Environment Policy and the Government


India has lost Rs 56,700 crore clean energy fund GST

Accepted that GST needs are urgent, but let us not create a situation where environmental needs become imperative.  A rupee not invested today will cost many hundreds tomorrow.
This unfortunate transfer was the result of the need to manage the great GST shift while keeping budget deficits under check.  The debate between the importance of the environment versus the urgency of the GST was also lost because the government did not know what to do with those funds! It could have given those to PSUs to accelerate the shift to low carbon fuels, or to other PSUs to clean up the coal and emissions, or put in place a massive clean technology fund, or garbage management, or many other things.  The urgent once again wins the fight over the important, sadly.


Just Deny It: How Our Govt Tackles Effect of Air Pollution on Kids

Which side of the environment debate is the government in?  It is not entirely clear.
On the one hand, the Cabinet Health Minister is often quoted as denying knowledge of any link between health and pollution, and in the same vein, the Finance Ministry allocates funds meant for the environment into GST.  And this article is about this facet of the government.  But on the other hand, the Ministry of Surface Transport accelerated the introduction of BSVI standards, while the Prime Minister and the Power Minister proactively push Solar energy.   I would say it is difficult to decipher a clear message from this government. Would be nice if we had one.


NITI Aayog's Energy Policy Shows India is still a Country of Coal Men

The Niti Aayog it seems has limited bandwidth and this is showing up all too frequently.
An interesting story on Niti Aayog’s draft energy policy, which includes a large planned expansion of coal power capacity and also the export of Indian coal.  Thankfully it is simply a draft and, also thankfully, the Niti Aayog is not typically taken seriously within the government.  The government’s think tank it seems is only making itself progressively redundant.


Govt planning slew of changes to overhaul environmental laws

A new environmental policy ecosystem is being planned for India, will it work?
This change oriented government is fast resorting to starting new bodies, and an overarching environmental body could be another one.
Is it good to start sector focused regulatory or policy entities?  The answer has to do with the problem that this is trying to solve.  Government departments are fast becoming lazy and redundant, and they are unable to provide a holistic vision, interact with the ecosystem, monitor themselves or each other, and enforce discipline both internally and externally.  Given this, starting new entities outside of government departments will achieve little.  Unfortunately, such a body will only succeed if it is in the PMO, but what all will the PM do?  India has no option, its ministries and bureaucracy have to work differently.


Punjab government bans harvesting with existing machines

Is this a foolhardy or visionary action?  Banning a whole set of activities for the sake of pollution will impact lives and governments need to be sensitive.
Harvesting machines leave straw on the field which the farmers burn.  By banning the use of old-style harvesting machines, the Punjab government has set the stage for reduced pollution and possibly increased employment.  While some farmers may use better harvesters, others may hire labourers for manual harvesting.  This will obviously take time and increase costs for the farmer.  An announcement of higher minimum purchase price or a one-time purchase bonus would make implementation far easier.  Or we may now have farmers protesting in Punjab as well.


India will take at least 6 years to cap toxic emissions from power plants

Public sector power plants are badly delayed in putting up their emission cleaning systems.
A classic example of misplaced priorities.  The public sector is more than capable of putting together new plants or changing over old ones within a short span of time. It has been known to do so when proactive chief executives have gotten support from their political masters.  The excuse being given currently is that it is expensive and technologically difficult to convert.  I beg to differ – funds exist (see headline story) but are not being allocated and technical skills exist but are not being used.  The culprit – simply that environment has not become an ‘urgent’ problem yet.

Private Initiatives


Here’s why Uber wants to further 'Decongest India' and curb pollution

Uber’s answer to pollution and decongestion is ride sharing, but could it make things worse?
The argument that ride-sharing will reduce congestion is not entirely correct.   Most people shifting to ride sharing are those who would otherwise have used public transport.   And those using private transport continue with their preferred mode.  Since ride sharing uses more space and creates more pollution per capita than public transport, ride sharing could worsen pollution and congestion if these trends continue!   Let ride sharing happen, but know that there is no other solution to pollution or congestion but making public transport accessible and private transport expensive, and that includes ride sharing as well!


Indians will stop buying cars for personal use

When Anand Mahindra says something about his industry, we need to take it seriously.
Mr. Mahindra thinks that the industry will progressively move away from private own-transport to shared-transport.  The entrepreneur in Mr. Mahindra thinks there is a commercial opportunity in the future shift towards ride sharing.  But in that, he is simply following an international trend.  Is there anything about Indian conditions that make things different?  Two wheelers.  Most people using private vehicles in India use two wheelers, which collectively cause more pollution than all cars and commercial vehicles combined.  Why not share two-wheeler rides?


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