While the budget focuses on ideas like “business environment” and “growth ecosystem”, certain things stand out in the 2022-23 Union budget for anyone interested in the relationship between economy and ecology.
- There is a slight increase in the budget of the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) from 2021-22’s revised estimate of Rs 2,870 crore to Rs 3,030 crore.
- Increased focus on natural and organic farming, and on promoting millets.
- Measures like use of biomass for power stations, boost to batteries, energy-efficiency measures in large commercial buildings, and sovereign green bonds are a welcome step.
- Renewable and “clean” energy has received substantially higher allocations.
- It is encouraging to see the budget proposing a “paradigm shift” towards sustainable urban living. A committee is to be set up to advise on this.
- Total allocation is a meagre 0.08 per cent of the total budgetary outlay.
- The outlay for areas like the National River Conservation Plan, tackling air pollution, which is widely acknowledged as a national emergency has actually declined.
- Completely missing is a focus on rainfed farming that involves 60 per cent of the farming population and is ecologically more sustainable than artificially irrigated agriculture.
- While focus is on “chemical-free farming throughout the country,” but there has been a massive chemical fertiliser subsidy of Rs 1,05,222 crore.
- Focus on mega-parks in solar/wind energy, nuclear power, and large hydro that have serious ecological impacts.
- The National Climate Action Plan gets an abysmally inadequate Rs 30 crore. And there is no focus on a “just transition” that could help workers in fossil fuel sectors, like coal, to transition to jobs in cleaner, greener sectors.
- The proposed 25,000 km increase in highways will further fragment forests, wetlands, mountains, grasslands, agricultural lands and bypass most villages. Eg: For instance, the Ken-Betwa river-linking project, given over Rs 40,000 crore, will submerge valuable tiger habitat.
- The budget misses out on a major shift to “green jobs”. This includes support to decentralised (including handmade) production of textiles, footwear, and other products.
- The Deep Ocean Mission and the Blue Revolution allocations are oriented towards commercial exploitation rather than conservation and sustainable use.
The budget should have focused on the chance to shift towards decentralised renewable energy with less ecological impacts and greater community access.
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