Budget 2018: Jaitley Announces Schemes To Fight Air Pollution; Green Bodies Call For Quick Implementation

Budget 2018: Jaitley Announces Schemes To Fight Air Pollution; Green Bodies Call For Quick Implementation

Budget 2018: Jaitley Announces Schemes To Fight Air Pollution; Green Bodies Call For Quick Implementation
(Dreamstime)

The Union Budget 2018-19, which was tabled by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on February 1, received a lukewarm response from the general public. However,  the special mention of the rising pollution to alarming levels across north India was a saving grace. While the Budget laid emphasis on launching schemes and extending of support to the affected states, the green bodies are of the view that the matter was tackled 'briefly' and the implementation of schemes will have to be quick.

“In what is a rare occurrence, protecting the environment found mention in the Budget. The government has recognised air pollution in Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region) as alarming,” says Sunil Agarwal, Associate Dean and Director, School of Real Estate, RICS SBE.

Here's all you need to know about this development.

Jaitley on air pollution

During his Budget Speech, the FM mentioned about air pollution in the 35th paragraph. “Air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region has been a cause of concern.  A special scheme will be implemented to support the efforts of the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to address air pollution and to subsidise machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue,” Jaitley said.

Adding to this, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said, "Machinery required for institutional management of crop residue will be subsidised. Our scientists are also working to develop a viable process to handle stubble.

The Budget announcements

In the Economic Survey released on January 30, Delhi has been called one of the most-unhealthiest cities in the world. Aimed at bringing down the alarming pollution levels, the FM in the Budget 2018-19 has announced special measures and a Budgetary allocation for the ministry. Here is what Budget had in store:

*A special scheme to address rising pollution levels in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and support the states in their initiatives.

*Plans to subsidise machinery required for the in-situ management of crop residue.

*A Budgetary allocation of Rs 2,675.42 crore for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for the fiscal year 2018-19. This allocation is 19 per cent higher that what the ministry had received in the previous fiscal.

Green bodies ask for quick implementation

While the FM showed concern over the rising pollution levels, the green bodies that have been taking various measures to tackle this menace say that this an issue of national emergency that the government has only talked about briefly and that not mentioning of the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) was disappointing. According to CSE's executive director and the head of Right to Clean Air campaign, Anumita Roychowdhury, the Budget has been unable to recognise the urban air pollution challenge as an issue of national importance.

"Air pollution is not a problem that afflicts just the Delhi-NCR region and its adjoining states – every major city in India is now burdened with it," she said.

 The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) was also of the same view that government should now see air pollution as a national issue. On the other, CSE director general Sunita Narain welcomed the scheme but also wants the government to implement it quickly. “The machines must come before next winter, the season when stubble burning is usually at its peak. The clock is ticking," she said.

Sunil Dahiya of Greenpeace India said that no mention of NCAP and no Budgetary allocation of the same came as a disappointment. "Minister's budget speech should have addressed the need to increase monitoring stations across the country," he said.

"Having a comprehensive, systematic, time-bound Clean Air Action Plan with clear financing mechanisms and fixed accountabilities is the only way we can start progressing towards Clean Air Nation," Dahiya added.

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