The Economic Survey for 2011-12 tabled in Parliament on Thursday has put GDP growth at 6.9% for this fiscal year and projected a growth at 7.6% in fiscal 2012-13 and 8.6% for fiscal 2014. Some of that growth will probably come at the cost of the environment.
Over the past five years, 40% of forestland diverted for development projects has been used by mining and power projects, according to the Centre for Science and Environment. A record 87,884 hectares of forest land was diverted for projects in 2009. And 25% of all forestland used for developmental objectives since 1981 has been used in the past five years, according to the advocacy group.
That is why I’d like to see these numbers in the context of the environment. That will have to wait, though: India is currently working on measuring its environmental economy for a so-called green GDP by 2015. The government has set up a panel headed by noted environmentalist economist Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University for this purpose.
Last June, the Uttarakhand High Court admitted a public interest petition (PIL) on measuring gross environmental productivity (GEP) along with the gross domestic product (GDP) of the state economy. The petition argues that the state, in the current fiscal, will grow its economy by 9.2% with much of the growth coming from industry and infrastructure development. It adds that this does not present the true picture as Uttarakhand is an ecologically sensitive state and the development indicator does not reflect the growth of environmental components especially forests.
I’d also like economic indicators to start factoring in what can only be termed environmental income. For instance, in many states that have seen rapid development at the cost of the environment, indigenous people have become poorer because they lose income from non-timber forest products (NTFP) and are deprived of clean drinking water that once used to flow in forest rivers.
This ecological poverty is spreading across India.
Environmental metrics are not fads. GEP, when used in association with GDP, may present a true economic (and environmental picture).