SE A ST 1 - (Week 1) A Physical Environment

SE A ST 1 - (Week 1) A Physical Environment - ments in...

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Unformatted text preview: ments in Southeast Asia, ranging from the volcanic peaks of Indonesia and mangrove shorelines ofViet— nam to the virgin forests of the highlands of Burma. This natural diversity has had an enormous impact on the rela- tionship between society and nature in the region. The in- tent of this overview is to provide a broad outline of the physical environment of the region and to demonstrate why it is of crucial importance to an understanding of con- temporary patterns of diversity and development. Knowl- edge about the physical environment is essential to a better understanding of both patterns and processes of social, po- litical, economic, and environmental change in Southeast Asia. The first half of this chapter will provide an overview of the region’s physical geography and its natural resources, and the second half will utilize this information to inform discussions regarding present-day environmental issues in the region.A true understanding of current environmental change is possible only with knowledge of the human so- cieties and physical environment in which they exist.The re— lationship between society and the environment is key. There is a remarkable diversity of physical environ- LANDFORMS The region is conventionally divided into two major zones: peninsular and insular, or island, Southeast Asia. Peninsular Southeast Asia consiSts of the mainland coun- tries of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and insular Southeast Asia is comprised of Brunei, In- donesia, Malaysian Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah), the Philippines, and Singapore. Although peninsular Malaysia is physically part of the mainland, it is usually considered part of the insular region because culturally and histori- cally it is more closely related to this area.The total land area of peninsular and insular Southeast Asia is approx- imately equal; however, they represent very different ge~ ological histories. Peninsular Southeast Asia, the entire island of Bor- neo, and the floor of the intervening South China Sea (the Sunda shelf) are all part of the Eurasian tectonic plate. The Philippine and Indonesian archipelagoes, on the other hand, are on the margin where the northeast- 6 moving Australian plate and the west—moving Philippine and Pacific plates are colliding with the Eurasian plate. Because the Philippine, Pacific, and Australian plates are oceanic plates and therefore heavier than the continental Eurasian plate, they are being forced down into the Earth’s crust. These areas where continental plates are overriding oceanic plates are called subduction zones and are characterized by a series of deep-sea trenches off- shore that coincide approximately with the boundaries of the various plates. In fact, they almost completely en- circle Southeast Asia (Map 2.1). It is in the vicinity of such subduction zones that mountain-building activities including earthquakes and volcanic activity takes place. Indeed, the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagoes have been created as a result of the collision of these tectonic plates and are, respectively, the first- and second-largest archipelagoes in the world in terms of the number of is- lands they contain; Indonesia is made up of about 13,000 islands and the Philippines has more than 7,000 islands. Southeast ASia is one of the most conspicuous areas of seismic (earthquake) activity in the world. In fact, “Be- cause of the high population density, more people are subjected to some degree of earthquake risk in South- east Asia than anywhere else in the world. Over 200 mil- lion people live in an area in which there is at least one great earthquake every decade, a large earthquake every year, and perhaps a thousand small earthquakes, some of which cause damage, every year” (Arnold, 1986, p.15). Indonesia alone claims approximately 22 percent of the world’s active volcanoes. The onshore counterpart to the oceanic trenches is a series of mountain ranges that parallel the subduction zones. As a result of this tectonic activity, the Philippines and Indonesia are home to a large number of dormant and active volcanoes as well as a great deal of earthquake activity. Both nations are part of the “Rim of Fire” that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. TWO of the largest volcanic eruptions in the nineteenth century occurred in Indone- sia,Tambora in 1815 and on tiny Krakatau Island in 1883. Effects are often devastating; in the case of Krakatau the 2,640-ft (800~m) peak of the volcano