Simi Mehta, Amita Bhaduri, Anshula Mehta, Sunidhi Agarwal, Manoswini Sarkar

Several environment institutions and organizations play a critical role in aspects of data collection, monitoring, law enforcement and conservation. Capacity building, personnel training and adequate funding are of paramount significance to ensure that these institutions continue performing the functions that they are expected to.

However, the overall trend of downsizing the allocations for such institutions will harm the environment, warns Mr Debadityo Sinha, Senior Resident Fellow, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, who works at the interface of ecology, law and policy. Mr Sinha was one of the speakers for the panel discussion based on the topic, ‘Environment & Budget 2021: Business as Usual?’, organized by the Impact and Policy Research Institute – IMPRI and India Water Portal on February 03, 2021.

Adding his voice to the consensual opinion of all other panellists that the Budget does nothing exemplary for the environment, Mr Sinha remarked that the focus is entirely on aspects such as pollution control and water supply with less emphasis on matters such as forest preservation. He came down heavily on the consistent year on year reduction in allocations to institutions like Wildlife Institute of India, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, Forest Survey of India, Botanical Survey of India, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, National Green Tribunal, among others. He maintained that these institutions are vital for data collection and conservation actions and should be supported appropriately.

Mr Sinha raised concerns over the true intentions behind the newly announced Deep Ocean Mission, which is said to be aimed at studying and conserving the marine ecosystem. The involvement of bodies such as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) along with the Ministry of Earth Sciences raises serious doubts over the aim of the mission, he remarked.  He also added that one should not be disillusioned by the increase in allocation to the National Costal Mission which seems to support the fishing community but rather is majorly involved in creating infrastructures which are not environment friendly.

Answering a question of the poor availability of environment data, Mr Sinha noted that there is ample data available, however, due to lack of political will it is kept from the public. This is done to avoid litigations, he added. Responding to a query on climate refugees, he remarked that India is the 5th most vulnerable country to climate change. The extreme weather events that occur lead to the problem of climate refugees and hence there should be a focus on adaptation and disaster management, he advised.

Creating a framework for future action, Mr Sinha advocated for increased funding to the vital environment conservation, monitoring and research institutes while also improving the capacity of the statutory organizations such as the State Pollution Control Boards by recruiting more manpower. He voiced for more conservation projects and increased investment on natural assets. He also suggested that the Himalayan states should be given compensations for the conservations efforts that they carry out and the ecosystem services that they provide to the states in plains. He concluded that India should move beyond the model of GDP growth and carry out Strategic Environment Assessment of every plan and project.

YouTube Video for Environment and Budget 2021: Business As Usual?

Picture Courtesy: Deccan Herald