Parliamentary panel worried over underutilisation of pollution control fund
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 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,” it said.
The panel said 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, it said.
The committee, NGOs and civil society members hold regular meetings, seminars and workshops with stakeholders to make people aware about the menace of pollution, it added.
In such a scenario, reduction and underutilisation of funds for pollution abatement is “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.
“The committee recommends that the ministry introspect its performance under this scheme during the last few years and take all necessary measures to ensure that in future funds allocated for the reframed scheme are optimally utilised and all physical targets achieved,” it said.
The ministry informed the committee that after the evaluation of the Plan Schemes of ministry in 2016-17, Secretary (EF&CC) decided that the schemes of Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and Development/Promotion of Clean Technology and Waste Minimisation Strategies may be discontinued after funding on-going project.
The ministry said it is in the process of finalising draft EFC memorandum on ‘Pollution Abatement’ comprehensive scheme including Central Pollution Control Board’s projects, and new projects on air pollution for 2018-19 and 2019-2020, in view of the subsuming of water cess into GST for assistance to all state boards and pollution control committees.