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SOCIO-ECONOMIC SUSTAIN ABILITY OF THE COASTAL AREAS AROUND BHITARKANIKA NATIONAL PARK, ORISSA

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Abstract

Sustainability is basically a concept of interyenerational equity in the context of natural resource utilisation. A natural resource system becomes non-sustainable, when the rate of degeneration in any form remains higher than the rate of regeneration, or when the depreciation exceeds the value of investment. Therefore, the concept is a dynamic processand need to address' the linkages between the driving forces and affected components of any system. The present work is based on a case study done at the coastal villages adjacent to the mangrove forest of Bhitarkanika. The socio-economy of the area is very much sensitive to the changes in local environment and legal status. In this paper, a methodology for sustain ability assessment has been developed, which integrates the sustainability of different components of the system to derive the ultimate system-sustainability. Applying the methodology on the study area, it has been observed that the socio-economy of the Bhitarkanika region is presently non-sustainable, but with a few socio-political changes within the whole system, significant improvement in its sustainability is possible.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC SUSTAIN ABILITY OF THE COASTAL AREAS
AROUND BHITARKANIKA NATIONAL PARK, ORISSA
Rajarshi Mitra*, Rabindra
N. Bhattacharya**, Sugata Hazra* and S. C. Santra
t
Sustainability is basically a concept of interyenerational equity in the context of natural resource
utilisation. A natural resource system becomes non-sustainable, when the rate of degeneratio
n in
any form remains higher than the rate of regeneration, or
when the depreciation exceeds the
value of investment. Therefore, the concept is a dynamic processand need to address' the
linkages between the driving forces and affected components of any system.
The present work is based on a case study done at the coastal villages adjacent to
the mangrove
forest of Bhitarkanika. The socio
-
economy of the area is very much sensitive to the changes in
local environment and legal status. In this paper, a methodo
logy for sustain ability assessment
has been developed, which integrates the sustainability of dif
ferent components of the system to
derive the ultimate system-sustainability. Applying the methodology on the study area, it
has
been observed that the socio-economy of the Bhitarkanika region is presently non-
but with a few socio-
political changes within the whole system, significant improvement in its
sustainability is possible.
INTRODUCTION
Sustainability or sustainable development has been a major concern in environmental management. The
concept commonly strives to maintain or restore a balance between the natural and' human
environment
without any agreement on spatial and temporal benchmarks (FAO
, 1998). While attempts to'assess
sustainability separately
for different components of the environment have been well documented in the
literature, in most of the cases the linkages between various components remained unaddressed. Over the
recent ye
ars integrating social objectives, a holistic concept of sustainability is being advocated. This
generally goes beyond the classical ecological economic approach 'take no more than the ecosystem provides
over a given time period' (Glaser, 2003). Such holis
tic concept of sustainability would integrate the
sustainability of all the spheres operating at an
area simultaneously, which enables the investigator to incorporate linkages between components of the
environment and comment on the sustainability of the e
nvironmental system as a whole instead of stating
component wise sustainability of the system.
Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary covers an area of 672 sq.kms at the estuary of Brahmini and Baitarani
rivers in the State of Orissa, India. The core 145 sq.kms m
ixed forest with dominant mangrove species has
been declared as a National Park in 1998. The declaration imposed restrictions on the free access to
mangrove resources and also on the fishing activities at the rivers flowing through the national park premis
es.
Like any other mangrove estuaries in this area also some close
*School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata-700032 India.
**Department of Economics, Jadavpur University, Kolkata-700032 India.
t
Department of Environmental Science, University of Kalyani, Nadia, West Bengal 741235.
112
Socio-economic Sustainability of the Coastal Areas around Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa 113
interactions between the mangrove ecosystem and the local residents prevail. Therefore, the socio-
economic
sustainability of the area depends basically on the present socio-
economic practices and the trends of changes,
which influence the systems' stability, especially in terms of economic return and intergenerational resou
rce
availability.
CONCEPTS OF SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainability has been defined in various ways depending on the context of discussion. Precisely the concept
states that meeting the requirement of the present generation to utilize the available resource shoul
d be in
such a way that, the present average quality of life be potentially shared with the future generation.
