Specifically, the budget for the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for the fiscal years that begins on April 1, was slashed 25 percent, from 22.6 billion Indian rupees ($360 million) to 16.8 billion rupees ($268 million). Additionally, in his budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced an increased target for renewable energy generating capacity, to 175,000 megawatts by 2022.
At the same time, the Finance Minister announced the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had its budget slashed by two-thirds or 3 billion rupees ($48 million). Chandra Bhushan, the deputy director general of the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) complained there was a “disconnect” between the budget speech and allocations to the different agencies. “The budget speech sets ambitious targets for renewables, but this has not been matched with allocations for the ministry. Allocations for solar for rural (use) and for research on renewable (energy have) also been reduced,” Bhushan said.
Modi backing off on the Environment
One of Modi’s campaign slogans last year was “Congress Mukt Bharat”, or India freed from Congress. This was in reference to the largest party in the UPA coalition, and Modi’s party saw them putting environmental concerns over economic prosperity. While the UPA government had initiated eight action plans under its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), only one was mentioned in the new budget, the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture. But its budget was cut 80 percent, from 15 billion rupees to 3 billion rupees.
“This government is not at all concerned about the environment or climate change,” charged K.N. Vajpai, head of Climate Himalaya, a non-governmental organisation focused on climate change adaptation and development and based in Uttarakhand, one of the most climate-vulnerable states in the country, reported firstpost.com.
The worst news is the announcement of a proposed new law that will allow the federal government to acquire farmland and forest lands from national wildlife refuges and sanctuaries for real estate and infrastructure development, without seeking the consent of any of the landowners.
India’s many environmental failures
India is grappling with many problems. Besides pollution, there is deforestation, the increasing population, the illegal wildlife trade, and clean water and sanitation issues, to name a few. Many of India’s environmental problems are the result of a combination of things; a lack of basic infrastructure services and a burgeoning population that is putting a strain on the country’s natural resource base.
Services such as garbage collection and waste removal services are needed. There is a lack of sufficient sewage treatment facilities and a lack of adequate flood controls or a monsoon water drainage system. With its long, densely populated and low-lying coastline, as well as an economy that depends on its natural resources, India has become very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
It is difficult to imagine, but out of a population of one billion people, 35 percent live on about $1.00 a day. Millions of people depend on the rivers for their livelihoods, yet they are being destroyed by pollution, raw sewage, and chemicals from industrial and agricultural runoff. Drinking water is also a huge problem, or better put, a lack of clean drinking water. It can be suggested that India’s environmental problems are tied in with the rampant poverty and lack of basic services across the country.