Budget 2017 brought little cheer to those who cherish the environment and forests as Union finance minister Arun Jaitley made no special announcements for the sectors apart from ushering in the second phase of the national solar mission.
Jaitley announced that around 7,000 railway stations will get power from solar panels in the medium term and 2017 will see the initiation of second phase of solar park development for creating additional generation capacity of 20,000 MW.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Global Solar Alliance at Paris climate conference in 2015, with around 30 countries becoming part of it in Marakesh a year later. The plan was to create India as a manufacturing and research hub for solar technologies that can feed power to the developing world.
Many environmentalists were expecting a big boost for climate change in the budget as environment minister Arun Madhav Dave in December had announced that India will start preparing for implementing the Paris agreement from 2017.
“The budget has failed to even acknowledge the problem of pollution, which simply indicates that environment is not a priority concern for this regime,” Centre for Science and Environment, a policy think tank in Delhi, said in a statement. “While the budgetary allocation for rural employment, agricultural insurance and farm ponds etc seems to be good, the challenge would be implementation.”
Although climate change was not part of Jaitley’s speech, the allocation for the environment ministry has been increased by about Rs 300 crore to Rs 2,657 crore in 2017-18.
A ministry official said that a good amount of additional funds would be spent on preparing plans to implement the Paris agreement that comes into force from 2020 and creating capability of the states to handle climate chang-induced disasters.
Mention of the green sector was restricted to pilot plants for environment-friendly disposal of solid waste and conversion of biodegradable waste to energy at New Delhi and Jaipur railway stations.
Officials said that increased allocation for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee scheme could improve management of water resources and forestry.