Preserving the natural capital

Last Updated 15 September 2009, 17:02 IST

The increase in the intensity of natural calamities due to climate change will further deepen the global recession as it will erode away much of the surplus in repairing the damage due to natural calamities.

A study undertaken by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in April 2009 says the Arctic seas will completely disappear within the next 30 years. The United Nation’s climate panel consisting of 2,500 climate scientists from 130 nations during Bali climate conference in 2007 predicted more heat waves, rising seas and drought in the next few years.

The UNDP’s Human Development Report 2007 says a temperature rise from 3 to 4 degree Celsius would displace 340 million people through flooding and drought. Besides, the retreating glaciers would cut off drinking water from as many as 1.8 billion people. The global economy will face a more severe downturn than the current crisis if it fails to halt climate change, said Nicholas Stern, one of the leading environmental economists.

Nature has gifted huge natural capital to India. Preserving those natural capital will not only sustain economic growth but will generate large number of small economic activities.


India is divided into 20 agro ecological regions and 60 sub regions to grow almost all kinds of crops. India produces 11 per cent of the world’s vegetables and 15 per cent of the fruits. India has 10.78 per cent of the flora in the world. It has the largest variety of live stocks in the world with 26 cattle breed, 40 sheep varieties, 20 breed of goats and 18 poultry bird varieties.

The nation preserves all the eight varieties of buffalo breed of the world. A coast line of 850 km and 14 major rivers and hundreds of its tributaries and distributaries can boost agriculture and fishery sector.

India has two of the world’s 18 bio-diversity hot spots in the Western Ghats and in the Eastern Himalayas. The river Ganga alone sustains livelihood of more than 500 million people. Similar is the case with the river Brahmaputra.

Unfortunately both the rivers are under serious threat due to environment degradation. If China materialises its plan to divert the Brahmaputra river it would affect the livelihood of millions of people in North East India.

Scientists have predicted the river Ganga will be a seasonal stream. Political economists in the country feel India will face exclusion in the field of industrial growth if it gives priority to environment issues. In fact the growth is never sustainable unless a nation has healthy natural capital.

The western and European nations have suffered a deep recession because they destroyed their natural capital in pursuit aggressive manufacturing sector. Way back in 1913, Farming, Forestry and Fishery accounted for 28 per cent of the employment in US, 41 per cent in France, 60 per cent in Japan and 12 per cent in UK.

Now their dependence on these sectors is around seven per cent only. This is the reason why the food production does not commensurate with the rising population. The world has not learnt to strike a balance between natural and manufacturing sector. The G-8 ‘L’Aquilla Food Security Initiatives’ concluded on July 10, 2009 has committed $20 billion for sustainable agriculture development in the developing world over the next three years — the action prompted by the fear that the global slowdown has pushed 90 million people into extreme poverty.

“As more jobs are lost due to the current economic down turn, sustainable forest management could become a means for creating millions of green jobs, thus helping to reduce poverty and improve the environment, said Jan Heino, Assistant Director General of FAO’s Forestry Department.

India has a treasure trove of natural capital. For example the export of natural honey products from India has increased from Rs 60.92 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 93.30 crore in 2007-08. Like honey there are hundreds of forest products which can get value addition. A tusk found in forest may cost Rs 1 lakh. Once it is engraved with fine carvings with artisan skill its cost is inestimable in the international craft bazaars.

For this we need not kill elephant but to engage forest dwellers to collect tusks. India has 89 National Parks and 504 wild life sanctuaries which can keep forest dwellers engaged in wild life tourism sector. Preserving natural capital should become a people’s movement in India.

(Published 15 September 2009, 17:02 IST)

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