Budget 2018: Not enough measures to tackle pollution, say green bodies


Even as the centre announced a special scheme to address the rising air pollution in Delhi and NCR states, green bodies lamented that the ‘national emergency’ was only tackled briefly and no mention was made, about the National Clean Air Program

Presenting his fifth straight budget in the Lok Sabha, union finance minister Arun Jaitley, on February 1, 2018, said that a special scheme will be executed with the Delhi government and adjoining states, to address the rising air pollution in the national capital. A special scheme will be implemented to support the efforts of the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the NCT of Delhi, to address air pollution and to subsidise machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue, the minister said.

“The scheme is welcome. The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has already endorsed the report of the sub-committee set up by the prime minister’s office on this issue. However, the scheme has to be implemented quickly. The machines must come before next winter, the season when stubble burning is usually at its peak. The clock is ticking,” Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director general, Sunita Narain said.

The CSE’s executive director and the head of its Right to Clean Air campaign, Anumita Roychowdhury, said that the Budget does not seem to recognise the urban air pollution challenge, as an issue of national importance. “Air pollution is not a problem that afflicts just the Delhi-NCR region and its adjoining states. Every major city in India is now burdened with it,” she said.

Clean air campaigner, Greenpeace India, Sunil Dahiya, said that mention of air pollution, as a cause of concern by the finance minister showed some hope.

“However, not mentioning the National Clean Air Program (NCAP), which the government committed to late last year in Parliament or not announcing any budgetary allocation for the same, was a disappointment,” he said.

He said that Delhi-NCR is undoubtedly one of the most polluted regions, but as shown in Greenpeace India’s recent report ‘Airpocalypse II’, more than 80 per cent of cities in the country where air quality is monitored, are severely polluted and it impacts 47 million children. “The minister’s budget speech should have addressed the need to increase monitoring stations across the country,” he said.

He pointed out that while agricultural ‘biomass burning’ was an important issue to tackle, fighting air pollution required efforts to bring down pollution from many sources such as vehicles, coal-fired power plants, industries and brick kilns. “Having a comprehensive, systematic, time-bound Clean Air Action Plan with clear financing mechanisms and fixed accountabilities, is the only way we can start progressing,” Dahiya said.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) said that the government must recognise that air pollution is not an NCR issue alone.

“Delhi is only one of the seven Indian cities in the top 15 most polluted cities globally, as measured by PM2.5 levels (WHO database of 2016). India as a whole has been ranked among the bottom five of the 180 countries, on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018, developed by the Yale and Columbia universities, along with the World Economic Forum. This overall low ranking – 177 among 180 countries – was linked to poor performance in the environmental health policy and deaths due to air pollution categories,” TERI said.

 

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