|South-East Asia's Environmental Future: The Search for Sustainability (UNU, 1993, 422 pages)|
|Part I - The driving forces of change|
THE papers forming the basis of the five chapters in Part I were all presented on the first day in Yogyakarta. Their purpose was to establish some of the main issues that must underlie planning for a sustainable environmental future in the region. Population and economic growth go hand in hand as forces that make it extremely difficult to manage the regional environment, and to give management high priority, even without any complications arising from global climatic change. All 1991 indications were, as Kamal Salih notes in his comments, that this region may experience some of the highest rates of economic growth in the world during the 1990s. During this decade, parts of South-East Asia may decisively move into a class that might come to be described as the 'newly developed countries', even though substantial pockets of underdevelopment will certainly remain well into the twenty-first century.
A constraint on progress is the continued high rate of population growth; a slowing of these rates has been less than was hoped and expected. It is a major achievement that food production, in the region as a whole, has more than kept pace with population growth, but there is a cost in growing consumption of available water resources, in chemicalization together with all its side-effects, and in heavier use of uplands with all their sensitivity to erosion.
Furthermore, population is being substantially redistributed by urbanization and industrialization, as well as by a large, unquantified volume of temporary and illegal migration between countries. Three of the emerging megacities of the developing world are in this region, as well as a growing number of smaller cities with populations of a million or more. Many smaller towns are also growing fast, and throughout large rural areas, there has been a major increase in the availability of off-farm employment.
While urbanization creates huge environmental problems of its own, it is beginning to take some of the pressure off agricultural land. Unfortunately, a large part of the national revenues which finance industrialization and the provision of infrastructure has been derived from the massive exploitation of natural resources, and this practice continues in the early 1990s. It is most clearly expressed in the 'onslaught on the forests', which has become a major issue internationally as well as regionally. It is also embodied in the rapid growth of mineral exploitation and this, together with burgeoning energy consumption due to development and urbanization, creates a whole new set of environmental consequences. South-East Asia already finds itself, uncomfortably, being said to be a significant emitter of greenhouse gases into the global atmosphere, albeit thus far mainly from deforestation and wet-rice agriculture.
These are the issues raised and reviewed by the authors of these five chapters and by their discussants. Chapter 1, by Brookfield, is written from the keynote paper delivered at the conference. It seeks both to generalize about the wider regional changes, and to analyse the fundamental causes of environmental mismanagement and the basic problems that lie in the way of improvement. Chapter 2, by Concepcion, summarizes the demographic condition of the region and its countries, and discusses some of the harmful environmental consequences of population growth. Jones, in Chapter 3, surveys industrial progress and rapid urbanization. These three chapters are followed by a hard-hitting statement by Kamal Salih, linking economic and environmental policies.
The two remaining chapters in Part I address specific issues of resource use. Clark, in Chapter 4, presents an alarming picture of the future for energy and mineral production in the region; his discussants sought to temper this alarm. Potter, in Chapter 5, reviews change and exploitation in the forests of the region, and discusses the methods of improved management. Comment on both these chapters is revealing of the sensitivities of a region enjoying rapid economic growth and excited at the prospect of more, in the face of what is seen to be biased criticism of its activities from the developed countries. Some discussants, however, share the alarm voiced in the chapters, and seek solutions to the problems.