GEP: An Ecological Growth Measure of Modern Times

GEP will have four pillars, soil, water, forest and air

Dr. Anil P Joshi

None of the Nations in the world can claim ecological sustainability today. Somehow if a country like Bhutan manages its environment, however, earth warming and climate change will not spare this state as these are  Global phenomena now impacting each and every state now.

Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, has been repeatedly pleading to all nations to cut carbon emissions or lead simple life to avoid overuse of natural resources. Various global reports on the environment are disturbing.

Besides, storms and diseases with newer names are taking human lives, are pervasive now globally.The story of Cape Town water scarcity to recent snow storms in the US are some of the examples of  future tragedies. Mexico and Brazil are not so far from Cape Town in terms of water scarcity. UAE is planning to drag glaciers from Antarctica via sea route to cater to its water needs. Whereas reports on the melting of Antarctica, Arctic and Himalayan glaciers can no longer be ignored.

A recent study  of the Berkeley Lab conducted by Allen Roads and Arika Woodburn reveals that if green gas emissions continue for the next few decades, we will lose total snow from the Latin American Mountains.

Similarly, the environmental reports of the UN on water, air and health are serious indicators of deteriorating ecosystems. Soon in India too, 30 metro cities will face serious water and air crises. These reports conclude that by 2050 if necessary steps are not ensured, the human race will have no chance of return.

The IPCC Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change has categorically mentioned that the Environmental future is going to be bleak sooner or later. NASA has recently released an Earth map that has critically analyzed shooting warming across the Globe. Europe recently faced an unexpected high temperature. Portugal, England and many other European countries were shocked with changing climate behavior.

GDP and GEP at a glance

We internally have been discussing and debating on such issues but end up without any solution. Recent COP-27 in Egypt also finished with a couple of promises that may not necessarily go to the next level as has happened in the past. In fact all such conferences are rather focussed on economic fight in ecological disguise.

This is simply understood by reviewing the past decisions of the international annual gathering. Have there been any positive environmental gains since the last COP-27?

What other international environmental gatherings were able to impact?

It is an irony that the environment is constantly degrading ever since. We could neither stop earth warming nor find air quality improved. Water resources are depleting constantly and growth of natural forests are questioned all the time. Disasters of various kinds are rising everywhere. Newer ones like forest fires, flash floods and storms are  increasingly becoming new threats now. Our 1972 commitment of Stockholm for sustainability is licking soil now. Human greed has left nothing sustainable.

In fact, we are far from the truth that nature needs a different understanding. We are overwhelmed with economic gains and that takes major attention of planners. In our development approach, the role of nature has been largely overlooked. The fact that robust economic growth equally needs a strong ecosystem, was grossly underestimated.

Ecosystem growth is nowhere part of our growth matrix. It is ironic that the periodical status of soil, water, forest and air are not part of GDP. Conservation claims are not quantified and no natural resource accounts are maintained to ensure ecological security. It is a paradox that our conservation drives and claims are not systematically quantified as part of ecosystem growth. Unless we do not quantify resource conservation and up-gradation, we will not be able to claim our contribution towards nature. 

Take the example of GDP, it is a periodical measure of economic growth. Do we have any ecosystem growth measure parallel to GDP which also may define periodical status of ecosystem health. This does not have any mention in any National Development Index, anywhere in the world. Economic growth forms the only and single parameters to assess the status of the country.

After the Second World War, when economic recession took place, the idea of GDP rose to monitor growth, an ultimate measure of a country’s welfare, a window for economic growth. This spread immediately in other parts of the world. India also adopted the same but we forgot that this global growth metric is too narrow in assessing the total growth including ecology and environment.

Moreover, the true capital of any nation is its natural resources that support all activities including the economy. We cannot deny the pressing needs of a better economy of the world to cater and improve the lives of billions but at the same time ecological needs cannot be overlooked. Unfortunately, our priorities for commercialization have brushed aside the health of the ecosystem. Rationality demands that there must be balance between economy and ecology. Stable ecology can only bring consistent economic growth too.

It is therefore periodical review and growth of ecological pillars will have to be simultaneously  measured as has been for the economy. An ethical development principle demands equal emphasis be given to the ecology and economy of the world.

An ecological growth measure is defined as a step that envisages   growth in forest, soil, water  and air quality. The periodical  efforts of their  improvement or loss can be quantified and collectively given as  Gross Environment Product (GEP). This will be an  ecological growth measure as  GDP for the economy. 

A newly born Uttarakhand State in India approved in its Cabinet GEP as an ecological growth measure parallel to GDP. This became possible after one decade long struggle of HESCO, a social organization committed to conservation of the environment of Himalaya.

GEP will have four pillars, soil, water, forest and air that decide the health of the ecosystem.

The First GEP will be furnished by mid of 2023 by the state government of Uttarakhand. This approach will ensure ecology inclusive economic growth of the state and will all time be sustainable. Such a measure is required globally and each nation must also be accountable for ecosystem growth too vis-à-vis its economic development.

Principle of nature says consumers must contribute and this may also define rights of use of natural resources, if contributors have a right of use too. International carbon fights can be resolved by this factor which normally ends up in the fiasco.

We can only ensure sustainability between economy and ecology when we will bring GDP and GEP at one growth level.

Dr. Anil Prakash Joshi is an environmentalist, green activist, and the founder of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO). A recipient of Padma Shri in 2006 and Padma Bhushan in 2020 for environmental conservation, Joshi has coined the term, “GEP: Gross Environmental Product”.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times  

Images courtesy of (Image: India CSR), (Image: IAS Gyan) and Provided

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