Beyond Economic Recovery: What Budget 2021 has in store for India’s Post-Pandemic Green Recovery

The most obvious expectation from the Union Budget 2021-22 was to see it accelerate the post-pandemic recovery of the economy. But beyond the economic fast-track, another set of expectations have been in terms of activation of multiple levers for green recovery. 

While this pandemic has dampened hopes for transformative changes that are the need of the hour, certain schemes have been initiated in the discussion, which is a silver lining. Even though it is not possible to assess the adequacy of what has been tabled yet without the finer details of most of these green-led schemes, it is definitely encouraging to see explicit acknowledgment of and the real money allocated for these.

The new clean-air funding, for instance, will prove to be a good step forward in hopefully enabling deeper systemic changes for quantifiable improvement in the air quality. Acknowledging the need to ‘tackle the burgeoning problem of air pollution’, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has allocated Rs 2,217 crore for 42 urban centres with over a million population under the clean air scheme. It is, therefore, hoped that this new funding will stimulate systemic changes for verifiable air quality gains.

Furthermore, Budget 2021 has finally given the green signal to the much-anticipated voluntary vehicle scrappage policy that will help stimulate the market along with enabling the co-benefits of emissions reduction and fuel savings. This policy is expected to phase out the old and unfit vehicles, and give a further push to electric vehicles. However, it is hoped that this policy will provide direct incentives for scrapping old trucks and buses as well, and not remain limited to only the disincentives for scrapping.

There are several such strands in the new budget that can add up to maximise post-pandemic green recovery for the country. For instance, the support for enhanced swachhta programme for urban India will take a step forward in sourcing the segregation of garbage, reducing usage of single-use plastic, effectively managing waste from construction-and-demolition activities, and bioremediating all legacy dump sites, all eventually leading to reduced environmental pollution. 

While these steps need to go beyond short-term survival to be perceived as a longer-term ambition for transformation, it certainly marks a good start for the green recovery in India post the Covid-19 era.

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