The budget has focused primarily on clean air in the environment sector – with its objectives spanning across ministries and sectors, from National Clean Air Programme under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to the ministries of Power, New and Renewable Energy and Urban Affairs.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government has earmarked Rs 2,217 crore for 42 urban centres with a million-plus population to focus on clean air.
The minister had made a similar announcement, with an allocation of Rs 4,400 crore for cities above one million population. But hit by Covid-19, disbursement only started in the later part of this year, say experts.
“It is important to focus on urban centres so this announcement is welcome, but as we know from our recent experience, budgets need to be in line with regional air sheds – such as the NCR air shed. The policy also needs to be performance-linked so that the disbursal of funds is effective,” says Anumita Roy Choudhury, air pollution expert at the Centre for Science and Environment.
“These funds come mainly as a recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission and are directly disbursed to urban local bodies for a five-year period with the intention of reducing 5 per cent air pollution annually, which is in keeping with the goals of the National Clean Air Programme, to reduce air pollution between 20-22 per cent by 2024.’’
Roy Choudhury says one of the most welcome announcements for clean air is that of the voluntary vehicle scrapping policy.