collapsed to 1,000 ft (300 m) below sea level, leaving only a small portion of The Physical Environment '7 Subduction Zones AUSTRALIAN |_ Selected Active Land Volcanoes Present Areas of Folding and Faulting [Approximate Plate Boundaries} PHILIPPINE PACIFIC PLATE Map 2.1 Structure zones and features. Source: Ulack and Porter; 1989, p. 4. the island standing above sea level. Ash from the erup- tion colored sunsets around the world for two years and gate rise to the “Chelsea sunset” paintings in England. In addition, a tsunami (tidal wave) was generated that killed 36,000 people in nearby Java and Sumatra. The largest volcanic eruption in the twentieth century oc- curred on the island of Luzon in the Philippines at Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. While the explosion of Mt. Pinatubo resulted in fewer than 200 deaths, it displaced well over a 100,000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of productive agricultural land. Moreover, the la- hars (a rapid flow of water, mud, and volcanic debris) that occur during the rainy season will continue for years to come. At the same time, the long~tern1 effect of volcanic ac- tivity in both Indonesia and the Philippines has general- ly been to produce soils that, by tropical standards, are relatively fertile. This results from the fact that most of the volcanic material in the area is basic rather than acidic in composition. The soils that have evolved from this 8 Chapter 2 nonacidic volcanic material can support sustained levels of agricultural activity. The high population densities on Java are, in part, at least a function of the fertile volcanic soils. However, it is important to remember that, because of its relatively high population density when compared to other seisniically active regions, more people in South- east Asia are at risk from volcanoes and earthquakes than in any other major world region. Because the insular portion of the region is geologi- cally younger, in general, than the peninsular region, the relief of island Southeast Asia tends to be more severe; that is, it is characterized by steeper slopes and higher el- evations. Generally, there are very few large areas of lit- tle or no relief in the entire region.The largest areas of relatively flat land are found in river valleys and the larg- er deltas of the Irrawaddy, Chao Phraya, Mekong, and Red Rivers; the only exceptions to this are the larger in- land basins of Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia. As a topographic map reveals, much of Southeast Asia may be characterized as having mountainous or hilly terrain. The settlement pattern of Southeast Asia has been dominated by densely populated river valleys or deltas separated by hilly, forested areas with very low popula- tion densities. These intervening upland forest areas have acted as barriers between the more heavily populated set- tlement clusters. Over time, successive immigrant groups have settled in the lowland coastal, valley, and delta areas of the region. However, as more recent and more-populous groups have come into the region, they have “pushed” ear- lier, less-sophisticated groups into upland areas, thereby bringing about divisions and conflicts between upland, or “hill,” peoples, and lowland groups. Today, the lowland areas are populated by the dominant ethnic group of each Photo 2.1 A volcanic landscape in west Java. (Leinbach) country including the Burmese in Burma, Thais in Thai- land, Khiners in Cambodia, and Javanese in Java. 0n the other hand, the upland, forested areas are populated by ethnic minority groups, for example, the Shans in Burma, and the Yao and Miao in Thailand.As a result of the very different environments that lowland and upland peoples have inhabited for thousands of years, very different liveli- hood systems have evolved. In general, uplanders have engaged in some form of dry field or shifting cultivation known as swidden, and lowlanders have practiced inten- sive wet rice cultivation, or sawah.'Ihese general patterns continue today and are important for understanding sev- eral critical environmental issues in the region. Most of the coastal plains in Southeast Asia are rela- tively narrow. There are only two significant exceptions to this statement: the deltas of the major rivers, such as the Irrawaddy and the Mekong, and the eastern coast of Sumatra and the southern coast of Borneo. Both of these coastal areas, however, are occupied by swamps and are not suitable for large-scale agriculture and dense settle- ment. In short, due to the narrowness of its coastal plains and its generally hilly to mountainous terrain, Southeast Asia overall has had a relative shortage of cultivable land. For example, land