By DR ANIL P JOSHI
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the only measure in the country to assess the growth of the Nation for the given year. Initially, this measure was developed by the Europeans in the 19th century after the escalation of industrial revolution by determining GDP as a measure of national development and progress of the country. Eventually, this measure was adopted widely by most of the nations in the world. Today, GDP is considered the most imperative growth indicator of any given country, globally. Unfortunately, ever since the development of GDP, multiple observers have pointed out limitations of using it as the overarching measure of economic and social progress. This measure does not take into account the status of forest, air, water and soil. This is the basic reason that we have not been aware of the ecological growth and its reciprocating impact on the environment in whole. This measures converse ecosystem growth in place of ecosystem services. Here, ecosystem growth depicts the growth of forests, quality and quantity of soil, air and water and so on. A movement has been initiated in 2010 to assess ecological growth measure in the form of Gross Environmental Product (GEP), parallel to GDP in the State of Uttarakhand. It was initially accepted by the former Governments of Uttarakhand and, simultaneously, a petition has been approved by the High Court also supporting the concept of GEP. The State has also been directed by the High Court to follow this appeal of Dr Anil P Joshi Currently, the state is working under Anand Vardhan, Principal Secretary, Uttarakhand, to explore the possibilities of Ecological Growth Measure in the country. Besides this, a roundtable meeting for initiation of a blueprint for measuring Gross Environment Product (GEP) is being collectively organised by Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO) – Wildlife Institute of India (WII)- State Government and PSA office on 5 March, 2020, at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Prof K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India will preside over the meeting and conduct the discussion with the dignitaries of various participating institutes like Dr Dhananjai Mohan, Dr Shailja Vaidya Gupta, Arun Singh Rawat, Dr Kalachand Sain and Dr Sanjeev Chopra. The discussion will focus on two major issues: Indicators of Ecosystem growth and forming the strategies for taking the same across the states and nationwide. A Glance at the concept of Gross Environment Product (GEP)
Why: The current growth measure is totally lopsided. It focuses upon economic growth only. It does not take into account the status of various resources depleted or added annually. The latter is equally important for survival and sustainable growth. Unfortunately, we do not have any mechanism to assess periodical status of different natural resources parallel to Gross Domestic Product. GDP indicates economic growth, but does not explain ecological status. GEP can become one such measure that can update us about the status of forest, soil and water in any given year, parallel to GDP. It is high time now to explore a measure that focuses on growth of soil, water and air so that balance can be established between economy and ecology. Fast deteriorating ecosystems demand such attention. Moreover, a strong economy will only be possible when there will be robust ecological growth. GEP is concerned with this only. Environmental degradation has gone beyond an acceptable limit causing severe losses unaffordable by humans. The status of periodical ecosystem growth/loss can be measured through GEP. Due to striking depletion of different natural resources, it is the high time that we think seriously about ecosystem status and growth parallel to current development pattern. It can also help us analyse the development causing degradation and the extent we can afford it. Moreover, it is also important to sustain the long term economy of the state, as it is a fact that a stable economy can be obtained from natural resources. Currently, we are unaware of how long these resources will be able to support us in the future. GEP will help in ascertaining ecosystem support for an aggressive economy.
What: Currently, we have been working on ecosystem services which allow us to be acquainted with the services of various available resources and the benefits in terms of the economy. Destruction of natural resources will continue in future, also, therefore it is significant to point out the need for constant improvement of natural resources especially forest, soil, air and water for the ecosystem growth and health. Such a growth measure can acknowledge the periodical growth of different resources in terms of volume. It is the expression of the volume of resources added in a particular year parallel to the economic growth. How to measure GEP There is a simple way to assess annually the growth of the ecosystem. For instance:
Forest: Trees planted every year by quantity and quality can be one of the factors that highlight the value and addition to forest in any given year. The different categories of tree planted will have particular ranking like local, indigenous, broad leaves, etc. Available State Agency: Forest Department
Soil: Soil enrichment through various inputs in the form of organic values and mitigation of soil runoff due to heavy rains in a given year should be the quantified value. State Agency: Agriculture and Soil Conservation Department
Water: The measures undertaken to enhance the quality as well quantity of water in the various water bodies should be outlined. Currently, the water bodies encompass rivers, glaciers, ponds, lakes, wells and so on. The analysis is to be undertaken to figure out the amount of water derived from nature in the form of rain. The annual precipitation and its store will be the criteria for quantification of recharge. To assess measures to ensure the quality of water and the results like pH, turbidity, etc., department serving water needs must be accountable. State Agency: Water supply/conservation
Air: Status of quality of air can be analysed periodically and efforts can be undertaken to improve the same. Such quantification will be possible to analyse the efforts taken to improve the quality of air like use of CNG, encourage the use of public transport and any other control measure to check the pollution in the air. In addition to this, air quality can be measured through rise and fall of PM values in any given year and its value will be the factor.