Simi Mehta, Amita Bhaduri, Anshula Mehta, Sunidhi Agarwal, Nikhil Jacob
There has been a formidable pressure on the government to deliver a futuristic framework for economic revival post the devastating pandemic. All sections of the society looked towards the Budget 2021 to provide this framework. However, the budget is of a short run and focusses on one year at a time while the long-term policy targets that are necessary now are different from these short-run targets, remarked Prof Kanchan Chopra, Former Director and Professor at Institute of Economic Growth. She was speaking at a 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.
On the whole, Prof Chopra opined that the budget was business as usual with not much to offer for the environment. She expressed concern over the meagre funds allocated to the Ministry of Environment. She also highlighted the need to focus on allocations to related sectors which have a bearing on the environment like thermal power, infrastructure, fertilizers etc.
Dwelling on the trust for the renewable energy sector in the Budget, Prof Chopra lauded the capital infusion of Rs 1,000 crores to the Solar Energy Corporation and of Rs 1,500 crores to the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency. However, she expressed concern over the lack of mention about the manufacture of solar panels and other equipment’s needed to harness the benefits of solar power. She criticized the government’s silence over closing down of inefficient and polluting coal/thermal power plants, despite it finding a mention in the previous budget.
Picturing a future of green growth, Prof Chopra reiterated the suggestions raised by the other panellists on the need for estimating the ecological footprint of every project. She suggested that the government should focus on green transport by providing capital subsidies for electric buses and also incentivise the purchase of other electric vehicles.
Regarding the restoration of urban water bodies, she added that the Jal Jeevan Mission should be linked to the Smart Cities Mission. She added that in the long term, there should be a focus on building back better and greener by promoting resilient infrastructure and preserving the natural capital. To meet the growing need for funds to finance these futuristic and climate-friendly projects, she emphasized on the need to align finance with sustainability and explore options like green bonds.
Prof Chopra remarked that the Budget doesn’t augur much for the environment because our economic policy doesn’t bring the environment into the picture. She added that there is an urgent need to mainstream the concern for the environment in our economic policy and focus on Research and Development, which has lately seen a shrinking allocation. Budgets can’t do everything and there should be an attempt to link environmental policy with the Budget, she concluded.
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Picture Courtesy: BBC