under crops or in pasture comprises only 7 percent of the total land area of Laos, 15 percent in Malaysia, 16 percent in Burma, and 21 percent in Cam- bodia and Vietnam. This is to be contrasted with the Unit— ed States where almost 50 percent of all land is under some form of agriculture. The long-term adaptation to this situation involved the evolution of numerous forms of land—extensive shifting cultivation, and labor-intensive agriculture (particularly irrigated rice but also including backyard gardens and the growing of crops on terraces). The geology of Southeast Asia is remarkably complex and is the result of hundreds of millions of years of rift- ing and subsequent colliding of landmasses This process continues today. In a very general sense, Southeast Asia is composed of three geologic regions, and insular South- east Asia is the result of the collision of the various ocean- ic plates with the Eurasian plate. Peninsular Southeast Asia, on the other hand, is composed of two geologic units: a central core located primarily in Cambodia, east- ern Thailand, and southern Vietnam, and a mountainous region that surrounds this low lying core. This moun- tainous area includes northern Burma and Thailand, Laos, and most of Vietnam and is the result of more-recent uplift. The mountainous and semimountainous terrain and the island nature of many of the countries of the region combine to create One of the distinctive characteristics of the area as a whole—its fragmented nature. This in turn has led to considerable diversity with regard to adap— tation to the natural environment. It has also contributed to great socioeconomic and cultural diversity in the re» gion. Indeed, it is quite appropriate that this fragmented region was labeled by geographers a “shatterbelt” and the “Balkans of the Orient” (Brock, 1944; Fisher, 1962). By way of summary, an appreciation of the geomor— phology of the region is important because it highlights features of the area that are helpful in trying to under- stand past and ongoing events. First, the remarkable phys— ical geographic variability has resulted in an equally remarkable variation in land use and cultural practices. This diversity is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Southeast Asia. Second, the relative lack of flat, easi- ly tilled agricultural land continues to have an effect on the types of agriculture that can be practiced. Lowland agriculture, particularly irrigated rice has, in general, been very labor intensive. Terraced agriculture (primarily for irrigated rice) is also found throughout the region. Clas- sic examples are the rice terraces of northern Luzon, the Philippines, and the island of Bali in Indonesia. It remains to be seen whether or not these adaptations to the natural environment can provide useful examples of sustain- ability for contemporary society. In particular, as popu- lations continue to increase and expand into hilly and mountainous areas, a major question is whether or not more-intensive agricultural systems can be devised to work in upland areas without, at the same time, causing excessive environmental damage. CLIMATE Nearly the entire Southeast Asian region can be said to be part of the humid tropics; that is, the region is warm all year round and receives abundant but temporally and spatially uneven rainfall (Map 2.2). Overall, the annual average temperature is approximately 80°F (27°C), and The Physical Environment 9 seasonal variation in temperature is usually less than the diurnal variation; that is, the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures is greater than the differ- ence in temperatures between the winter and summer months. In addition to latitudinal position, temperature is also a function of altitude as it decreases with increasing ele- vation. This decrease, referred to as the environmental lapse rate, is equal to about 3°F per 1,000 ft increase in el- evation. The result is that because the region as a whole is so hilly or mountainous, almost all nations in South- east Asia have areas of higher elevations where cooler temperatures prevail. It is at higher elevations that hill stations emerged during the colonial period; today, these hill stati0ns are often referred to as upland resorts. In the Philippines, for example, one of the first things the U.S. personnel did following the defeat of the Filipinos after the Spanish-American War was to develop the city of Baguio in northern Luzon as a retreat to escape the heat and humidity of summertime Manila. The area around Baguio is now a major producer of temperate fruits and vegetables for the Philippine domestic market and is a popular tourist destination. Other examples of such