9.7.1 The concept of sustainable development has captured the world’s attention and is becoming the guiding principle of developmental planning. Environmental protection has been recognised today as the crucial factor in any sustainable development. Prior to the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, 1972, the main emphasis was laid on development issues without taking into consideration the consequent environmental degradation. The importance of sustainability got highlighted in the “Earth Summit” in Rio in 1992 and it was realised that the current development path is both inadequate for meeting present needs and seriously undermines opportunities for future generation. It was also recognised that sustainable development on all fronts required the preservation of environment, especially irreplaceable natural resources and bio-diversity. Therefore, a challenge was thrown before the world to restructure the development path in harmony with nature and environment. One of the important challenges for developing economies like India, is to achieve closer integration between economic policies and policies for management of natural resources and environment. For closer integration, decision-makers need more information about the environmental impacts of developmental policies and identification of pressure points such as population, industrialisation, large power generation and irrigation projects, etc. This calls for collection, compilation and dissemination of a wide variety of statistical data on biodiversity, atmosphere, land and soil, water, human settlements, etc. Environmental Statistics, which has become an important area requiring special attention, has three major sub-areas, namely, basic Environmental Statistics, environmental indicators and environmental accounting.
9.7.2 Environmental issues are enshrined in the Indian Constitution as Directive Principles of State Policy and reflect the commitment of the country to protect the environment with regard to forests and wildlife. In India, a separate Ministry of Environment and Forests was created in 1985, and is engaged in the task of managing the country’s environment by focusing on the development of important tools and techniques, impact assessment, research and collection and dissemination of environmental information. An Environmental Statistics Cell has also been established in the CSO, to coordinate with various agencies involved in collecting information relating to Environment Statistics. The State Governments have also set up departments dealing with Environment to address the rapidly increasing policy initiatives and programmes in the environment and forest sectors.
A. Development Of Environment Statistics And Indicators
9.7.3 The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) provided a broad Framework for Development of Environment Statistics (FDES) in 1982. The FDES provides a useful approach for the development and organisation of Environment Statistics. It comprises five broad components namely, biodiversity, atmosphere, land/soil, water and human settlements. In India, a multidisciplinary Working Group was constituted in July 1986 under the Director General, CSO with members from Central and State Governments and research institutions, for suggesting a list of variables to be included in FDES. The FDES for the country was prepared based upon the broad framework provided by UNSD and was officially adopted in 1997. Based on this framework, the CSO brought out a Compendium of Environment Statistics in 1997 and this has now become an annual publication of CSO. The Compendium provides valuable information on the present status of the five broad components of environment identified by UNSD. Apart from the CSO, various ministries and departments of Central and State Governments collect information related to Environment Statistics and the same are published in various publications namely, Forestry Statistics, The State of Forest Report, Inventory of Forest Resources of India, State of Environment, etc. by organisations within the Ministry of Environment and Forests; Agriculture Statistics at a Glance and Fisheries Statistics by the Ministry of Agriculture; Water Statistics by Ministry of Water Resources, etc. Most of these publications are annual, but the time lag in bringing out the publications in respect of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is about 3 to 5 years. Information on some indicators is also being collected by other agencies like the Central Pollution Control Board, Registrar General, Ministry of Urban Development, Tata Energy Research Institute, etc. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has established in 1982 an Environmental Information System (ENVIS) (see /">Annexe 9.13 ) for maintaining information on various aspects related to environment. As environment is a multi-disciplinary subject involving complex subjects like bio-diversity, atmosphere, water, land and soil and human settlement, it is very difficult to collect and analyse data and study inter-relationships. As there are several agencies for collection of information, it becomes necessary to develop an efficient statistical system on environment that could meet the growing demand of various stakeholders, both Government and non-Government as well as outside agencies for environmental data.
9.7.4 The United Nations in 1997 has suggested a list of indicators on environment for which a regular set of information needs to be maintained. The selection of environmental indicators relevant to environmental phenomenon of each country is a crucial activity in any environment statistics programme. The selection of such indicators should be made in close collaboration between data users and producers. As a part of the Asian Development Bank’s Project in 1996, a suggestive list of environment indicators (see /">Annexe 9.14) required to be maintained by India, was recommended.
