Weaving green into the budget
Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to set up separate companies that will operate common effluent treatment plants. While the companies would be paid for effluent treatment, their income would be exempt from tax, which would help them upgrade their technology and become more efficient. The companies could undertake not to engage in any other activity, so as to be eligible for tax exemption. Polluting industries should be taxed, and the funds collected given to industry associations for setting up common treatment plants.
Private companies should be provided seed capital to set up sewage treatment plants for cities. The gas thus produced could pump and supply clean water for a charge so that the system can pay for itself.
The government has recently introduced the ecomark for products which are environment-friendly. Such products should attract minimum excise duty. Industries developing wood substitutes should also be included in the scheme.
Less tax should be levied on people who build their houses with recycled materials such as fly ash bricks. Incentives, in the form of income-tax concessions, should be given to producers of compost and biofertilisers.
Funding institutions can be directed to provide soft loans for setting up clean technologies. The tax structure could also provide for a faster depreciation rate for such technologies.
Petrol reimbursement should be restricted and a scheme drawn up, possibly in the form of a special income-tax rebate, for employees who use public transport.
Industries that practise energy and resource conservation and carry out waste minimisation and recycling activities should be encouraged. The government could calculate the industry average for the consumption of a critical resource, such as water, for a certain product, such as paper. Companies that consume less than the average should attract lower excise. The industry average should be scaled down progressively.
To make water cess more rational and comprehensive and also to augment the liability of industries, particularly those using critical natural resources, and causing significant environmental degradation, water cess could be replaced by an "environment cess". The new cess should be on the basis of annual production or turnover. And it should be used to finance treatment plants.
Flush toilets, which are a major source of river pollution, are used only by the rich, and should attract heavy taxes. Water-saving systems should be encouraged and non-water-consuming, in-house, composting toilets developed.
Companies that switch to manufacture of four-stroke engines or improved two-stroke ones should be completely exempted from income tax or excise. The current two-stroke engine, which is a major source of air pollution, should be banned and all polluting two-stroke engines on the roads taxed thereafter.
Refineries producing unleaded petrol should be given a rebate in corporate taxes and production of leaded petrol banned.
Community groups and voluntary agencies keen to take up small water-harvesting activities and afforestation of neighbouring forest, revenue and community lands should be registered by the ministry of environment.