crore allotted to it in 2019-20, it was reduced to Rs 300 crore in the last fiscal, and now the allocation stands at Rs 250 crore.
The Budget for Project Elephant, which was launched to conserve jumbos across the country, has been reduced to Rs 33 crore from Rs 35 crore last year.
The allocation for the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body under the ministry responsible for tiger census and conservation of wild cats, saw a minor reduction of Rs 50 lakh from Rs 10.5 crore to Rs 10 crore.
The budget for National Coastal Mission was nearly doubled with the government allotting it Rs 200 crore from Rs 103 crore allotted to it last year.
In 2019-20, NCM was allotted Rs 95 crore.
Under the National Coastal Mission, the environment ministry is responsible for ensuring livelihood security of coastal communities, including fisher folks, conserving, protecting the coastal stretches and promoting sustainable development based on scientific principles.
The minister also announced that under Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, for which Rs 1.42 lakh crore have been set aside, main interventions include complete faecal sludge management and waste water treatment, source segregation of garbage, reduction in single-use plastic, reduction in air pollution by effectively managing waste from construction-and-demolition activities and bio-remediation of all legacy dump sites.
The Centre reduced the budgetary allocation for National Mission for Himalayan Studies by 10 crore and the amount for various regional offices and statutory institutes like Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Forest Survey of India, Zoological Survey of India, National Green Tribunal etc collectively from Rs 506 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 460 crore this year.
Funds for 'environment knowledge and capacity building' were also reduced from Rs 86.37 crore last year to Rs 70 crore. It is the umbrella central sector scheme with two sub-schemes - Forestry Training and Capacity Building, and Eco Task Force.
The scheme Forestry Training and Capacity Building aims to cover the whole gamut of the training and exposure needs of the forestry sector personnel.
The Eco Task Force scheme is being implemented through the Ministry of Defence for ecological restoration of terrains, rendered difficult either due to severe degradation or remote location.
The budget for environmental education, awareness and training was also reduced from Rs 114 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 77.13 crore in 2021-22.
The total allocation of five autonomous bodies under the environment ministry has also been reduced in the budget this year.
The five autonomous bodies – G B Pant Himalayan Institute of Environment and Development, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Indian Institute of Forest Management, Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) – were allocated Rs 305.5 crore for this year compared to Rs 340 crore allotted to them in the last fiscal.
However, the budget for statutory and regulatory bodies rose from Rs 145.5 crore to Rs 160.5 crore this year.
The bodies include Central Pollution Control Board, Animal Welfare Board, Central Zoo Authority, National Biodiversity Authority, National Tiger Conservation Authority and Commission for Air Quality Management.