Otherwise, from a socio-economic perspective it can be defined as a pattern of social and structural eco
nomic
transformation, which promises the
benefits available in the present without jeopardizing the likely potential
for s
imilar benefits in future (Goodland and Leduc, 1987). A sustainable condition has been identified
through different approaches, which basically include principles of resource
utilisation at a rate lower than
the resource regeneration or substitution of the. utilised resources to potentially maintain a minimum stock in
'the environment (Hanley et al., 1997). The neo-
classical view however, deals with the concept as a necessary
condition for the efficient inter-temporal allocation of exhaustible resources. In this context the
Hartwick rule
states t
hat consumption may be held constant in the face of exhaustible resources only if the rents 'deriving
from the inter-temporally efficient use of those resources are reinvested in reproducible capital
(Hartwick,
1977). A necessary condition for consumption
to be maintained over time is that the efficiency rents from
exploiting exhaustible resources should be reinvested in non-
exhaustible assets (Common and Perrings,
1992). Solow sustain ability states, the optimal policy for each generation is to maintain th
e capital stock and
invest an amount equal to the depreciation of capital stock.
In this paper, we shall consider whether components or the whole system of a resource base is sustainable
till the utilisation of the natural resource is compensated by adequate investment.
.f
SUSTAIN ABILITY ASSESSMENT
Like the concept, assessment of 'sustainability' has also been a serious concern for the environmen
talist and
economists for decades (Hartwick, 1977; Daly, 1990; Common and Perrings, 1992; Azar et al. 1996). Th
e
major problem with its assessment is the paucity of a perfectly sustainable condition in the environmental
system as a reference (Hannon et al. 1993). Moreover, it has
also been tough to assign the limit of
disturbances or exploitation any system can accommodate. While, the Safe Mini
mum Standard has only been
worked out for flora and fauna in accordance to their minimum viable population level in any area (Hanley et
al. 1997), the same for any open system with inter-sectoral interactions like socio-economy is yet to be done.
It is to be noticed that no clear and definite consensus on the quantitative sustainability assessment has
yet been reached. For providing an operational technique of sustainability assessment a comparative study
with a defined reference system seems useful (Hannon et al., 1993). Other
wise, the indicator approach seems
to be most useful means of quantification of sustain ability, as it deals with different component
s differently
to reach a definite value system with a maximum 1 and mi
nimum '0' (zero) values. It also alleviates the
discrepancies between units of varied components (Diaz-
Balteiro and Romero, 2004). However, Holling
stability principle suggests that the stability of the individual population within an ecosystem presumes th
e
stability or the resilience of the ecosystem as a whole and if a self-regu
lating economic system is to be
ecologically sustainable, it should serve a set of consumption and production objectives that are themselves
sustainable (Common and Perrings, 1992
). Therefore, it is assumed that, assessment of sustainability of each
of the components may give the measure of sustainability as a whole.
'I
114
Indian Journal of Regional Science Vol. XXXVIII, No.2,
2006
In this paper, we use the aforesaid principle to develop a methodology for assessment of the socio-
economic sustainability of the whole system. Sustainability is dynamic in nature and the stability of any
ecosystem cannot be disrupted without intervention of any external forces in the form of natural changes or
anthropogenic exploitation. The resource exploitation without suitable reinvestment or substitution leads a
system towards non-sustainability, where as on the other hand any change in the input-output process too
may disturb stability and subsequent sustainability. Here we examine the impacts of the driving forces (F),
i.e. the ongoing process and changes in operation, on some of the chosen (indicator) components (C) in the
study area, for assessment of the non-sustainability level under the present situation.
Primarily an interactive matrix has been used to get clear idea about the interactions between components
of the coastal eco-system and recent environmental changes, which usually facilitate chalking out in
tegrated
coastal zone management strategies (Tissier et al., 2003). We concentrate to analyse only the impacts
(Fj),
which render a non-sustain ability for the components (C) in order t
o quantify sustainability (Table 1). On the
basis of this principle, if anyone of the components satisfies non-
sustainable condition, i.e. deterioration under
influence of any driving force, then the whole system can qualitatively be called as non-sustaina
ble. But, the
extent of non-sustainability demands some sort of quantification of the tendency of deterioration.
",
When 'no deterioration' (0% deterioration) or upgradation denotes a sustainable condition, any
deteriorating impact will render non-sustainability. We quantify the number of negative impacts of driving
forces on the components as the quantum of the deteriorating impacts from all the interactions for each of the
components undergoing changes. According to the extent of deterioration, the number of the deteriorating or
non-sustainable impacts of the driving forces on a component, compared to the total number of impacts
interacting with that particular component has been designated" as relative scores for non-sustainability
(R
NS
), lying within the range '0', and '1'.
