Pollution on the rise: funds allocated for environment restoration remain unused

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A parliamentary panel has expressed its unhappiness over “unsatisfactory” utilisation of funds for pollution abatement by the environment ministry and asked it to “introspect” its performance and ensure optimal utilisation of funds and meeting of targets in future.

The Supreme Court also pulled up the Centre for not using around Rs 90,000 crore assigned for environment restoration. The apex court also upbraided the government for not utilizing this Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) fund for the right purpose.

“It is very clear that the amount was used for purposes, other than what it was entrusted with. How far you want the court to go? We trusted the executive but they say they will do whatever they want,” the bench, comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, was quoted as saying in media reports.

The panel noted that the “very grim” scenario of environmental pollution in the country has been affecting one and all. The comments were made by the department related parliamentary standing committee on science and technology and environment and forest in its 313th report of Demands for Grants (2018-19) of the environment ministry.

“The committee is perturbed to observe the unsatisfactory trend of utilisation of funds for ‘Pollution Abatement’ during the last few years,” the committee, chaired by Congress leader Anand Sharma, said. As per the documents furnished by the Ministry, in 2016-17 too the BE (Budget Estimate) allocation of Rs. 20.00 crore for this scheme was reduced to Rs.9.60 crore at RE (Revised Estimate) stage and the ministry could utilise only Rs.6.22 crore during the year.

The panel reported the trend of reduction in allocation at RE stage and unsatisfactory utilisation of funds seems to reflect that pollution abatement is “not among the priority areas” of the ministry.

The rising environmental pollution in the country not only results in a number of human diseases and health conditions but negatively impact the ecology too. The committee, NGOs and civil society members hold regular meetings, seminars and workshops with stakeholders to make people aware of the menace of pollution, it added.

In such a scenario, reduction and underutilisation of funds for pollution abatement are “least desirable”, it noted.

The committee also noted that the environment ministry has decided to discontinue some plans under this scheme and come up with another comprehensive scheme for pollution abatement.

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