Wildlife & Biodiversity

Union Budget 2020-21: Big chunk goes to tigers and elephants

Allocation for other species reduced  

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Saturday 01 February 2020

The overall budget for the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has increased to Rs 3,100 crore for 2020-21 from Rs 2,657.94 crore in the revised estimate of 2019-20. 

While presenting the Union Budget on February 1, 2020, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced to increase the budgetary allocation for the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH), a centrally sponsored scheme, from Rs 493.57 crore last year to Rs 532 crore. IDWH funds are used in programmes such as Project Tiger, Project Elephant and Development of Wildlife Habitats (DWH).

The fund for Project Tiger has also increased from the revised 2019-20 figure of Rs 282.57 crore to Rs 300 crore this year. However, the fund for Project Tiger in 2018-19 was high, at Rs 323.44 crore. For Project Elephant, the fund has increased to Rs 35 crore from Rs 31 crore.

While the Budget focuses on tigers and elephants, it has ignored other species. Last year, the DWH scheme received Rs 175 crore according to revised estimates, but this year it has been allocated only Rs 148.41 crore.

“DWH’s programme document refers to turning the focus on species such as the Great Indian Bustard, the Indian wolf and others that occupy grassland habitats. This, however, does not reflect in budgetary allocations that continue to consider only forest habitats worthy of conservation attention,” said Mridula Paul, senior policy analyst, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment. “Non-forest ecologically important habitats and species continue to be neglected and all references to wildlife habitats seem to really mean only forest habitats,” she added.

Experts point out that tiger reserves also have separate revenue sources such as tourism. “Project Tiger was started as a recovery programme. Along with its budgetary allocation, the programme got a boost after the Tiger Task Force report of 2005. But it continues to enjoy a high level of allocation, even when there are at least a dozen needy species which require a clear conservation plan and focused budgetary allocation,” said MD Madhusudan, a wildlife researcher. If separate budget heads are made for these species, rather than just clubbing them under DWH, motioning and accounting of the money allocated for these species can be done in a better way, he added.

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