Now, for any ith component of C under the influence of driving forces (rendering non-sustainability) Fj
will have the relative score,
R
i
NS
= C
i
|
Σ
ΣΣ
Σ
F
j
(1)
when j = 1,. . ., m and i = 1,..., n number of components. Thus, for the R
i
NS
of non-
sustainable
components, 0 C
i
| F
j
1, where, C
i
is the i
th
specific component, i = 1, ... , n, and F
j
is the j
th
driving force, j = 1,. . ., m
On the other hand, the complementary scores, i.e. the relative score of a non-
deteriorating or
sustainable condition for the components
(
R
i
S
)
becomes,
R
i
S
= 1 – R
i
NS
, = 1 – (C
i
|
Σ
ΣΣ
Σ
F
j
)
(2)
For sustainability of any system, all the components should be sustainable themselves. It is suggested
that, in the perspective of ecological economics the aggregation of values for different indicators or
components into an index (Azar et al., 1996) or assessment of sustainability for each of the components may
give the measure of sustainability as a whole (Common and Perrings, 1992). We thus consider aggregation
of the relative scores for each of the components so as to arrive at the total sustainability for the whole
system, comprising of those components. Otherwise, one can consider the central tendency of all the
components as an intrinsic sustainability of the system. Although, arithmetic mean (AM) is the easiest
procedure for attaining the tendency, we considered calculating the geometric mean (GM) of the values. GM
has a few specific advantages like less susceptibility to the fluctuations of sampling and its property of
assigning comparatively more weight to small items, providing significant importance to all the components
(irrespective of the size) in the system's sustainability.
Socio-economic Sustainability of the Coastal Areas around Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa 115
,
Further, GM satisfies the basic logic of this assessment, that 'if anyone
of the component is
non-
sustainable, the whole system will be considered non-
sustainable'. In a strong condition, if any one of the
component becomes absolutely non-sustainable, i.e. the relative score of sustainability
(R
i
S
)
becomes '0'
(zero), then the w
hole system will also show a zero sustainability. This is otherwise can be considered as a
limitation.
Therefore, the compound sustainability score of the system [
R
i
S
(System)] will be:
R
i
S
(System) = [1 –(C
1
|
Σ
ΣΣ
Σ
F
j
] x ……. x [1 – (C
i
|
Σ
ΣΣ
Σ
F
j
)] x ……. x [1 – (C
n
|
Σ
ΣΣ
Σ
F
j
)]
(3)
This value has been used as the sustainability score in this present study.
Equation 3 gives a def
inite value, which may be called the relative sustainability of the system.
Therefore, a higher value shows a higher sustainability of the system, indicating an easy management
strategy to be formulated. It is however, imperative that an absolute sustainable condition, i.
e. a system
without any non-
sustainable component or no negative impact operating on it, will give a value of +l in
equation 3. Deviations from this value, thus provide the actual sustainability condition for the system and
reach a value of
'0' if all the interactions of anyone component (in strong cases) or all the interactions in all
the components becomes non-sustainable. Thus, in case of a non-
sustainable system, we can consider
subtracting the value of total sustainable condition, i.e. +
1 from the sustainability score obtained from
equation 3. This will give a negative value as the extent of non-sustainability.
Therefore, the actual sustainability value of the region under study (S
r
) becomes:
(4)
SOCIO-ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY OF THE STUDY AREA
Bhitarkanika area hosting a well-
stacked mangrove vegetation at the coastal region, of Orissa faces the
similar kind of bounty and fury of nature with other tropical coastal regions. While natural factors lik
e
climate change, sea level rise, erosion and shoreline retreat, cyclonic surges and soil salinisation have been
identified to have some impact on the local socio-
economy, on the other hand human activities like land
conversion, pollution, developmental ac
tivities, population growth, natural resource exploitation and
conservation efforts also affect the same.
The aforementioned natural (actors are mostly interdependent to each other. While climate change
renders global warming and subsequent sea level rise
(Ravindranath, 2002), in turn the relative rise in sea
level aggravates erosion and shoreline retreat (Sterr et al.
