The destruction of forests for economic growth has resulted in loss of around Rs. 2,000 crore to India in three years, a new government report, released by PM Manmohan Singh on Friday, said.
The report, for the first time, attempts to analyse impact of economic growth on nature — forests, eco-systems, agriculture — and human health and provide a number for policy-makers for proper “economic evaluation”.
Despite the limitations of the data, the report said loss to the economy was around Rs. 1900 crore on just two accounts — carbon sequestration and non-timber forest produce. Indian forests absorb about 10% of total global warming causing carbon emissions and forest produce is a livelihood source for a large and marginalised tribal population.
During 2009 and 2011, India lost around 5,339 sq kms of forestland owing to the diversion of forestland for economic activities even though 4,972 sq km of green cover was added as compensation.
“It shows that we (India) are not growing in an economically-sustainable manner,” said Dr Haripriya of IIT (Bombay), who analysed the limited environmental data on forest and ecology.
This number is small, considering India’s huge public money inflow. But it is because the report anchored by Professor Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University did not take into account adverse health impact due to the loss of forests and its impact on local ecology and agriculture, which contributed about 14% to India’s Gross Domestic Product.
Dr Haripriya of IIT (Bombay) said India was not growing in an environmentally-sustainable manner on basis of her analysis of limited environmental data.
Air pollution in India is rising in most cities and its health impacts are well documented. Just two of around 250 cities monitored by the Central Pollution Control Board as air pollution levels below the national ambient standards. A recent Health Effects Institute study had described air pollution as fifth biggest cause of deaths in India.
But what the Dasgupta committee failed to tabulate on the cost of rising air pollution to economy in absence adequate data. Also, the committee was not able to give a definite number to contribution of forests to people’s good health.
The report also said just in three years -- 2009 to 2011 -- India lost around 5,339 sq kms of forestland because of its diversion for economic activities.