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Asia and the Pacific

'Rapid industrialization and economic growth have changed virtually every dimension of life, especially in East and Southeast Asia. Yet, by many measures - of health, education, nutrition, as well as income - the quality of life within the region remains poor for most people.'

GEO-2000, page 72

 Some statistics...

*  There is great pressure on land resources in the region in which some 60 per cent of the world population depends on 30 per cent of its land area.

*  About one million hectares of Indonesia's national forests have been destroyed by fires that burned for several months from September 1997. More than 3 million hectares of Mongolian forests were burnt in 1996.

*  Increasing habitat fragmentation in Southeast Asia has depleted the wide variety of forest products that used to be the main source of food, medicine and income for indigenous people.

*  Expansion of coastal settlements, industrial growth and increased fishing activities have placed enormous and uncontrolled pressures on coastal ecosystems and have degraded marine and coastal resources.

*  Demand for primary energy in Asia is expected to double every 12 years while the world average is every 28 years.


Asia and the Pacific is facing serious environmental challenges. High population densities are putting enormous stress on the environment. Continued rapid economic growth and industrialization are likely to cause further environmental damage, with the region becoming more degraded, less forested, more polluted and less ecologically diverse in the future.

Water supply is a serious problem. Already at least one in three Asians has no access to safe drinking water and freshwater will be the major limiting factor to producing more food in the future. Energy demand is rising faster than in any other part of the world. The proportion of people living in urban centres is rising rapidly, and is focused on a few urban centres. Asia's particular style of urbanization - towards megacities - is likely to increase environmental and social stresses.

Widespread concern over pollution and natural resources has led to legislation to curb emissions and conserve natural resources. Economic policies are beginning to be used for environmental protection and the promotion of resource efficiency. Pollution fines are common and deposit-refund schemes are being promoted to encourage reuse and recycling.

 Smoke haze over Indonesia on 19 October 1997

Click image to enlarge

Forest fires caused widespread damage in the region during 1997/98

In most countries, domestic investment in environmental issues is increasing. A major thrust is on water supply, waste reduction and waste recycling. Environment funds have been established in many countries and have contributed to the prominent role that NGOs now play in environmental action.

One of the greatest challenges is to promote liberal trade yet maintain and strengthen the protection of the environment and natural resources. Some governments are now taking action to reconcile trade and environmental interests.

There is fairly high interest in many of the global MEAs, and several regional MEAs have been developed to support the global ones. The compliance and implementation rate is, however, quite low, mainly due to lack of funds.

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