Gross Environment Product

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An introduction to Uttarakhand’s gross environmental product: jargon or reality?

Know more about Gross Environmental Product (GEP).

Monday, 26th July 2021

The Uttarakhand government recently announced that it will start valuing its natural resources in the form of "Gross Environmental Product" (GEP), which is said to be in line with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


The idea of ??evaluating the components of the environment is not new. But with the rapid degradation of the ecosystem, it has been promoted, which has a negative impact on more than 60% of the services we obtain from the ecosystem.


Later, the American ecological economist Robert Costanza (Robert Costanza) published several publications that define and expose ecosystem services. According to Costanza, ecosystem services are the benefits that humans obtain directly or indirectly from the functions of ecosystems.


In 1997, a group of 13 economists and ecologists led by Costanza stated that the value of ES is approximate twice the global GDP on a global scale. The concept has received attention and is now part of global knowledge. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was initiated in 2000 by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It was launched in 2001, and one of the main changes in focus is the significant net benefits that contribute to human well-being and economic development.


However, the costs of achieving these results are as follows: degradation of ecosystem services increased risk of non-linear changes and increased poverty for certain populations. Unless resolved, these issues will greatly reduce the benefits that future generations will reap from the ecosystem.


Also Read: Environmental cost of disposable masks.


The Himalayan context

Most posts are from the United States, followed by China. Other countries, including India, have made little contribution to this field.


In terms of implementation, Mexico has performed well in promoting ecosystem services and payment mechanisms.


In India, Himalayan ecologist SP Singh published the first conceptual paper on ecosystem services, documenting India’s views. He also published a book entitled "Himalayan Forest Ecosystem Services".


The Himalayas have made a significant contribution to the sustainable development of the Ganges Plain, which has a population of 500 million. It should be noted that, at the suggestion of ecologists such as Singer, the federal government included the value of ecosystem services in its states into the national accounts.


According to the recommendations of the 12th and 13th Finance Committees, grants were transferred to forest-rich states in amounts corresponding to forest coverage. However, it is not appropriate to only consider forest coverage when transferring funds to states.


Ecosystem services represent human benefits: forests, lakes, and grasslands; wood and stained; carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling; soil formation and productivity; and tourism.


It should be understood that when assessing ecosystem services, the size of the population served is important. That is why Uttarakhand, which serves a large number of the Ganges plain, is more important than Sikkim, and Sikkim serves very few people on the plain.


Also Read: With the rise of space tourism, environmental problems are exacerbated.


Singh and his team proposed a system to evaluate the ecosystem services of the Indian Himalayan states in a manner consistent with the national mission of the Himalayan ecosystem. According to them, a country’s ecosystem services benefit the rest of the country and the world and must be assessed, and these values ??must be included in the national accounts. The main argument is that since the market will not transfer funds from regions that benefit from ecosystem services to regions where they are produced, the central government should make this transfer.


It can be emphasized that due to the connection of rivers, Uttarakhand has a special position in supplying soil and water to the Ganges Plain. Carbon sequestration is a service of the global ecosystem; biodiversity is regional, national, and global.


Not only that, taking advantage of hydropower potential and blocking river water in the form of multi-purpose river valley projects, and then transferring water from reservoirs to areas outside the basin, is an aspect that requires broader ecosystem services.


It should also be understood that the Himalayas not only drain water, they also carry millions of tons of sediment. Great changes are taking place in river connections. The ecosystems of the hills of Uttarakhand and the other Himalayas are being destroyed, and there is little benefit to the areas they use.


At the initiative of the late RS Tolia, the then Chief Secretary Singh wrote a document for the 12th Finance Committee. The Indian government partially accepted the recommendations of the document and began to transfer funds to the states.


Uttarakhand has a unique place in the history of social awareness of the importance of ecosystems. The world-famous CHIPKO movement originated from famous activists like CP Bhatt and Sundarral Bahuguna led by Srimati Gaura Devi. It was started primarily to protect the forest rights of local communities and originated in the hills of Uttarakhand.


Later, under the leadership of the famous environmental activist Jagat Singh Jangli, social workers marched to Delhi with payment for water and oxygen produced in the forests of Uttarakhand, which cover approximately 65% ??of the state's land.


The decision by the Uttarakhand government to include GEP seems to be a welcome step. However, the use of jargon raises serious questions about the government's intentions. It may confuse decision-makers and wipe out previous efforts.


The purpose of introducing GEP is not transparent. Is it simply a process of evaluating the country’s ecological wealth, or evaluating which part of GDP it contributes? It seeks to recover the center’s budget to offset the process by which the state provides ecosystem services to other parts of the country and/or provides benefits to the country’s residents.


Rather than introducing a clearly defined concept of ecosystem services, it is better to sow a new term without a clear description, which raises serious doubts about the government's intentions. Therefore, it is important for the country to have a stable approach, focus on ecosystem services, global recognition, and a strong knowledge base.


The News Talkie Bureau


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