Uttarakhand has been seeking a green bonus of around Rs 5000 crore as part of Union budgetary provisions for several years, now, without a positive response. The same is the case with Himachal Pradesh and other ‘green’ states that provide precious ‘eco services’ to the nation. One of the reasons the bonus has not been forthcoming, of course, is that there are more pressing requirements in the minds of those making the allocations. Also, because other states of the union also believe they make precious and unique contributions in other ways that require special compensation.
But it does make sense. A green bonus would give a state like Uttarakhand the space to put less pressure on the forests and pristine mountain spaces for the sake of ‘development’ and adopt alternative ‘green’ policies and technologies in a long term perspective. It would be an investment made by the rest of the country for better weather and purer air, the value of which cannot be understated. Protected nature would also transform the presently greatly pressured state into becoming a better tourism destination with development of quality infrastructure and investment in environmentally friendly ways, such as ropeways, etc.
Presently, the state government has to provide funds for everyday governance and basic services and cannot invest in the long term. Even a token green bonus from the centre with mutually agreed scope of use would help keep the precious environment on even keel.
Of course, what this requires is some display of commitment on the part of the state to having a ‘green’ approach in its own budget. A healthy environment in the state may benefit the rest of India, but it is, first, good for the locals. The state government cannot implement a development approach that puts pressure on scarce natural resources through poorly considered projects and badly planned urban growth. At the present, the regulatory environment is such that any person or group with a money-making idea can do as they will irrespective of the harm caused to the surroundings. This is responsible for the plethora of public interest litigation clogging the courts seeking clarity on what the regulations are. The alternative model has to be conceived not just in the scientific institutions, of which the state has a fair share, but also at the grassroots. ‘Green’ consciousness has to be become part of public culture and inculcated in the educational institutions. It is a complex concept, which the state can only promote by adopting it first.