What was the Mussoorie Resolution and its demands?
At the recent Conclave of Himalayan States in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, 10 states from the region —Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, and Manipur — signed the Mussoorie Resolution, pledged to conserve the Himalayan ecosystem and its cultural-historical legacies. Their demands:
1. Creation of a separate ministry to deal with their problems and
2. A ‘green bonus’ for these biodiversity-rich states that are also seismically and meteorologically fragile.
What is green bonus?
Green Bonus’ is a way of compensating the Himalayas for all the ecosystem benefits they provide us. Ecosystem services are available to society in the form of provisioning services like food, raw materials, genetic resources, water, etc; regulating services like carbon sequestration and climate regulation; cultural services
such as tourism and religion, and, above all, supporting services that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services like nutrient recycling and soil formation, among others.
Explain the notion `biodiversity as natural capital’
• For every bit of existence of human society, there is a critical need for existence of biodiversity as a ‘stock’ which ensures the ‘flow’ of ecosystem services.
• It has become extremely important to treat biodiversity as ‘natural capital’.
• Investment in ‘natural capital’ can sustain the good health of the ecosystem and its services. The Himalayan system provides a natural capital stock.
• It was found that in the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) in Uttarakhand, the aggregate value of seven ecosystem services is in billions of USD.
• Ironically, more than half the population in TAL, Uttarakhand lives below poverty level.
• These households earn more from ecosystem services than income from other sources. That is precisely why these services are also called ‘GDP of the poor’.
• Renowned ecologist Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, also called ‘Himalayan Bandyopadhyay’ in some corners, has termed the Himalayas to be the ‘water towers of Asia’.
• The ecosystem services provided by the Himalayas have an economic contribution to the GDP in the form of agriculture, energy and urban-industrial uses.
• It also sustains downstream biodiversity, which in turn feeds ecosystem services. Unbridled construction activities in Himalayan states often come in the way of protection of the natural capital stock and water towers.
• The decay and decline of ecosystems is irreparable, and will definitely affect the downstream communities.
It must be remembered that the Himalayas have ‘subsidised’ the human civilisations thus far. It is time for payback. Meanwhile, apart from the mountain ecosystem, the role of other ecosystems, namely, coastal wetlands, forests and mangroves, are also acknowledged in policy making. Indian states must make a concerted move in this direction.