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APPLICABILITY OF ECONOMIC VALUE IN THE VALUATION OF DAMAGED ENVIRONMENT
The environment is one of the pillars of sustainable growth and development since it fulfills developmental needs such as increasing the asset base and their productivity and also provitling various goods and services. In addition the environment empowers women, the poor and marginalized communities thus playing a crucial role in enhancing intra- and intergenerational equity (Bass 2006).
In the process of economic development, physical, natural and human capitals all contribute to overall wellbeing by supporting the production of goods and services. Natural capital provides raw materials for production and is the backbone of core sectors such as agriculture, tourism and manufacturing. Natural capital also provides various ecological services (Fisher 2002).
According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) there are four core beneficial ecosystem services provided by natural resources. Provision of food, fiber, timber and water; regulation of climate and floods; supportive services which includes nutrient recycling and the provision of cultural services which provide aesthetics and recreational benefits (MEA 2005).
Therefore, in order to make development sustainable, these resources must be utilized in such a way that there is enough for the present as well as the future generation.
Evidence from literature suggests that the relationship between economic growth and the environment is controversial. Traditional economic theory posits a trade-off between economic growth and environment (Bennett et al. 2008; Hediger 2006; Sawmill 1993 and Scherr 1999).
Since the early 1990s, however, the rapidly expanding empirical and theoretical literature on the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) has tended to suggest that the relationship between economic growth and the environment could be positive and hence growth is a prerequisite for environmental improvement (Kuznets 1955). The EKC depicts the empirical pattern that at relatively low levels of income per capita, pollution level (and intensity) initially increases with rising income, then reaches a maximum and falls thereafter.
Panayotou (1993) and Arrow et al. (1995) argue that the implied inverted-U relationship between environmental damageand economic growth also implies that at low income levels environmental damageis attributed to subsistence activities as well as plant and animal wastes. As agriculture and resource extraction intensifies and industrialization takes off, both resource depletion and waste generation accelerate (Rowstow 1960). According to the EKC hypothesis as a nation attains higher levels of development degradation slows down and eventually declines with further growth in income (Kamande 2007).
However, De Bruyn et al. (1998) and Vincent (1997) argue that the inverted U shape does not hold in the long run as it would only hold at the initial stage of the relationship between economic growth and environmental degradation. They argue that above a certain income level, there would be a new turning point when environmental damagewould increase at higher growth levels leading to an N shaped curve.
Statement of the Problem
Economic growth is partially dependant on exploitation of natural resources for the generation of economic rents. While people have to exploit the environment and natural resources to alleviate poverty and raise their standards of living, such exploitation is not without cost. These costs which are the unintended outputs of natural resource exploitation may reduce the options for economic growth and development available currently and for future generations.
The degradation of natural resources directly affects household food security as it has an impact on food production. A decline in soil nutrients and fertility leads to decline in grain harvest while rangeland depletion results in reduction in livestock production and loss of biodiversity while the deterioration of water quality adversely affects fish stock and catch. These shortages in food production may lead to lower nutrition levels and thus affect the overall productive population composition. Environmental damage can also lead to health related illnesses through prolonged exposure to toxic substances which negatively affects labour productivity through reduction in both the labour force and productive labour hours and thus negatively affecting output. Overexploitation and abuse of natural resources could not only lead to environmental damage, but also increase in food insecurity, health and nutrition challenges and could thus exacerbate the very poverty people seek to alleviate.
In addition, extreme environmental damage can lead to permanent loss or reduction in the volume of natural resources which can lead to the closure of resource dependent industries which are core contributors to national output and this would be detrimental to the overall economy.