The budget does not respect the environment: The Tribune India

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Krishna Raj


Professor, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore

Expectations were high from the Union budget to drive decarbonization and net zero economy in line with India’s commitments at COP26. Important announcements from the Minister of Finance on sustainable development relate to improving productivity, the energy transition, climate action and financing investments in a long-term perspective of 25 years. These programs aim to boost solar power generation, promote clean energy through electric vehicles (EVs) and investment through sovereign green bonds, as the proposal to connect the rivers goes to l against the principles and practices of sustainable development.

One of the flagship programs announced is to mitigate long-term climate change with a strong infusion of Rs 19,500 crore for solar power generation. The government intends to encourage the targeted generation of 280,000 megawatts of solar power by 2030 under the Production Linked Incentives (PLI) scheme. If the targets are met, India will produce half of its energy needs from renewables, or 500,000 megawatts by 2030 and will be less dependent on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

In addition, the government is trying to deal with climate change through energy transition. One of the main barriers to promoting clean energy through electric vehicles is the lack of charging infrastructure. The Battery Swap Policy is a paradigm shift in promoting faster adoption of electric vehicles in the nation’s public and private transportation sector. This will have a far-reaching effect, but the constant search for a sustainable and alternative energy source such as hydrogen fuel production is more futuristic. Efforts to transition energy through electric vehicles will take time in the natural process unless the production of fossil fuel vehicles is stopped.

Financing climate change is the biggest challenge. In this regard, the government is trying to reach net zero by 2070, using economic instruments such as sovereign green bonds as a market solution to finance climate change. It is intended to finance green infrastructure in the public sector.

However, the success of green bonds depends on the level of investment flows, efficient allocation and timely implementation of green infrastructure projects. To reduce stubble burning as well as emissions from highly polluting industries such as thermal power, the budget proposes the mandatory use of 5-7% co-firing of biomass pellets, which could help reduce emissions. of carbon dioxide estimated at 38 million tonnes. However, practical difficulties must be resolved.

The budget aims to promote the sustainable development of agriculture by promoting natural, chemical-free agriculture throughout the country. Initially, a 5 km wide corridor on the banks of the Ganges was chosen on an experimental basis. This clearly reflects the economic cost of the environmental damage already inflicted, particularly the pollution of the Ganges. Various governments have spent about

Rs 20,000 crore on the Clean Ganga mission, but the river is still heavily polluted. The use of polluted water for irrigation on the 5 km of agricultural land on the banks of the Ganges will not be fruitful to achieve natural agriculture without chemicals, unless dirty and polluting industries in and around the river are required to recycle the effluents and reuse them. treated water. However, there is no scientific understanding or clarity on how zero budget national agriculture and Vedic agriculture are going to be implemented on 4 lakh hectares in eight states and how they are different from the organic and natural agriculture.

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change serves as the nodal agency for the implementation of the National Climate Change Action Plan to achieve energy and resource efficiency in addition to clean technologies. However, the government allocates a measly Rs 3,030 crore to the ministry. Some of the previous flagship programs such as the National Green India Mission, National Reforestation Programme, National Clean Air Programme, Project Tiger and Project Elephant are receiving less budget support. There are no new programs to bring more land under forest cover and provide incentives for agroforestry to mitigate climatic conditions.

The ambitious policy of interconnecting rivers is an ecologically destructive and economically colossal project that runs counter to sustainable development practices. The Ken-Betwa project will cost the treasury Rs 4.4605 crore in addition to jeopardizing invaluable ecological benefits. The proposed Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the interconnection of five rivers – Narmada, Godavari, Krishna, Pennar and Cauvery – could lead to more disputes and interstate conflicts over water between the upper and lower riparian states, in addition ecological and economic losses. . Karnataka has already expressed its dissatisfaction with the DPR and the unfair distribution of its share. Research studies have observed that many mega irrigation projects have used available water resources at a sub-optimal level and more inefficiently. Supplying water from distant river basins encroaches on the water demand of other states, inflicts ecological damage and costs more. Furthermore, the justification of the link between rivers with a surplus of water and those with a deficit is not supported by scientific reasoning, because even today it is difficult to assess and guarantee that the right amount of water is stored and distributed between the riparian states in different seasons. Most rivers are not managed with scientific inputs from river basin planning with competing water demands. Various water policies prioritize water management on the demand side rather than supply management, such as the interconnection of rivers. Therefore, the development of megaprojects should not go against the scientific foundations, ecological considerations, economic feasibility and the spirit of sustainable development policies.

Overall, the budget aims to achieve a low-carbon economy through the adoption of energy efficiency and transition policies, but changing the mode of production and consumption patterns is very important for the success of these policies. There is no doubt that India is going through the most difficult times. The economy and the environment have tradeoffs, but futuristic policies can bridge the tradeoffs between them. But the budget largely gives the impression that more benefits are being handed over to the capitalists rather than the common man. This unbalanced economic policy is likely to trigger high income inequality, a digital divide and an ecological disaster in the country.

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