Much like the calculation of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that indicates a country's economic health, the Dehradun-based Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO) is pushing for a new concept called the Gross Environmental Product (GEP), which will indicate the overall health of the environment.

Working on the unique concept, experts at HESCO have started preparing a roadmap that will be submitted to the Union ministry of environment and forests in Delhi. HESCO chairperson, Anil Joshi said that work on the concept started after environment minister Prakash Javadekar's recent visit to the organization's office in August.

The GEP's contours would include a host of indicators for measuring it, and a detailed report would be submitted to the MoEF. "We are preparing the details for calculating GEP. It will help us understand what is the environmental price we are paying to push up GDP every year," said Joshi.

The concept, the organization's officials said, is new in India and has not been worked on anywhere else as yet. Joshi, a Padamshree awardee, said that while the calculation of GDP gives a good diagnosis of the overall economic health of the country, the GEP would show a country's environmental health, and also how both indicaotrs were intrinsically connected.

"The GEP calculation is required for exhaustive evaluation of all the forest and environment resources that we have in all the states. Its findings would bring everything into a single format if we are to understand what things are going wrong, what works and what can be fixed," said Joshi.

The basis for calculating GEP would be the micro-level status of the different environmental aspects. Joshi said that of the possible indicators to measure, the GEP would include forest cover, tree density, soil erosion, groundwater table, air quality, dissolved oxygen in river water as well as measures for protecting the environment. "These things would be checked state-wise to calculate where we stand today in term of GEP. Monitoring it on an annual basis will also help us formulate long-term strategies to improve the situation," said Joshi.

Experts working with HESCO have also tied up with a research institute based in Bangalore for preparing the roadmap to be presented to the ministry. "The concept is new, so we are taking all the experts and academics on board to cover all aspects of the GEP. The roadmap will be submitted to the ministry for further discussions to firm up things and institutionalize the concept," said Joshi.

Source: September 21, 2015, The Times of India