What is Gross Environment Product (GEP)?
In a first of its kind, Uttarakhand will assign a monetary value to its natural resources in the form of Gross Environment Product (GEP). It is along the lines of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
A five-member committee has already been formed in this regard, headed by the principal secretary of forests, Uttarakhand. The committee will devise a method to measure the GEP in the same way as GDP, thereby framing policies that will allow sustainable development.
The announcement was made on the occasion of World Environment Day 2021 by the then Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat and State Forest and Environment Minister Harak Singh Rawat.
The demand to incorporate Gross Environment Product (GEP) in the state's evaluation mechanism was pending for the past few decades and several academicians and environmentalists were pressing for it.
What is Gross Environment Product (GEP)?
Gross Environment Product (GEP) is an assessment system to measure the ecological status of a region and is one of the components of green GDP.
It is considered as the product and service value that the ecosystem provides for human welfare, economic and socially sustainable development including provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services.
In some cases, GEP could be more than GDP. For instance, in 2000, Qinghai's (China) GEP was greater than GDP and was three-fourths as large as GDP in 2015.
While calculating Green GDP, economic growth with environmental factors is taken into consideration along with the standard GDP of a country. It factors biodiversity losses and costs attributed to climate change.
Advantages of Gross Environment Product (GEP)
1- It can be applied as a scientific basis for Eco-Compensation and public financial transfers.
2- It can be applied to measure the status of ecosystem services, an important indicator of sustainable development.
3- It can also be used to measure the progress of eco-civilization.
4- It can help assess the impact of anthropological pressure on our ecosystem and natural resources.
Why there is a need for Gross Environment Product (GEP)?
Through its biodiversity, Uttarakhand gives services to the tune of Rs. 95,112 crores per year to the nation and has more than 71% area under forests. For example, forests in the state generate Rs. 300 crores worth of employment, Rs. 3,395.2 crores worth of fuelwood, Rs. 1,243.2 crores worth of timber and save Rs. 1,306.5 crores by arresting floods.
Furthermore, it is home to the Himalayas, wildlife reserves such as Corbett National Park and Rajaji Tiger Reserves, and the origin point of various rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna and Sharada.
Significance of Gross Environment Product (GEP)
In 1997, a group of 13 economists and ecologists led by Robert Costanza showed that at the global level the value of Economic Services is almost twice the global GDP. The concept was widely acknowledged and is now a part of global knowledge. Gross Environment Product (GEP) will help in the conservation of the environment and may help save us from the effects of climate change.
Coined in 1981 to attract academics, the definition of ecosystem services is still in the process of evolution. Ecosystems that can be measured include natural ecosystems such as forests, grassland, wetland, desert, freshwater and ocean, and artificial systems based on natural processes like farmland, pastures, aquaculture farms and urban green land, etc.
It is to be noted that while valuing ecosystem services, the population size is an important factor. This is why Uttarakhand is far more important than Sikkim, which has only a small population to serve in the plains.
The decision by the Uttarakhand administration is a welcome step but going ahead with it raises serious doubts on their intention. Additionally, it may confuse policymakers and negate the efforts made in the past.
Furthermore, the purpose of introducing the Gross Environment Product (GEP) to the state is not transparent. Experts state that it is an attempt to claim a budget from the Central Government against the ecosystem services that it provides pan India and is a process to benefit its residents. Thus, the state should focus on ecosystem services that have global acceptance and a strong knowledge base.