, 2000). However, the cumulative impact directly
influences the coastal socio-economic system. The major economic activity i.e. agriculture,
suffers most from
the climate change and storm surges leading to enhanced salinisation of soils. On the other hand, the
demography gets affected as these natural processes and furies trigger livelihood loss and migration. Also,
the erosion-governed loss of land and changes in land use patterns very often affect the regional socio-
economic sustainability significantly.
Comparatively, the anthropogenic factors impart mo
re localised disturbances in the coastal areas. While
rapid population growth enhances the demand for productive lands and leads to subsequent
n
= Π
ΠΠ
Π {1 –
(C
i
|
Σ
ΣΣ
Σ
F
j
)
}
i = 1
[
]
1/n
n
= Π
ΠΠ
Π {1 –
(C
i
|
Σ
ΣΣ
Σ
F
j
)
}
i = 1
[
]
1/n
1
S
r
= {R
i
S
(System) – 1}
Indian Journal of
Regional Science Vol. XXXVIII, No.2, 2006
116
forestland conversion, the economic uncertainty on the other hand leads to non-sustainable economic
practices. Both in turn, make the system more and more unstable in nature. Therefore a vicious cycle starts
rolling. In this context, therefore, the land use pattern, demography and different economic activities, may
act as indicator of the socio-economic health of any coastal region.
We thus, consider the general demography land use pattern, agriculture, fishery and other economic
activities along with per capita monthly income, food security and livelihood sustaining natural resource
harvest as major socio-economic components of the area. Subsequently, we analyse the impact of different
driving forces on each of these components leading to the sustainability assessment.
The villages around Bhitarkanika National Park depend mostly on coastal agriculture, fishery and a few
other occupations, such as wage labour and trade and commerce. Household survey in the study area
revealed that the highest professional involvements in agriculture (89.24%), but without
much of net economic benefits. On the contrary, in spite of comparatively lower involvement of people in
fishery (55.7%), it gives much higher returns. Involvement of lower number of peoples in the higher paying
economic sector, is attributed to fishing restrictions imposed by the forest department of Orissa, i,n a few
areas in and around the national park for the sake of mangrove conservation. The fishery activities have also
been found to be affected adversely by a high rate of siltation at the river mouths. Subsequently, both the
hindrances in fishery sector showed significant impact on the per capita monthly income leading to socio-
economic non-sustainability of the region. In fact, clear distinctions in socio-economic conditions were
observed between, two different sectors of the whole region., The first one, called Gupti sector, being at the
lap of the forest and closer to the sea, suffers more stringent restrictions on fishing activities and forest
resource use, and also is more vulnerable to the coastal disturbances like storm surges and inundation. In
contrary, the other region called Talchua sector faces less restrictions and coastal disturbances as well. As a
result the, economy of the Talchua sector has been found more stable and prosperous having nearly 1.5 times
more per capita income compared to the Gupti sector (Table 2).
"
,
Observable trends of climate changes in the area may have negative consequences on the local agriculture,
which is already showing a deteriorating trend (Mitra an
d Hazra, 2005). Agriculture has also been found to be
affected by the increased soil salinisation d11e to the combined effects of accelerated sea level rise in the area
at a rate 3.17 mm yr
-1
and mushrooming of aquaculture farms intermittently within the agricultural field
s,
which facilitates the seepage of saline water (Khan et al., 2000; Mitra and Hazra, 2005).
There has also been a clear trend of land conversion and land use change from agricultural lands to
aquaculture farms and settlements. Both these modes of land use changes have qualitatively or quantitatively
adverse impact on, the long term productivity of land.
The interactive matrix thus, reveals that none but the exploitable mangrove resource shows total
sustainability under the forces presently operating at Bhitarkanika. While, agriculture and subsequent food
security have been threatened as a cumulative effect of population growth and recent environmental changes
(Mitra and Hazra, 2005), the official conservation strategies imposing several restrictions on fishing and
mangrove resource harvest have also made the local economy non-sustainable.
This study suggests that a system can be called sustainable if all its components are independently
sustainable. The socio-economic system of the Bhitarkanika area, thus, appears to be a non-sustainable
system. All the total six components chosen for the study, showed deteriorating trend or non-sustainability
under the influence of at least one of the driving forces acting oil it.
However, application of
the quantitative methodology of sustainability assessment used in this study reveals
different extents of non-sustain
able interactions (Table 3). Calculation of central tendency for all the
components under examination revealed a relative score of sustainability to be 0.694.
