The committee noted a drastic reduction under the National Coastal Mission 2023-24
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change’s (MoEFCC) revised budget estimate was reduced by nearly 19 per cent in 2022-2023, compared to the initial estimate, according to a Parliamentary Standing Committee Report.
While the budget allocation for the ministry for 2022-2023 was Rs 3,030 crores, the revised estimate was reduced substantially to Rs 2,478 crore, stated the report produced before the Lok Sabha on March 20, 2023. The current financial year’s (2023-24) BE for the ministry — at Rs 3,079.40 crore — is also close to that of the previous year.
The report highlighted that the MoEFCC depended on National Coastal Mission, an outside agency. Committee also expressed its “deep anguish and disappointment towards the abysmally low utilisation of funds.”
The committee further observed that there had been a drastic reduction under the NCM — from Rs 195 crore (BE) to Rs four crore (revised).
An amount of Rs 12.5 crore has been allocated for the same in the budget estimate of 2023-24.
A budget of Rs 756 crores has been allocated for ‘Control of Pollution’ for 2023-24, an upward revision from last year’s revised estimate of Rs 600 crore and budget estimate of Rs 460 crore.
The committee found that the actual utilisation of the budget was Rs 1,707 crore, which is around 69 per cent of the revised estimate, falling short of the 75 per cent expenditure target set for the third quarter by the finance ministry.
“The allocation under the scheme component was Rs 1,893.26 crore during BE 2022-23, which was reduced to Rs 1,396.45 crore during revised estimate 2022-23,” read the report.
The committee wrote that it is “dismayed to note that financial utilisation suffered because of a technicality in the manner of disbursement of funds, the document noted.
“While the change may have been brought with an intention of reducing parking of funds and loss on interest accrued, the approach should have been one with least collateral damage,” it said.
The committee recommended the finance ministry thoroughly review the status of accounts and clear the pending disbursements as soon as possible so that any projects which could not be initiated or completed due to unavailability of funds may be started or finished, as the case may be.
It further observed that while MoEFCC had sought an allocation of Rs 4,434.75 crore for 2022-23, but the ministry only received Rs 3,079.40 crore, Rs 1,355.35 crore short of what was asked. It further noted that while the proposed allocation for the NCM programme was Rs 723 crores, only Rs 12.50 crores were allocated.
“The Committee is perturbed to observe that a reduction of almost 30 percent has been made in the proposed budgetary allocations requested by the ministry,” the report read.
This may hamper the activities and initiatives of the ministry across the entire gamut of environmental protection and ecology management, forest and wildlife conservation, as well as assistance to states and UTs. This may also lead to the restricted implementation of many initiatives of the ministry pertaining to climate change, pollution abetment and coastal development, it added.
The report further stated that the setback in terms of administrative procedures from the financing agency had left the implementation of the initiatives of MoEFCC in the loom.
“If resources are not made available timely, then the vast coastline of the country, the population dependent on it as well as the fragile coastal ecosystem shall face the brunt. The committee, therefore strongly recommends the ministry to initiate a strategy and raise the deficit funds, either though the Ministry of Finance or by reaching out to other such agencies,” it added.
The report said the ‘Green India Mission’ and ‘Control of Pollution’ require an additional budget of Rs 81 crore and Rs 91 crore, respectively. It added that an additional allocation of Rs 43.2 crore is required under Project Tiger and Elephant.
“In addition, the ministry is need of additional budgetary allocations to its institutions and autonomous bodies engaged in forestry research, survey and in-situ conservation,” added the committee. It underlined the requirement of an additional Rs 374 crore over the budgetary estimate of 2023-24.
On the issue of low utilisation of funds, the report said that across centrally sponsored and central sector schemes combined, the utilisation was only 54 per cent, 792 crore of the 1,369 crore allocated.
The Committee is astonished to observe that across crucial initiatives like Climate Change Action Plan and National Mission for Green India, the utilisation has been grossly suboptimal at 27 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively, the report noted.
“Further, the ministry has been able to utilise only 30 per cent of the funds allocated to it under Project Tiger and Project Elephant combined,” it added.
The committee advised MoEFCC to take ‘strong, firm and quick actions’ to utilise the remaining funds.
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