hill stations include Dalat in southern Vietnam, the Cameron Highlands in peninsular Malaysia, and the Karo High- lands of North Sumatra. Some of these hill stations— Bandung on Java is the best example—have become major metropolitan areas (Photo 2.2). Although it is difficult to provide an average rainfall figure because there is so much variation within the re- gion, a figure of 80 in. (200 cm) per year would be con- sidered normal in many areas At the same time, however, a distinction must be made between equatorial and trop- ical, or monsoon, rainfall regimes. Equatorial areas are on or near the equator, from about 10 degrees north to 10 degrees south of the equator. Equatorial regions re- ceive rainfall throughout the year; that is, they do not have a dry period. Singapore is a good example of an area in which rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year (Figure 2.1). Tr0pical monsoon climate regions generally affect areas more than 10 degrees north and south of the equator, and such areas are characterized as having distinct wet and dry seasons Manila and Rangoon are good examples of weather stations that are charac- terized by monsoon conditions (Figure 2.1). In turn, this seasonal variation in rainfall is largely a function of the monsoons, winds (and their accompanying rains) that al- ternate direction on a regular basis (Map 2.2). The term monsoon is derived from the Arabic word mausin, which refers to the time of the year the wind occurs and which made possible the seasonal trips across the Indian Ocean. These winds are caused by the seasonal migration of high- and low-pressure areas, which, in turn, are caused by the differential heating of land and water, movement of the subtropical jet stream, and other factors. During 10 Chapter 2 Wfii \ TROPICAL MONS N “Y 4-...“ H - U dryr months 1—4 dry months 5-8 dryr months 9-12 dry months h...— January monsoon 4--------.. Julymonsoon Map 2.2 Climate Patterns: Prevailing winds and length of dry season. Source: Mack and Patter; 1989, p. 6. the winter months, the monsoon winds blow from the northeast off the Asian landmass, and during the sum- mer months they originate from the southwest off the In- dian Ocean. Equatorial regions receive both monsoons and, hence, are wet all year; tropical areas, on the other hand, usually receive only one monsoon a year and, hence, have a dry period at some point during the year, sometimes as long as six months. It is important to rec- ognize that although monsoons are the dominant factor in seasonal variations of rainfall, the rainfall pattern in Southeast Asia is the result of a variety of complex and interlinked forces Other factors that are important in- clude cyclonic disturbances, localized land—sea breezes, and the presence of mountains. The western Pacific Ocean is the origin of a severe tropical weather disturbance called a typhoon (called a hurricane in North America and a cyclone in south Asia). These weather systems primarily effect the northern two- thirds of the Philippines but may also reach parts of peninsular Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. They are accompanied by high winds and heavy rainfall. In fact, until recently, the world record for precipitation in a 24-hour period was held by the city of Baguio in the Philippines, where in 1911 46 in. (117 cm) of rain fell dur- ing a typhoon, or baguio. On Occasion, tropical thunder- storms can match the intensity of typhoons. In 1991, the Orinoc region of Leyte, the Philippines, was hit with such a storm; it is estimated that almost 16 in. (40 cm) of rain- fall occurred in a 4- to 6-hour period. In the massive flooding that followed, approximately 6,000 people were killed. Tropical rains tend to be more intense than temperate rains; that is, the amount that falls in any given time pe- riod is greater. Because erosion is, to a certain extent, a function of the amount and intensity of rainfall, this nec- essarily means that tropical regions like Southeast Asia are more vulnerable to erosion than temperate regions This is particularly the case in steeply sloped upland areas The problem is compounded if planting results in the removal of much of the original ground cover. In short, the hilly topography and intense rainfall mean that many upland areas in the region are environmentally fragile. This point is of direct relevance to any discussion regarding future uses of the upland areas in Southeast Asia, especially for agriculture. Another important factor that has an effect on rain— fall is the presence of mountains. Air masses are forced to rise over mountain barriers because they cool and their ability to hold moisture declines, resulting in rainfall called The Physical