For the current financial year as well, the ministry's proposed outlay was reduced by 23 per cent. For 2017-18, while the ministry asked for Rs 3,291 crore, it only received approval for Rs 2,675 crore. Of this, 21.2 crores was allocated to pollution control.
The report, released in March, had found that although an allotment of Rs 20 crore was made for schemes to reduce pollution in 2016-17, the ministry had assigned only Rs 9.6 crore. This was spread across three categories - pollution abatement, clean technology and effluent treatment plants.
Only 40 per cent of this 9.6 crores was utilised by January, two months before the financial year was to end.
"High levels of pollution across the county has been engaging the attention of all concerned and abating pollution has become one of the gravest challenges today," noted the standing committee report. "In such a scenario, if funds earmarked for assistance of Abatement of Pollution remain partially utilised, that speaks volumes about the sincerity and the capabilities of the concerned agencies."
In its response, the Central government cited a delay in the release of state grants as the cause for the delay in releasing its own share of funds. The Ministry said delays in the release of utilisation certificates by the Punjab Pollution Control Board and other pollution control organizations and effluent treatment plants led to the ministry withholding grants.
"The Ministry... should seriously ponder over the reasons for under-utilisation and also impress upon all the concerned agencies to ensure that funds earmarked for the scheme are utilised in a time-bound manner," said the standing committee report.