It was around 1970s when the term, ‘environment’, gained importance in India. It was the marking of a period during which Indians realised that the previous theories of industrialization and production were having a negative impact on the environment. In 1940s the aim was to increase the production whereas, 1950s and 1960s, is considered to be the period during which the agenda of ‘development’ was recognized. Thus the due recognition to environment was given only in 1970s.
In less than two decades, environmental advocacy has matured swiftly from protest against environmental damage to questions about the character and course of development.The term, ‘Development’, has many different connotations. In a broad sense it is about people and their ability to enhance and direct their own lives in the context of their environment, history and aspirations for future. It is about an enlarged range of choices, lifestyles and also occupations. It is a route that leaves behind oppression and poverty of a country.
Though the Indian planning was conscious of the environmental and social dimensions of development, such as the need to maintain health of the soil or decentralized development, yet we continue to witness poverty and oppression in various parts and especially various dimensions. Despite all the ‘consciousness’ that was followed, oppression and poverty still persist. And the natural environment is continuously being jeopardised.
The term ‘development’ draws an image of a particular economy in our minds. The ‘developed’ are supposed to be the best economies while the ‘developing’ try to catch the required speed of development. In every economy, the general public is taught to judge a government by its ‘development agenda’. So when this term plays such an important part in the way we proceed, it is very important to justify its computation
Development of an economy is measured through Gross Domestic Product. This is nothing but the market value of all goods and services produced in an economy. So the focus of GDP is to boost the production and nowhere consider the means through which the production is increased. GDP thus measures the monetary growth of an economy and ignores the social or environmental costs involved.
GDP was established during the period of Second World War when the computation of national accounts was of utmost importance. It was used to measure the aggregate economic activity and also helped in planning the way through which the same could be measured. So when an oil spill takes place, the GDP of a country rises because to clear the damage more people are employed and hence more salaries are paid. It ignores the marine life damage that the particular oil spill has caused and thus fails to capture other costs which impact the economy negatively.The best economy in terms of GDP is United States of America but if the same is computed as per Human Development Index, USA falls to rank five and Norway takes the first position.India lags way behind and is the 135th country as per HDI.
GDP needs to consider various other social and environmental costs that its factors impose. A system under which these costs are considered would ensure the actual growth and development of its people. Thus concept of green growth and green GDP has been coined recently. Green GDP would focus on the measurement of GDP by including various environmental costs as well. Thus this would ensure that an economy grows, but not at the cost of environment. However, the critics of green GDP point out that it is difficult to assign values to some of the outputs which do not exist in traditional market and is non-tradable. They also say that Green GDP just charges GDP for depletion of sources which is only a part of sustainability and thus doesn’t take sustainable development into consideration. Well, the supporters of green GDP feel that with the advancements in technology definitely more accurate measures will be formed. Also, according to them, since GDP is the predominant indicator, sustainability will never be considered more comprehensive and it was better to use adjusted GDP.
The concept of GDP has become politicized to such an extent that many nations do not agree to other indicators as they would bring their ranking down. Due to the loopholes in the way present GDP is computed, there is a sudden need to find other ways which can redefine what economic growth is.