Environment 11 Photo 2.2 Guest house in Fraser’s Hill, Pahang, Malaysia, a hill station. (Leinbach) orographic precipitation. This means that the windward side of a mountain range usually has a significantly greater amount of rainfall than the leeward, or “rain-shadow,” side. The effect of mountain ranges on local precipitation is a function of the length and height of the mountains, the prevailing winds, and the absence or presence of mon- soons. Examples of areas that experience orographic pre- cipitation include almost the entire western coast of Sumatra, the northeast and northwest coasts of Luzon, and coastal Burma. Good examples of the rain-shadow effect include the island of Cebu in the central Philippines and the “dry zone” of central Burma. Both of these areas receive less rainfall because of higher elevations in sur- rounding areas. On a smaller geographic scale, the pres- ence of mountains means that there can be much local variation in rainfall, which may influence the type of agri- culture practiced. The length of the dry period is a crucial factor con- trolling the natural vegetation in an area and the type of agriculture that is possible. If we define a dry month as one that receives less than 4 in. (10 cm), then most of peninsular Southeast Asia has an average dry season of approximately 5 months. Many islands in eastern In- donesia, such as Flores and Timor, also have dry periods of at least 5 months. In other situations, the dry period can last as long as 8 or 9 months such as is the case in central Burma. Under these circumstances sawah agri- culture can only occur with irrigation. In short, it is not just the total amount of rainfall that is important but its seasonality. Even though the entire region is part of the humid tropics, quite a few areas, particularly further flom the equator and effected by the presence of mountain ranges, have a lengthy dry period that restricts agriculture Chapter 2 5' 5* so 3 M a 9; E m -I _“5 75 g JAKARTA 5 3 BANGKOK 3 ‘3 o a _.: 20 m -—;, g AverageTempe'ratyre = 79.2 A; g AverageTernperature = 82.5“ 3 g Average Precupltatlon = 69.7“ 3 :- 15 Average Precipitation = 58" c. C 65 C .2 o H '4: a 10 so 2 .E- '5- n- E 0 .. JFMAMJJASOND JFMAMJJASOND 9|:I 55 3 5' a N 8° 3 E SINGAPORE g E" 25 a 75 a A g h AverageTem peratyre = 80 c 3 AverageTernperatu re = 80.2“ S g Average Prempitatlon = 95" a -= Average Precipitation = 81' *2; .: 20 m .1 U '11 U 11 _E . . q...- _E __, : c 15 65 0 o .; I; g, g lo 50 .E- .9- fl- n. JFMAMJJ.ASOND JFMAMJJASOND RANGOON Average Temperature = 82.3“ Average Precipitation = 99" e HANOI AverageTemperatu re = 75‘ 70 Average Precipitation = j 66." \ 65 {do} 91 memdwel (5,} SJHIEJQdLUQL _| HI a‘ Precipitation {inches} Precipitation {inches} JFMAMJJASOND JFMAMJJASOND Figure 2.1 Climographs for selected cities in Southeast Asia. Source: Uiack and Parser; 1989. and has a major effect on the vegetation that can grow there. Lastly, the timing of the rains is crucial because, in the absence of irrigation, the agricultural season cannot begin until the rains arrive. Overall, however, the region does not suffer from a shortage of water. DRAINAGE PATTERNS AND WATER RESOURCES An outstanding characteristic of Southeast Asia is the relative ease of water transportation throughout much of the area. For the region as a whole, the territory of oceanic water (Andaman Sea, South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand, and the waters surrounding the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagoes) is approximately four times the combined land area of the ten countries. The island na- ture of Southeast Asia and the relatively protected nature of its ocean waters means that maritime activity has his- torically played an important role in unifying the area. At the same time, on the mainland, numerous major rivers have facilitated transportation and communication between the coast and inland communities (see Map 1.1). Moving from west to east these major, generally north- south flowing rivers are as follows: the Irrawaddy, Sal- Ween, Chao Phraya, Mekong, and the Red. With the exception of the Salween, which is primarily confined to narrow gorges and flows through rugged terrain with low population densities, all of the above river valleys repre- sent areas of intensive agricultural activity and relative— ly high population densities Most important, these rivers have large deltas that are also intensively cultivated. Such areas have some of the highest p0pulation densities in the region. The Physical Environment 13 Photo 2.3 Flooded street, Samariu- da, Kalimantan. (Wood) The Mekong deserves Special mention because it is the largest and most important river and because