Gross environment product for Uttarakhand: What's on agenda, how experts differ

Five-member committee constituted on March 5, 2020 in Dehradun to formulate GEP  

By Varsha Singh
Published: Wednesday 11 March 2020
The committee's mandate is to report annually on the state of Uttarakhand’s ecosystem

GDP, or gross domestic product, may have been the buzzword in governance for some decades now, but Uttarakhand woke up to gross environment (GEP) product after the devastating floods of 2013.

The Himalayan state, known to be the source of several snow-fed rivers, has struggled to meet its own demand for water. Water availability fell up to 90 per cent at 93 of the state’s 500 drinking water projects, according to a state water authority report that analysed data for 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 268 projects, there was a dip of 50-75 per cent and at least 25 per cent in 139 projects.

To secure the state against such natural resource crunch, a five-member committee was constituted on March 5, 2020. Its mandate is to measure the quality of water, air, earth and forests in the state and report annually on the state of Uttarakhand’s ecosystem. The committee, led by principal secretary Anand Vardhan, suggest measures to improve GEP.

Experts, however, were divided over how GEP should work.

The GEP should not measure the economic value of the ecosystem, said environmentalist Anil Joshi, who is also the director of non-profit Himalayan Environmental Studies & Conservation Organisation.

“GEP should not be equated with GDP. It will be an effort to deal with environmental protection,” he said. “If to make a road, 25,000 trees are cut, we will know how many trees will have to be planted from the GEP,” he added.

Davinder Sharma, a member of non-profit Dialogue Highway, however, differs: “It is very important to have a monetary assessment. A monetary assessment for River Ganga and Mount Kailash was done.” Damage to the environment could be assessed this way, he added.

If Uttarakhand was able to formulate the mechanisms for a concrete GEP, then pressure on other states to do the same will also increase, he added. He was, however, apprehensive about the outcome for a GEP because little was done since the issue was first brought up in 2013.

The Union government’s principal science advisor K Vijay Raghavan also weighed in on the debate. He, however, put emphasis on the need for real-time data to better understand GEP. It was on the basis of this data that a future for the GEP could be determined, according to him.

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