Socio-economic Sustainability of the, Coastal Areas around Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa 117
Since an absolute sustainable condition, i.e. a system, in which all the components
have already attained
sustainability, obtains a value of '+ l' in this valuation methodology, we can refer the deviation as the value of
sustainability of the system concerned. The actual value of the socio
economic sustainability of Bhitarkanika
thus has been calculated to be '-0.306'. .The negative sign here indicates the negative sustainability or a non-
sustainable condition.
CONCLUSION
The area around the Bhitarkanika National Park being a base of natural resources has been under continuous
pressure since the middle of 20
th
century because of the population growth. The local inhabitants used to
reclaim forestland for settlements and agriculture and also enjoyed free rides on the mangrove and estuarine
fishery resources without reinvesting in the non-exhaustible assets or reproducible capital as necessary
condition of sustainability (Hartwick, 1977; Common and Perrings, 1992). Moreover, the recent changes like
climate change, soil salinisation etc. have further disrupted the regeneration process. These factors not only
affect the natural capital stock for exploitation but also threatened the natural ecosystem. However, recent
conservation efforts for maintenance of the latter showed some definite impact on the former.
It is observed that, under twin pressure from the changing environmental conditions and pro-conservation
restrictions presently the gross income of the most suffered region is less than the total investment required
for the regeneration of human and man-made capital. Though, in the comparatively prosperous portion the
gross income is relatively higher than the requirements (i.e. monthly expenditure), but the overall socio-
economy does not seem to be stable enough, as huge inequality in per capita income was observed.
The value of sustainability indicator in the socio-economic system of Bhitarkanika, although appears to
be low, but seems to be manageable. The process, which has been used for the sustainability quantification,
is very much sensitive to the choice of number of components, specifically for the deteriorating components.
As the number of components increases, the value of decimal products decreases simultaneously resulting in
the narrowing of values. Therefore, above an optimum number of non-sustainable components present in a
system, when the deviation tends to be '1' (i.e. sustainability tends to be '-1 '), the value does not vary
significantly with increasing number of non-sustainable components or deteriorating impact on the
components. This situation indicates an irreversible non-sustainable condition.
Management strategies apparently can change the condition and reduce the non-sustainability of
Bhitarkanika coastal system. In fact, this present procedure also helps in prioritising the sustainable
management. In the study area, both the legal restrictions and land conversion negatively affected three
components each. But, when hypothetical reversals of these forces were done, for reversing the land
conversion and legal restriction strategies the sustainability enhanced by 0.048 and 0.039 respectively.
Therefore, it seems that the management option should prioritise the issue of land conversion over the
alleviation of legal restrictions for better result in the Bhitarkahika area. On the other hand only an arrest in
the population growth may improve the sustainability of the system by 0.061. Therefore, in the present
scenario of global warming, when the impact of climate change and sea level rise can not be controlled by
local or regional scale management strategy, we can consider the management in other sectors like land use
practices, birth control, pollution and society friendly conservation practices for attaining highest level of
sustainability possible.
The methodology of the assessment although seems important in sustainable management, considering
all the non-sustainable impact to be of equal weight is in fact a somewhat non-realistic assumption in the
context of natural system. This attracts further researches on the same.
1
1
Indian Journal of Regional
Science Vol. XXXVIII, No.2, 2006
118
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The authors are thankful to the Forest Department, Govt. of Orissa, for the administrative helps provided to
them for working in the premises of the wildlife sanctuary. The communicating author, Rajarshi Mitra is also
grateful to the University Grant Commission, Govt. of India, for his fellowship
and research grants.
.
