An academic from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has highlighted the importance of monetary valuation of ecosystems, which helps policy makers better assess the trade-offs between ecosystem and natural resource conservation and economic growth.
In his report, Valuation of Terrestrial Ecosystems Services, Dr. TV Ramachandra of the First Institute’s Center for Ecological Science, said environmental accounting systems seek to determine the environmental and economic assets of an area and can be used to assess whether economic development is compatible with sustainable development. or to help ensure optimum use of natural resources and the environment.
“The value of all ecosystem services, including the costs of degradation, must be understood to develop appropriate policies for 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 states.
“Ecosystem accounts make the value of ecosystem services visible, allowing them to be internalized in decision-making. This allows trade-offs between economic development and environmental conservation and restoration to be assessed, resulting in better-informed decisions. It also serves to strengthen the economic case for forest conservation in states in India and developing countries where there may be strong pressure to relax forest laws and divert forests to non-forest uses without give due consideration to the sustainability of these actions,” Ramachandra said in the report.
The report also states that while renewable (water, air, etc.) and non-renewable (minerals, some soil nutrients, fossil fuels, etc.) resources form the backbone of many economic activities for the development of any region , traditional national accounts do not. include measures of resource depletion or 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 only indicate resource depletion/degradation by a positive gain in the economy and will not represent the decline in those 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 significantly misleading. “monetary valuation of ecosystem services can help to better understand their influence on well-being and can further facilitate information-based decisions and policy reforms that align with the Sustainable Development Goals,” reads the report.
The report ensures that the ecosystem services assessment carried out in Karnataka and its replication in other states will play a vital role in conservation planning and ecosystem-based management in India.