India to have green national accounting system soon

India expects to put in place, in five years, a system of green national accounting that will take into account the environmental costs of development and reflect the use of precious natural resources in the process of generating national incomeUnion Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh says he has set the ball rolling for a system of green national accounting in India, by 2015 at least.

He was delivering the 11th ISRO-JNCASR Satish Dhawan Memorial Lecture on ‘The two cultures revisited: Some reflections on the environment-development debate in India’ at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, on September 28, 2010.

Ramesh noted that India currently does not have a system of “green accounting” and that economists estimate gross domestic product (GDP) as a broad measure of national income, while net domestic product (NDP) accounts for the use of physical capital.

“As yet we have no generally accepted system to convert gross domestic product into green domestic product that would reflect the use of precious depletable natural resources in the process of generating national income,” he said.

Economists all over the world have been at work for some time, developing a robust system of green national accounting. “Ideally, if we can report both gross domestic product and green domestic product, we will get a better picture of the trade-offs involved in the process of economic growth,” the minister added.

Meanwhile, Ramesh ruled out the linking of India’s national rivers given the huge ecological and human costs involved. He highlighted the amount of land needed and the number of people who would be displaced if one were to link the Brahmaputra river with a peninsular one, for example.

“If we start linking rivers, how do we know how these rivers are going to behave? What about changing the course of rivers? What about climate change that’s going to happen?”

Accepting that the linking of national rivers was an “attractive concept,” Ramesh said he had become more and more ambivalent towards techno-fixations as he grew older despite being a product of a technological institution and culture. “There are limits to techno-interventions. We tend to underestimate the human and ecological costs,” he said.


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