A Greener Way to Calculate GDP

In Rio, some economists are calling for a new yardstick of well-being
Kampala's Nakivubo Swamp provides as much as $2 million a year in purification services Photograph by Yannick Tylle

Flanked by homes and factories, the Nakivubo Swamp in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, would appear to be ripe for development. But the city has instead chosen to keep Nakivubo largely in its natural state because it filters sewage and industrial effluent that would otherwise flow directly into Lake Victoria. “Economic logic prevailed,” says Pavan Sukhdev, a former Deutsche Bank economist who in 2010 led a United Nations study called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. A sewage treatment plant would have “cost $2 million per year to do what the swamp was doing for free, and they don’t have that money.”

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