By Aradhna Wal
The ambitious National Clean Air Programme (NACP) aims at tackling air pollution issues that plague several prominent cities across the country, including Delhi, that remained engulfed in thick smog almost all throughout December.
New Delhi: Having performed “better than expected”, the Ministry of Environment has sought more funds in the upcoming Budget citing five of its ambitious programmes to be undertaken in 2018-19.
Environment secretary CK Mishra said, “By December 2017, we had exhausted close to 70 percent of our funds, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t get this money.” The 2017-18 Budget had allotted Rs 2,675.42 crore to the environment ministry, which was 19 percent more than its 2016-17 allotment.
The ambitious National Clean Air Programme (NACP) is one of these five key programmes that Mishra listed for the next financial year. The clean air initiative aims at tackling air pollution issues that plague several prominent cities across the country, including Delhi, that remained engulfed in thick smog almost all throughout December.
NACP aims at expanding the network of air quality monitoring systems beyond Delhi and give the country some desperately-needed data on air pollution.
In another scheme, the ministry seeks to strengthen the resources available to the pollution control boards. With the water cess repealed by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, the ministry will also have to look at different ways to fund the pollution control boards.
“Without strengthening them, we won’t be able to fight either water or air pollution,” added Mishra.
The other ambitious plan of the ministry is plantation in the catchment areas of major rivers, as opposed to plantation on river banks.
According to Mishra, good plantation in catchment areas — the land where water from rainfall or snow converges to enter the river body — leads to better water retention. There is perennial water supply and the moisture keeps increasing. In a long-term plan, the environment ministry aims at covering the catchment areas of all rivers over the years.
“In a period of over ten years, it can cost us Rs 40,000 crore,” said Mishra, “but it would be worth the expense and time.”
The environment secretary further added that the ministry is planning to “aggressively” take up the National Mission for Green India or the Green India Mission (GIM) project along with one of the eight missions within the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
The ministry is also hopeful of its prospects in the coastal missions. However, there is no scope to fund the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — a country’s climate action plan under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The central government received a lot of flak last year for not allocating enough money towards fulfilling India’s obligations towards the Paris pact. This year too, ministry officials say, they don’t expect much of a rise. This, they clarified was not because of the ministry, but because of the central government’s attitude.