The study carried out by the scientists of Junagadh Agriculture University (JAU) had mapped the economic as well as environmental benefits resulting from the ecosystem and gave a big reason to enhance conservation efforts.
"Gir protected area (PA) has multiple impacts on agriculture, mango orchards, sugar industries, livestock enterprise, tourism, carbon sequestration, water table and water quality and bio-diversity, besides large number of environmental benefits," said Dr R L Shiyani, an agricultural economist with JAU who was part of the study.
The study was a pioneering one and replicated in other wildlife areas of India too.
Shiyani said, "It was found that villages surrounding the Gir protected area have relatively higher irrigated area, total cropped area and area under horticultural crops. All these led to higher crop productivity and more profitability per hectare of cropped area. Net profit per hectare of cropped area was more than Rs 35,000 in villages adjoining Gir PA, whereas it ranged about Rs 11,000 to Rs 15,000 in the villages that were over 15km away. The magnitude of total profit from agriculture was to the tune of Rs 6,020.05 million per annum."
Then, the annual estimated value of environmental benefits from Gir PA was about Rs 10,575.71 million which included benefits from carbon sequestration.
A P Singh, chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Junagadh, said, "We plan to revisit the same study to assess the various aspects of Gir ecosystem's benefits to people living around it."
The study was undertaken as there was dearth of quantification of economic analysis from the forest resources so as to help policy makers.
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According to the study, maintenance of Gir PA should be accorded high priority considering that the total economic value was to the tune of nearly Rs 211 crore a year.
"Estimation of environmental benefits is a complex procedure. The total economic value (TEV) concept is widely used in the environmental economics parlance. The same was used in the present study. All efforts were made to quantify maximum identified benefits. Both primary and secondary data were collected," Shiyani added.