it flows through all five mainland Southeast Asian countries (Map 2.3). Its drainage basin is approximately 300,000 sq mi (800,000 sq km), making it by far the largest river in Southeast Asia. Moreover, the Mekong originates in the Tibetan highlands of China and thus it could become the gateway to southern China. China, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand each have approximately 20—25 percent of the entire area of the Mekong Basin while Burma and Viet~ narn have considerably smaller areas at 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively. An interesting hydrological feature of the Mekong Basin is the Tonle Sap (or “Great Lake”) in Cambodia. Cambodia can be likened to a saucer, with the Great Lake occupying the shallow center of the country, which is surrounded by areas of higher elevation. It was on the shores of Tonle Sap that the Angkorian civilization flour- ished between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. The lake was a source of water for irrigation, as well as an area with high fishery yields. The Tonle Sap is connect- ed to the Mekong by the Tonle Sap River, but during the annual summer floods along the lower Mekong, the flow actually reverses and water flows from the Mekong to the Tonle Sap. During this time, the surface area of the Tonle Sap is from two to four times its dry season area of approximately 1,000 sq mi (2,600 sq km). In effect, the Tonle Sap acts as a giant overflow basin, or “safety valve,” and moderates the effects of floods along the IOWer Mekong. At the present time, the Mekong is much underutilized. Despite the size of its drainage area and its 2,600 mile 14 Chapter 2 BOX 2.? Water Shortages in Metro Cebu Although there is an abundance of water in Southeast Asia as a whole, local shortages can occur, particularly in areas of relatively low precipitation. A case in point is metropolitan Cebu on the island of Cebu in the central Philippines. The population of Cebu City and the surrounding metropolitan area is ap- proximately one million; it is the second- Iargest urban area in the Philippines, and it is growing rapidly in terms of popula- tion, jobs created, and building con- struction. However, the nu mber—one constraint on future growth that Cebu City must deal with soon is the lack of freshwater. Cebu City is on a very narrow coastal plain, and so many deep wells have been sunk in the urban area that saltwater intrusion is now a problem in some downtown areas. Plans to help al- leviate the prospect of water shortages in the future include: (1} better regula— tion of drilling in the urban area; (2) re— forestation of denuded watersheds to increase infiltration of rainwater; (3) the building ofa large dam and reservoir in the urban watershed; and (4} the build- ing of dams and reservoirs in nearby wa- tersheds and pumping the water to Cebu City. While all four of these proposals have been discussed at lengdi, they have not resulted in any concrete activity. An even more ambitious plan which is now under investigation would in- volve the pumping of freshwater from the nearby island of Bohol to Cebu City. This would necessitate building a 30~km- long pipeline several hundred feet under the surface of the Bohol Strait, which separates the two islands. Such an engi- neering project has never been attempt- ed in the world before, and it is doubtful that it would succeed; however, the fact that municipal officials are considering such a proposal is an indication of how serious the water problem in Cebu has become. (4,200 km) length, there is relatively little river traffic. Al- though there are numerous reasons for this lack of traf- fic, the major factor is most certainly related to the nearly continuous state of warfare in most parts of the region in the post-World War II era. The conflicts have includ- ed the various wars of Vietnamese independence, the revolutions in Laos and Cambodia, the Sim-Vietnamese border war of 1979, and the unrest in large parts of northern and eastern Burma. This political instability has resulted in a lack of investment in infrastructure, es.