New Delhi, February 28
The imminent climate change and concerns about environment conservation figured prominently in the Budget speech of finance minister P. Chidambaram, who today admitted that India was among the countries more vulnerable to climate change.
His "green intentions" were also highlighted when he proposed subsidy for farmers to encourage them to set up “dug wells” to trap rain water and recharge fast-depleting groundwater in several parts of the country, besides tax benefits for eco-friendly industry like coir.
The minister informed the House that the government proposed to appoint an expert committee on climate change in the country in order to study the impact of climate change and identify measures to tackle it.
“India is not a significant contributor to emissions, nor will it be so in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, India has taken steps to mitigate the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change impact,” he told the House, however, also adding that India was among the countries more vulnerable to climate change.
Chidambaram said that India strongly promoted the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto protocol and had the world’s largest number of CDM projects.
Since plywood helps to save wood, the minister announced a reduction in excise duty on plywood from 16 per cent to eight per cent and exempted biodiesal completely from excise duty, as they “greatly reduce dependence on fossil fuels”.
Considering that depletion of groundwater has assumed grave proportions in several parts of the country, he also proposed to provide 100 per cent subsidy to small and marginal farmers and 50 per cent to other farmers to encourage them to construct “dug wells” to recharge groundwater.
The Central Ground Water Board has identified 1065 assessment blocks in the country as “over-exploited” or “critical” and over over 80 per cent of these blocks are in 100 districts in seven states.
“ The strategy for groundwater recharge is to divert rain water into “dug wells”. Each structure will cost about Rs 4,000. The requirement is seven million structures, including about two million on land belonging to small and marginal farmers,” he said, voicing his concern.
While the scheme is being finalised, the government intends to transfer Rs 1,800 crore to NABARD, which will be held in escrow and disbursed through lead bank of the district concerned to beneficiaries.
Besides this, the minister also allocated Rs 100 crore for new Rainfed Area Development Programme and urged states to come up with propopsals to repair, renovate and restore water bodies in their areas
A scheme for modernisation and technology upgradation of the coir industry with special emphasis to major coir producing states like Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, was also announced by the minister, who said that since coir was an eco-friendly fibre and provided employment as well as earns valuable foreign exchange, a provision of Rs 22.50 crore had been made for the industry.