The IMPRI Center for Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development (CECCSD) recently organised an insightful panel discussion on “Environment and Interim Union Budget 2024-25” as part of the IMPRI 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations on Union Budget 2024-25. This was held on February 5th, 2024, and brought together pioneers to engage in the discourse surrounding the implications of the Environment Interim budget and the Indian trajectory of attaining growth within ecological constraints. The session began with opening remarks by Nivedeta and a brief presentation by Priyanka Negi on the snippets of the Environment Budget.
The Convener & Moderator for the panel was Prof Krishna Raj, Visiting Professor, IMPRI; Professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Policy, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore, India. In the opening remark, Prof Krishna Raj commented upon the status of clarity on the aspects of environmental investments.
He emphasised the trade-offs between development and the environment in fiscal and development policies. He urged the panellists and audience to critically reflect on India’s vision to qualify as a developing nation before 2047 and the way we will be defining and measuring the development parameters. He also stressed the importance of curating natural resources and devising technological solutions to address environmental concerns.
Prof. Sharachchandra Lele, during his speech, highlighted the importance of regulating and monitoring the efficacy and efficiency of the environment budget instead of quantifying benefits based solely on budgetary allocations. He emphasised that several programs like interlinking rivers and excessive budgetary allocations are concerning for the environment.
He took a critical stance on the Rooftop Solar Scheme and the policies particularly targeting certain socio-economic strata, addressing the problem of conflict of interest of DISCOMs for PM Suryoday Yojana. He exemplified with the help of metro, which is a rather carefully tailored solution to urban commutation and environmental problems, however, it is rather restricted to a certain set of individuals rather than benefiting the entire population.
Dr. Madhu Verma remarked on an increase in the budget for regulatory bodies like the Central Pollution Control Board, Central Zoo Authority, National Biodiversity Authority Commission. But it could be observed that there was an overall decline in the educational budget. Amidst the current rigorous discourse on biofuels, EVs, and Solar Energy, she emphasised the importance of embracing nature-based solutions to green infrastructure rather than relying solely on engineered solutions. As they are cost-effective, resilient, and harmonious.
Dr. Madhu remarked the step of Blue Economy 2.0 to be heartening. She discussed the need for clear quantification of environmental impacts with the help of Green Accounting that could aid better tracking of our environmental achievements and failures. According to her, advocating for promoting green employment through environmental activities and policies will contribute to the overall green trajectory we are aiming for.
Mr. Debadityo Sinha noted the issues emerging from the federal structure and the conflict of interest between the state and central government. He further delved into the aspect of underspending allocated budgetary amounts for policies. He noted that the Tiger and Elephants project had a budgetary allocation of 332 Cr; however, only 240 Cr was spent. He also discussed the importance of setting priorities to conserve local species instead of introducing foreign species to the country. According to him, alongside developments and their associated benefits, it is necessary to allocate some resources for biodiversity and environmental conservation.
Mr. Himanshu Shekhar shed light on the importance of fostering the Net Zero target by 2070. He highlighted the disturbances in the energy market that might hamper India’s energy security. He stated that the adoption of E-Buses testifies the government’s intent to encourage a payment security mechanism for mass adoption of E-Transport. In order to ensure energy security amidst global conflicts, attaining energy self-sufficiency is also crucial according to Mr. Himanshu. He discussed initiatives such as PM Surodaya Yoijana along with efforts for the electrification of public transport and offshore energy production. He stressed the need to address Climate Change Challenges as well.
He further elaborated upon the concerns raised by experts on expanding the budget for the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. Since it has been forecasted that we might have to face intense climatic events in the coming years. Additionally, he highlighted the necessity to revamp the Disaster Management Act 2005 to optimise our climate adaptation strategy. He propounded Employment and entrepreneurship prospects emerging as part of such hinged benefits of innovative environmental policies. In his opinion, reducing imports of natural gas and other conventional fuels and energy sources will aid India’s SDG attainment.
Mr. Soumya Dutta helped the audience decode the budget with a critical perspective on the integration of coastal communities as part of blue economies. He urged everyone to reflect on the boundaries and implications of Green Jobs and Blue Economy. He pointed out that the Budget involves not only allocations but also includes incentives and disincentives to encourage or discourage certain behaviours.
He raised concerns about the adoption of the current transport policies and prospective problems emerging out of the same. Mr. Soumya re-emphasized the seriousness of the conflict of interest in the Rooftop Solar Scheme. He appreciated the spike in the Railway Budget this year. He also discussed the need to analyse the budget after adjusting for inflation.
As the discussion unfolded, various perspectives emerged, ranging from the importance of regulating and monitoring budgetary allocations for environmental programs to the significance of embracing nature-based solutions alongside engineered ones. The panellists emphasised on the importance of the budget as a tool to ameliorate existing structural and functional environmental problems.
To sum up, it was a fruitful session addressing several advances and adversities of the Interim Budgetary allocation for the environment. Towards the end, Mr. Krishna Raj thanked the panellists for the value they added to the discussion. The entire discourse surrounding the Interim Budget and Environment encapsulated a spectrum of opinions and outlooks towards the policies, decisions, and implications emerging out of the budget. To conclude the discussion, Nivedita extended a vote of thanks to the panellists.
IMPRI’s 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Interim Union Budget 2024-25
Watch the event at IMPRI #Web Policy Talk
Riya Pawar is a research intern at IMPRI.