Table 1: The Interactive Matrix Showing the Deteriorating Impacts on Components
Table 2: The Monthly Income-expenditure Figures of Bhitarkanika
Name of the area Monthly per capita income
(Rs/m)
Monthly per capita
Household expenditure
(Rs/m)
Gupti sector 182.59 200.82
Talchua sector 341.86 282.74
Study Area
(as a whole)
281.83
251.86
Table 3: The Relative Score Calculations for Sustainability Assessment
Sustainability assessment Components
(C
1….n
) No. of Non-
sustainable impacts
R
i
NS
R
iS
(1- R
NS
)
R
iS
of System
Land use pattern [C
1
]
4/12 0.333 0.667
Embankment [C
2
]
1/12 0.083 0.917
Agriculture [C
3
] 6/12 0.5 0.5
Fisheries [C
4
]
2/12 0.167 0.833
Per capita income [C
5
] 5/12 0.417 0.583
Nat.Res. Exploitation [C
6
] 3/12 0.25 0.75
= 0.69364
6
1/6
R
iS
i =1
}
{
Socio-economic Sustainability of the Coastal Areas around Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa 119
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Various types of subsistence and commercialextraction of mangrove products areidentified on the North Braziliancoast. Of 2500 households in 21 ruralcommunities (about 13.000 people) near theCaet estuary, 83% derive subsistenceincome, and 68% cash income through use ofmangrove resources. The mangrove crab (Ucides cordatus) is collected and sold by42% of households, and constitutes a mainincome source for 38%. Includingprocessing and trading occupations, overhalf of the investigated population dependon the mangrove crab for financialincome. Mangrove fishery occupies the lowerrural income groups in the fisheriessector. About 30% of householdsengage in commercial fishing in or near themangrove. Illegal commercial andsubsistence use of mangrove wood and barkmaintains a considerable number of ruralhouseholds. In the context ofwidespread rural poverty in coastal NorthBrazil, it is important for mangrovemanagement to take into account subsistenceproduction, which has a centralsocio-economic function for the rural poorwho live close to the mangroves.Socio-economic priorities in mangrovevillages were, in order of importance,educational quality, occupational options,medical care, the low level of mangroveproduct prices, access to electricity andlocal leadership quality.
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We assume that natural ecological communities tend to maximize the amount of stored biomass on a given area, thereby creating the highest sustainable rate of entropy formation possible from that area. We take this climax condition to define sustainability. Human intervention, through agriculture, reduced the ecosystem in given areas to a juvenile state, a state which seems to produce entropy at a lower rate than that of the natural climax condition. The gap in entropy production rates between the natural and the agricultural system would eventually be overcome by the direct and indirect use of fossil fuels. These fossil fuels are consumed much faster than they are being formed and, therefore, a social structure based on their extensive use cannot be sustainable. What type of social structure does meet our definition of sustainability? That is, what style and size of social activity will generate entropy at a rate no greater than that of the climax ecosystem in a particular area?During the last two decades, studies of economic activities and their environmental repercussions were limited to the possible costs and benefits of pollution control and to the economically optimal extraction rates of mineral resources. The intrusion of human activities into the environment became increasingly apparent through the depletion of natural resource stocks and decreasing environmental quality. In the 1990s, sustainability of the socio-economic system within the global ecosystem has become the pressing issue. Although research is increasingly concerned with the question of sustainability, a definition based on physically measurable evidence is missing. Such a definition is proposed in this paper and an example application is given for a particular area.
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A systematic framework of indicators for sustainability is presented. In our approach there is an emphasis on societal activities that affect nature and on the internal societal resource use, as opposed to environmental quality indicators. In this way the indicators may give a warning signal to an unsustainable use of resources early in the chain from causes in societal activities to environmental effects. The aim is that these socio-ecological indicators shall serve as a tool in planning and decision-making processes at various administrative levels in society. The formulation of the indicators is made with respect to four principles of sustainability, which lead to four complementary sets of indicators. The first deals with the societal use of lithospheric material. The second deals with emissions of compounds produced in society. The third set of indicators concerns societal manipulation of nature and the long-term productivity of ecosystems. Finally, the fourth set deals with the efficiency of the internal societal resource use, which includes indicators for a just distribution of resources.
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Persistent disagreement both as to the interpretation to be given to sustainability, and as to the relation between ecological and economic sustainability, has hindered the development of an ecological economics of sustainable resource use. This paper identifies the main concepts of sustainability deriving from the two disciplines in order to explore the difference implied by an ecological approach to the problem. It is argued that present economic and ecological approaches are largely disjoint, and that they address basically different phenomena. By combining the efficiency requirements of what is usually thought of as economic sustainability with the stability requirements of an ecological approach, it is shown that an intertemporally efficient allocation of resources that satisfies the conditions for constant levels of consumption is not necessary to assure ecological sustainability. Ecological sustainability requires that the allocation of economic resources should not result in the instability of the economy–environment system as a whole.
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This research note proposes an index of sustainability to be attached to any natural system evaluated according to several indicators of sustainability. The proposed index (IS) is very operational and most of the indices proposed in the literature can be considered to be particular cases of IS. Moreover, the IS propounded can be used to reach balances or compromises between an engineering solution of “maximum aggregate sustainability” and an ecological solution of “most balanced sustainability” of the system.