The Union Budget 2019-20 is now out and comes with considerable additions and modifications for inclusive development. The Budget document does outline a vision of pollution free India with green Mother Earth and Blue Skies. A clear focus on water, water management, clean rivers and developing a Blue Economy are also some other vision statements outlined in the Budget.
However, considering the fact that our entire economy is directly dependent on environment, the Budget seems to fall short of making provisions for environmental protection in India. A preliminary assessment of the Budget 2019-20 finds it to have provisions for only the following three environmental aspects.
1. Water Security
The recent heat wave and drought like situation in the country is perhaps fresh in the mind of the Government while drafting the Budget. The new Jal Shakti Mantralaya will be empowered to work on India’s water security in an integrated and holistic manner.
The Jal Shakti Mantralaya has been set by after integrating the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. This new Mantralaya will now work with States to ensure Har Ghar Jal (piped water supply) to all rural households by 2024 under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation will focus on integrated demand and supply side management of water at the local level, including creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse in agriculture.
The Government has also identified 1,592 Blocks spread across 256 Districts for its Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA). Besides using funds available under various Schemes, the Government will also explore possibility of using additional funds available under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for the implementation of the JSA.
The Budget outlines the agenda of moving towards realizing a New India by 2022 which will will be clean and healthy with universal access to toilets, water and electricity. The focus clearly is on cleanliness and Swacchta. The healthy and environment benefits of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan have been highlighted in the Budget.
One of the focus seems to be to harness the latest technologies available for transforming waste into energy. The Budget does focus on expanding the Swachh Bharat Mission to undertake sustainable solid waste management in every village of India. This is certainly an interesting transition, if it can be achieved.
3. Energy and Climate Change
The Budget highlights that the Installed solar generation capacity of India has grown over ten times in last five years and lakhs of “New Age” green jobs are now being created. The Budget has been bold in increasing Special Additional Excise duty and Road and Infrastructure Cess each by one rupee a litre on petrol and diesel. While this may be for financial reasons, it will certainly help, albeit very little, to promote renewable energy options.
A simultaneous boost to Electric Vehicles by providing additional income tax deduction of Rs. 1.5 lakh on interest paid on electric vehicle loans and customs duty exemption on certain parts of electric vehicles will help in bringing the shift from fossil fuel based vehicles to electric vehicles. This will help much more if solar and other renewable energy options are made the key source of electric energy for charging these vehicles.
The mention of the International Solar Alliance for promoting renewable energy also hinted at the Government’s intent of tackling climate change. The International Solar Alliance is first such treaty comprising international inter-governmental organisation and is headquartered in India.