9.7.5 At the Centre, the Central Statistical Organisation co-ordinates with various central agencies to publish in its annual Compendium of Environment Statistics. However, since there is no suitable co-ordinating mechanism at the State level, the availability of State-level data on environment is quite poor. Data on a number of indicators listed by Asian Development Bank (ADB) are either presently not being compiled or are only partially available. The database on a variety of environmental parameters and indicators as available presently through different sources is quite weak and needs to be substantially augmented. Although the Ministry of Environment and Forests is the nodal agency for maintenance of proper statistical system related to environment, the availability of statistical infrastructure in the Ministry is totally inadequate to meet the growing data requirements. The situation is more or less similar in organisations such as Forest Survey of India, Indian Council for Forestry Education & Research, Central Pollution Control Board, etc. functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Conclusions And Recommendations
9.7.6 The Commission recognises that an integrated approach to economic, environment and social policies requires comprehensive databases through appropriate statistical frameworks and systems. The availability of a wide range of timely and reliable information on environment and related indicators is of utmost importance. The Commission therefore recommends:
Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) should continue to co-ordinate and collate the relevant information on environment as is being done at present and bring out the Compendium on Environment Statistics on an annual basis. CSO should also provide necessary guidance to the States for development of Environment Statistics and indicators.
The database on Environment Statistics should be strengthened and it should be linked with the Environmental Information System (ENVIS) already functioning in the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
CSO in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forests and other agencies should finalise the list of Environmental indicators needed for the country and should take the steps for regular collection of relevant information.
Considering the emerging need for Environment Statistics, a Statistical Division in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, should be established to cater to the requirements of environment and forest related data and analysis of the same. A Statistical Adviser at an appropriate level from Indian Statistical Service should head the Division.
Environment Statistics Cells should be created in the Directorate of Economics and Statistics in all the States and the same should be responsible for coordination and collation of information from other related agencies in the State.
B. Natural Resource Accounting
9.7.7 Natural Resource Accounting deals with stocks and stock changes in natural assets, which comprise biological assets (produced or wild), subsoil assets (proved reserves), water, air and land areas (including water areas) with their terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (eco-zones). In the environmental-economic accounting system, an increasing emphasis needs to be placed on the natural environment that has or could be affected by human activities. The United Nations Statistical Division has issued an interim version of the framework on integrated environmental and economic accounting in 1993. This gives a conceptual basis for implementing the required satellite systems for integrated environmental and economic accounting that describes the inter relationship between the natural environment and economy. United Nations is currently revising this version and a Handbook of System of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA), 2000 is being finalised.
9.7.8 In India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had sponsored a study on Natural Resource Accounting in the Yamuna river sub-basin, conducted by 8 institutions under the overall coordination of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur. In this study, the development of the conceptual framework for natural resource accounting has been attempted and it was tried to integrate it with National Income Accounts to estimate the measures of sustainable development. The various valuation methods such as feasibility assessment of treatment technology options in estimation of avoidable costs, assessment of exposure damages, estimation of lost opportunities, preventive and curative expenditure, hedonic pricing for dealing with uncertainties and willingness to pay surveys, etc. have been used.
9.7.9 MoS&PI has initiated a pilot project on Natural Resource Accounting in Goa, which is being implemented by Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI). After the development of a suitable methodology, it may be extended to other States as well so as to arrive at an overall estimate of resource and resource utilisation for the country. A Technical Working Group on Natural Resource Accounting constituted for the purpose, recommended that the scope of study would be to cover all sectors of the economy; however, the major emphasis will be given to Forests and Biodiversity, Mineral and Marine Resources, Tourism and Energy. TERI has since submitted its draft Report to the Ministry in January 2001, and it is being finalised on the basis of observations of the technical working group.
Conclusions And Recommendations
9.7.10 Natural Resource Accounting (NRA) is a useful tool for the measurement of genuine economic performance and growth, taking environmental factors into consideration. Proper valuation of environmental resources is also necessary for making investment decisions pertaining to environmental management, for designing environmental policy, and for measuring environmentally corrected national income. The Commission realises that the estimation of Green GDP, a term coming to be used in recent times, is quite difficult in the absence of a strong database on natural resources as well as a suitable methodology for valuation of stocks and flows of natural assets. The Commission therefore recommends:
The development and implementation of satellite accounts on environment accounting, as suggested by the System of National Accounts, 1993, should be pursued systematically. To begin with, a framework for environmental accounting needs to be developed in India. The framework should be based on System of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) as this would avoid the drawback of non-compatibility with national accounts concepts and procedures.
Once the framework for environmental accounting is established, the aim should be to improve the data contents and analysis of particular sectors of the framework and develop suitable methodologies for systematic valuation of environmental resources in the country and for estimating the cost of pollution abatement and environmental degradation caused by various economic activities.
As Natural Resource Accounting requires the integration of data from different subject areas, efforts should be made to involve experts from all relevant disciplines along with the experts from CSO. This office should play a more active and dominant role in the entire exercise.
The pilot project on Natural Resource Accounting in Goa initiated by the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoS&PI) should be replicated in 2 or 3 major States for developing a suitable methodology before extending it at the all-India level for developing integrated environment and economic accounts.