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Monetary valuation of ecosystem key to sustainable development planning: report

IISc academic says accounting of a region’s environmental assets strengthens the case for conservation when there is undue pressure to relax laws to divert forest land.

Written by Aksheev Thakur | Bengaluru |
January 28, 2022 6:26:15 pm
IISc academic says accounting of a region’s environmental assets strengthens the case for conservation when there is undue pressure to relax laws to divert forest land | Representational image

An academic from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has highlighted the importance of the monetary valuation of ecosystems, which helps policy makers better assess the trade-offs between the conservation of ecosystems and natural resources and economic growth.

In his report titled Valuation of Terrestrial Ecosystems Services, Dr T V Ramachandra of the premier institute’s Centre for Ecological Science, stated that environmental accounting systems seek to determine a region’s environmental and economic assets and can be used to assess whether economic development is consistent with sustainable development or to help ensure the optimal use of natural resources and the environment.

“The value of all ecosystem services, including the degradation costs, needs to be understood for developing appropriate policies toward the conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems. This knowledge needs to be communicated effectively to decision-makers and the public, which will lead to the development of policies that adequately consider the trade-offs between the conservation of ecosystems and natural resources and economic growth,” the report said.

“Ecosystem accounts make the value of ecosystem services visible, allowing them to be internalised into decision-making. This enables an assessment of trade-offs between economic development and environmental conservation and restoration, resulting in better-informed decisions. It also allows strengthening of the economic case for conserving forests in states in India and developing countries where there can be great pressure to relax forest laws and divert forests to non-forest uses without proper consideration of the sustainability of such actions,” Ramachandra said in the report.

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The report also stated that while renewable (water, air etc) and non-renewable resources (minerals, some soil nutrients, fossil fuels, etc) provide the backbone for numerous economic activities for the development of any region, the traditional national accounts do not include measures of resource depletion or their degradation.

“GDP (Gross Domestic Product), a measure of the current economic well-being of a population, based on the market exchange of material well-being, will indicate resource depletion/degradation only through a positive gain in the economy and will not represent the decline in these assets (wealth) at all. Thus, the existing GDP growth percentages used as yardsticks to measure the development and well-being of citizens in decision-making processes are substantially misleading. The monetary valuation of ecosystem services can help in building a better understanding of their influence on well-being and can further facilitate information-driven decisions and policy reforms that align with the sustainable development goals,” the report read.

The report vouches that the valuation of ecosystem services done in Karnataka and its replication in other states will play a vital role in conservation planning and ecosystem-based management in India.

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