While the finance minister's budget speech was high on specifics and low on atmospherics, it was sparing on the environmental protection front.
In his presentation, Arun Jaitley reduced budgetary allocation for the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) by about Rs 400 crore. The amount may appear insignificant, but it is nearly 15% of the ministry's provision for the financial year 2013-14.
MoEF received Rs 2,256 crore with cuts in funds across the board, especially in resources to safeguard wildlife, conserve forests and control pollution. No additional money has been provided for protection of tigers and elephants.
Apart from this, no new scheme or programme for ecological conservation was announced, except doubling the cess on mining of some minerals like coal and lignite to foster research for clean energy, and establishment of a Rs 100-cr National Adaptation Fund to deal with impact of climate change on agriculture.
"Climate change is a reality which all of us have to face together. Agriculture is an activity most prone to the vagaries of climate change. To meet this challenge, I propose to establish a National Adaptation Fund," Jaitley stated in his speech.
This would be the NDA government's first measure to create a mechanism to fight climate change in the sector that contributes nearly 15% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Jaitley also gave impetus to the new and renewable energy field by proposing to take up ultra mega solar power projects in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Ladakh in J&K with initial funding of Rs 500 crore.
The minister also announced apportioning of Rs 400 crore to launch a scheme for solar power driven agricultural pump sets and water pumping stations for energising 1 lakh pumps. "An additional Rs 100 crore is set aside for the development of 1 MW solar parks on the banks of canals," he said.
On the issue of balancing growth with environmental protection, Jaitley said it was the government's intention to encourage investment in mining sector and promote sustainable mining practices to adequately meet the requirements of industry without sacrificing ecological concerns.