De­plet­ing ‘nat­u­ral cap­i­tal’

A re­port elab­o­rates how In­dia loses its nat­u­ral re­sources to eco­nomic growth

Millennium Post - - Mp Editorial - KI­RAN PANDEY

Growth doesn’t al­ways come at a price. But it did when it comes to In­dia’s eco­nomic growth, which took a toll on its nat­u­ral as­sets like forests, food, clean air, etc. A re­port on en­vi­ron­ment ac­counts re­leased by the Min­istry of Sta­tis­tics and Pro­gramme Im­ple­men­ta­tion has re­vealed this state.

In fact, it says that when the aver­age growth rate of gross state do­mes­tic prod­uct (GSDP) dur­ing 2005-15 for al­most all the states was around 7-8 per cent, 11 states reg­is­tered a de­cline in their nat­u­ral cap­i­tal. While 13 states showed a mar­ginal growth in the range 0-5 per cent, just three states saw their nat­u­ral cap­i­tal in­crease by more than 5 per cent. This model of eco­nomic growth may not let the coun­try sus­tain the rate of de­vel­op­ment for long.

Mon­i­tor­ing the nat­u­ral cap­i­tal is im­por­tant and should be one of the de­ter­min­ers for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, says the re­port. The nat­u­ral cap­i­tal is that ele­ment which pro­vides valu­able goods and ser­vices to hu­mans, such as the stock of forests, food, clean air, wa­ter, land, min­er­als, etc.

The nat­u­ral cap­i­tal ac­count­ing (NCA) method has been used, in this re­port, to ac­count for in­come and costs as­so­ci­ated with the nat­u­ral re­source used, based on a frame­work ap­proved by the United Na­tions in 2012 called the Sys­tem of En­vi­ron­men­tal-eco­nomic Ac­counts (SEEA).

The re­port also re­veals a few pos­i­tive trends. For ex­am­ple, Andhra Pradesh, Gu­jarat, Jhark­hand, Ker­ala, Ma­ha­rash­tra, and Odisha show an in­crease in pa­ram­e­ters such as the tran­si­tion of fal­low land to farm­land, in­crease in for­est cover along with grow­ing car­bon stock and new sources of min­er­als. It, how­ever, shows alarming ef­fects of cli­mate change, ur­ban­i­sa­tion, and a de­cline in for­est re­source.

Wa­ter: Less snow, glaciers, in­land and coastal wet­lands

Cli­mate change has had a huge im­pact on wa­ter re­sources. The re­port shows a 24 per cent de­cline in the area un­der snow and glacier in some states and also notes the im­pact of cli­mate change on wet­lands/wa­ter bod­ies in Hi­machal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Jammu Kash­mir.

More­over, un­sus­tain­able ex­trac­tion of ground­wa­ter re­sources is caus­ing a de­cline in the wa­ter lev­els in Tamil Nadu, Ch­hat­tis­garh, Goa, Odisha, and Ra­jasthan. Down to Earth’s State of In­dia’s En­vi­ron­ment 2018 – In fig­ures had talked about in­creas­ing de­pen­dency and un­sus­tain­able use of ground­wa­ter re­sources. It had re­vealed that in 2013, the coun­try used 62 per cent of the net avail­able an­nual ground­wa­ter, which is a 58 per cent in­crease from 2004.

For­est: Re­duc­ing stock

In the last 6 years, the rate of growth of for­est stock has re­duced by more than 10 per cent in al­most all states. From 2006-07 to 2010-11, all states, ex­cept Goa and Sikkim, have shown such a de­cline. How­ever, from 2010-11 to 2015-16, even though there was a mar­ginal change in for­est cover in As­sam and Ut­tarak­hand, grow­ing stock has re­duced by more than 10 per cent. But in the case of Jhark­hand, Mad­hya Pradesh, Ma­ha­rash­tra, and Ra­jasthan, de­spite a mar­ginal change in for­est cover, grow­ing stock has sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased by more than 10 per cent.

In the north­east, to­tal grow­ing stock has de­creased from 1122.12 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres (cum) in 2006-07 to 958.34 mil­lion cum in 2015-16. Arunachal Pradesh and As­sam, which con­trib­ute around 58 per cent of grow­ing stock in the north­east, have shown a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in grow­ing stock within the for­est.

The coun­try is de­pen­dent on im­ports of wood and wood prod­ucts to ful­fil its do­mes­tic de­mand. So the grow­ing stock is a cru­cial for­est re­source, the de­cline of which may be a har­bin­ger of trou­ble for the econ­omy.


Con­ver­sion of agri­cul­tural land to meet the needs of the ur­ban pop­u­la­tion will af­fect pro­duc­tive ca­pac­ity. While men­tion­ing the use of agri­cul­tural land for ur­ban­i­sa­tion, the re­port says that high rate of ur­ban growth is likely to af­fect a pro­duc­tive ca­pac­ity in states like Pun­jab, Haryana, Kar­nataka, Te­lan­gana, and West Ben­gal.

It calls for bet­ter util­i­sa­tion of land in a sus­tain­able man­ner to ful­fil the de­mands of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion with­out in­creas­ing the de­graded land.

To sus­tain­ably use nat­u­ral re­sources

This first state­ment on en­vi­ron­ment ac­counts strength­ens and sup­ports the mon­i­tor­ing of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals on zero hunger, sus­tain­able cities and com­mu­ni­ties, life on land. Sev­eral coun­tries are com­pil­ing nat­u­ral cap­i­tal ac­counts (NCA) to make eco­nomic de­ci­sion mak­ing on nat­u­ral re­sources an in­formed process. They want to use NCA as the ba­sis for com­pil­ing in­di­ca­tors to mon­i­tor the progress of sus­tain­abil­ity poli­cies. In­dia is par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Nat­u­ral Cap­i­tal Ac­count­ing and Val­u­a­tion of Ecosys­tem Ser­vices project launched by the United Na­tions Sta­tis­tics Divi­sion (UNSD).

Ac­cord­ing to MOSPI, this as­sess­ment of nat­u­ral as­sets is a re­minder of how im­por­tant is a sus­tain­able use of nat­u­ral re­sources and is likely to pro­pel In­dia on the path of the com­pi­la­tion of ecosys­tem ac­counts. It adds that the Cen­tre and state gov­ern­ments must pri­ori­tise ac­tions to con­serve and en­hance nat­u­ral cap­i­tal.

With high­t­edned pa­ram­e­ters such as the tran­si­tion of fal­low land to farm­land, in­crease in for­est cover along with grow­ing car­bon stock and new sources of min­er­als, the re­port, how­ever, shows alarming ef­fects of cli­mate change, ur­ban­i­sa­tion, and a de­cline in for­est re­sources

(The views ex­pressed are strictly per­sonal)

(Rep­re­sen­ta­tional Im­age)

A de­cline in for­est stock her­alds eco­nomic trou­bles for a coun­try de­pen­dent on im­port of wood

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