The budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was all about improving the investment climate and business environment. Dire pronouncements by teams of international scientists about climate change, and the terrible lived reality of water scarcity and floods across the country do not appear to have informed the preparation of the budget. In October 2018 and May 2019, two separate UN reports â that of the Intergovernmental Platform on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) -- announced that global ecosystems were in a state of rapid decline, and that time to limit climate change was running out. The reports warned that without radical course correction of global economies, human civilisation will not last out this century.
The report of the IPBES specifically recommends redefining âvisions of a good lifeâ to curb âoverconsumption and wasteâ and âsteering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth.â The IPBES report was compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, with inputs from another 310 contributing scientists to provide a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development and their impacts on nature.
The following budgetary allocations and excerpts from the 2019 budget highlight that the Government of India is not worried about the failing state of planetary health. Nor is it convinced about the need to repair it and prepare the country for the tough times ahead. Environmentally, the government cannot be criticised for breaking promises. No major promises have been made, and there is no talk that the government can be forced to walk.
Indiaâs economy has expanded from $1.85 trillion (Rs. 130 lakh crore) in 2014 to $2.7 trillion (Rs. 190 lakh crore) in 2019.
The budget has been prepared with a view to expanding this further to $3 trillion by 2020, and to $5 trillion in five years.
Total expenditure for 2019-2020 is pegged at Rs. 27,86,349 crore ($417.95 billion).
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC)
- Total allocation for Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is Rs 2954.72 crore, a few crore less than what was spent on the Statue of Unity in Gujarat. As a nodal agency for securing Indiaâs environment and its resilience to climate change, this Ministry ought to have a budget commensurate with the environment-damaging activities that we call âdevelopment.â However, the current allocation at 0.0000016% of the size of the economy is significantly lower than the proportionate allocation in 2013-14 under the UPA.
- Consider the sub-allocation for Police under the budget for Ministry of Home Affairs. The amount earmarked this year for Police is Rs. 98,202 crore.
Sub-allocations within the total environment budget of 2019-20 are even more revealing:
- Allocation for National Green Tribunal down 74% from Rs. 75 crore in 2018-19 to Rs. 42 crore
- Budget for Coastal Management Program fell 42% from Rs. 165 crore to Rs. 95 crore
Total budget for âEnvironment Protection, Management and Sustainable Developmentâ slid 8.5% from Rs 235 crore to Rs. 215 crore. Of this:
- Allocation for implementation of Climate Change Action Plan was a meagre Rs. 40 crore. For perspective, compare this with the budgetary allocation of Rs. 76.33 crores for âStaff, Household and Allowances of Presidentâ or the Rs. 50 crore allocated for âGhat Works for Beautification of [Ganga] Riverfrontâ under Namami Gange scheme.
- Allocation for Pollution Abatement was Rs. 10 crore, down from Rs. 20 crore in 2018-19
- Allocation for Hazardous Substances Management was Rs. 15 crore
Budget under Control of Pollution head was increased substantially from nil in 2018-2019 to Rs. 460 crore in 2019-2020. However, this was far lower than the Rs. 701.29 crore earmarked for this budget head in 2013-2014 by the UPA government.
- At a time when Central Pollution Control Boardâs responsibilities are increasing with NGTâs tendency to refer more and more matters to CPCB committees, the budget for CPCB has remained at a constant Rs. 100 crore.
- Budget for Coral and Mangrove Conservation is NIL. Meanwhile, the Rs. 1 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project is expected to obliterate 54,000 mangroves spread over 17 hectares.
- Budget for Biodiversity Conservation increased from a meagre Rs. 14.5 crore to Rs. 16 crore
- Conservation of Aquatic Systems was earmarked Rs. 68.4 crore, up from Rs. 66 crore the previous year.
Ministry of Jal Shakti
The Government of India has announced its plans to bring piped water to every household. This is a laudable and ambitious announcement especially considering the precarious situation with respect to Indiaâs water lifeline, namely groundwater. Groundwater waters nearly 70% of the countryâs irrigated land, supplies 85% of the rural water needs, and more than 55% of Indiaâs urban and industrial needs. This budget is no different from earlier budgets of this or other governments in terms of neglect of groundwater.
- The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation saw its allocation go down from Rs. 22,356 crore in 2018-19 to Rs. 20,016 crore in 2019-20.
- The allocation for Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuventation too declined from Rs. 8,860 crore to Rs. 8,245 crore this year.
- Budget for the Central Water Commission, the nodal agency for all things water in the country, declined from an inadequate Rs. 453 crore to Rs. 435 crore. As water expert Himanshu Thakkar points out, the CWC is already overloaded with responsibilities. Apart from âhandling most water data [CWC] is also involved in policymaking, technical body, dam design, dam safety, dam lobby, R&D, monitoring and many other functions.â
- The Central Groundwater Board, already blamed for its patchy and inadequate data generation on groundwater, saw its allocation decline from Rs. 242 crore to Rs. 229 crore.
- Outlay for Groundwater Management and Regulation was brought down from Rs. 450 crore to Rs. 260 crore.
- Development of Water Resources Information Systems also saw a decline in budget from Rs. 211 crore to Rs. 100 crore.
- Allocations for the upkeep of the holy river under the Namami Gange scheme fell drastically from Rs. 2300 crore to Rs. 750 crore.
- The budget for National River Conservation Program increased from Rs. 600 crore to Rs. 1200 crore. However, the allocation is far lower than the Rs. 1800 crore noted as the Revised Estimate for 2018-19.
- River basin management was allotted Rs. 200 crore, down from Rs. 226 crore.
- Flood Control and Damage saw its allocation decline from Rs. 197 crore to Rs. 156 crore.
- The outlay for budget head Ecology and Environment under the developmental head âEconomic Servicesâ was reduced from Rs. 3070 crore to Rs. 1985 crore.
Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare
The Government has announced schemes to benefit the farming sector, including promotion of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). There is no mention of making farming more water-efficient barring a glancing reference to harnessing domestic wastewater for irrigation. The allocation for agriculture is fourth highest after the allocations for Finance, Defence and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
- Total allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture is 1,38,563.97 crore this year. Of this, a meagre Rs. 21 crore was allocated for Soil and Water Conservation.
- No budgetary allocation has been made for ZBNF. An outlay of Rs. 325 crore has been proposed for Paramparaghat Krishi Vikas or Promotion of Traditional Farming. Contrast that with the subsidies earmarked for urea and nutrient (NPK) supply.
- Allocations for urea and nutrient (NPK) subsidies continue to hog the budget with 2019-20 outlays of Rs. 53,629 crore and Rs 79,996 crore respectively. Both subsidy amounts are significantly higher than that budgeted in 2018-19.
Nityanand is a Chennai-based writer and social activist.