- pecially roads, bridges, and dams. The Asian Develop- ment Bank (ADB) is in the process of preparing feasibility studies on various aspects of potential pro- jects in the area. In addition to bridges over the Mekong and the clearing of rapids along stretches of the river, these include the creation of extensive road and rail linkw ages among the various countries of the region. Three forms of development involving the river are being tar- geted: tourism, trade, and hydroelectric potential. In- cluded in the plans is to darn the river in as many as five different places, which would effect the stream flow and animal life. New bridges and road and rail conneCtions would drastically increase trade and make isolated com- munities more accessible to outside influences. Produc- tion of electricity would increase dramatically, and production and consumption of goods would also in- crease, as would the processing of agricultural products and tropical woods. Migration into the area would most likely increase, adding to a population of 50 million al- ready there (Hori, 1993). In short, planners see the de- velopment of the Mekong River valley as a way to increase economic activity in the region, create a more integrat- ed regional economy among the six countries, generate goodwill among the member countries, and provide the southern Chinese province of Yunnan with an alternate route to the sea. In fact, this process of economic inte- gration has already begun with the completion in 1994 of the first bridge across the Mekong connecting Laos to Thailand (Murray, 1994). There are of course significant potential environmen- tal consequences involved in the large-scale development of the Mekong. On the assumption that development of the Mekong Valley as presently envisioned does occur and increases incomes and the standard of living for those affected, the question that is appropriate to ask is: “Does this justify the environmental changes that will necessar- ily occur?” Changes would most likely include increased deforestation, increased soil erosion as agriculture ex- pands and forests decline, and the extinction of some species leading to a decline in biodiversity. If develop- ment of the Mekong River does indeed raise living stan- dards and these. gains are widely shared by the local inhabitants, then many people would argue that the en- vironmental changes brought about by this development are justified. The situation is much more problematic, how- ever, if the benefits of development are not widely shared and, instead, accrue to only a small group of elites who are most likely the wealthier members of society to begin with. In short, it is not a question of whether or not envi- ronmental change will occur; rather, it is a question of how much environmental change there will be and who will benefit. With the exception of several larger rivers on the is- land of Borneo, the Malay Peninsula and insular South- east Asia do not contain any major navigable rivers. The vast majority of the rivers in insular Southeast Asia are short and have relatively steep gradients, meaning that their inland navigability is generally quite limited. At the The Physical Environment 15 ' __: Mekong River Basin 300 Kilometer: -. f—J—l—l—I 300 Miles Gulf of Thailand. Map 2.3 Mekong River Basin. Sources: Various. 16 Chapter 2 same time, the island nature of much of Southeast Asia has dictated that most passenger, commodity, and infor- mation flows have occurred by sea. Trade within South- east Asia has been a major unifying force for well over a thousand years and facilitated the rise of sea-based em- pires, for example, Srivijaya (c. AD. TOO—1300) based in southeast Sumatra, and Majapahit focused in east Java (c. AD 1200-1500). ‘ Given the relatively steep gradients of many of the rivers and the large amounts of rainfall, Southeast Asia would appear to have a fairly large potential for the gen- eration of hydroelectric power. One of the more suc- cessful projects has been at Maria Cristina Falls on the Agus River on the northern coast of Mindanao, the Philippines (Photo 2.4). The electricity generated from this project has helped lead to the industrialization of nearby Iligan City. At the same time, however, to main— tain a relatively constant flow of water in the Agus River, Lake Lanao, the source of the Agus, has often been al— lowed to drop below normal levels. This has had a nega- tive impact on the ecology of the lake which, in turn, has led to reduced fish yields for those living on the lake. Be cause most of the inhabitants of Lake Lanao are Mus- lim, the ecological damage to the lake has led to increased tensions between the minority Muslims and majority Christians in the Philippines This is but one of numer- ous regional examples that could be given where “de- velopment” projects affecting local upland pOpulations tend to exacerbate conflict between lowland and upland peoples Such conflicts will undoubtedly increase in the future as such development efforts continue. The controversial US$6 billion darn project on the Bakun River in Sarawak, Malaysia, is an example of a project that demonstrates some of the possible trade-offs involved with large hydroelectric projects Opponents of the project say that it will flood an area about the size of Singapore, destroy 172,000 acres (70,000 ha) of rain for- est, and involve the displacement of about 9,000 native Dayak peoples. On the other hand, it would produce a huge amount of electricity, most of which would be ex- ported to peninsular Malaysia. Construction has not yet started on the darn itself, but as of mid-1995, a Malaysian contractor started to fell trees in the area that will be in~ undated by the dam waters (“Logging On,” 1995). Be cause ahnost all sites appropriate for dams are going to be found in upland areas, the potential for conflict between lowland and upland peoples must be taken seriously. An example of this is the violence that ensued when former President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines tried to push ahead with construction of the Chico River darn project in northern Luzon in the 1970s and 19805. The goal of the Philippine government was to increase the output of hydroelectric power to lessen dependence on imported oil and to increase the availability of elec- tricity to lowland areas to further the process of indus- Photo 2.4 Maria Cristina Falls, IIigan City, Mindanao. (Ulack) trialization. Unfortunately, the indigenous people, col- lectively called Igorots, of the Chico River basin were not consulted about the government plans, and when it became apparent that completion of the project would mean the flooding of their ancestral domains, they sought the assistance of the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The resulting violence finally led to the cancellation of the project, but it has left a legacy of dis trust among the minority peoples of northern Luzon and the government, a legacy that remains to the preSent. SOILS h In general, tropical soils are not as agriculturally pro- ductive as temperate soils, and the soils of Southeast Asia are no exception to this statement. This is the case for two main reasons. First, the year-round high temperature and availability of water means that bacterial activity is high and thus organic material is rapidly broken down. The end result is that many tropical soils contain few or- ganic nutrients and that the organic material, if present at all, is found only in the top layer of soil. This is not a prob- lem for the natural vegetation found in tropical areas be- cause root systems have adapted to cope with this situa- tion. In short, most soils in the region are deficient in the organic material that agricultural crops need. Second, the amount and intensity of rainfall means that nutrients are rapidly Ieached from the soil. The high amount of rainfall in the tropics as compared to temperate environments means that some basic minerals in the soil such as calci- um are dissolved and Ieached from the soil rapidly. Soils, produced in humid tropical conditions, that are lacking in nutrients and minerals are called laterites or latosols, and the process that produces them is called laterization. The end product of this process is a hard bricklike structure that has been used in construction, including that at the ancient temple complex of Angkor. Lateritic soils are widespread throughout Southeast Asia. In summary, the luxuriant vegetation that was observed by Europeans when they first arrived in the early sixteenth century and that still occurs in certain parts of the region does not demonstrate that the soils have a high agricultural po- tential. Instead, it is a reflection of an ecosystem based on a rapid recycling of nutrients, which are stored pri- marily in living vegetation. This of course has very im- portant implications for ongoing and planned efforts to expand the area in the region devoted to agriculture. When the original forest cover is removed, soils in the region tend to be degraded rapidly for several reasons. First, the process of removal of the forest can damage the soils itself. For example, commercial logging using heavy equipment can result in soil compaction, or poor- ly constructed logging roads may directly cause consid- erable erosion. Second, with the forest cover removed, soils are now directly exposed to the elements. This means. that inevitably rates of erosion will increase rapid- ly. Third, forest removal followed by agriculture will ex- acerbate the erosion problem because the planting of annual crops means that the soil will be harrowed and plowed several times a year. In addition, because most of these soils are deficient in organic material and many important minerals, agriculture, to succeed, must in- creasingly rely on heavy applications of fertilizer. Al- though fertilizer can increase crop yields, there are several drawbacks. First, the ability to buy sufficient fer- tilizer is often beyond the financial means of farmers, par- ticularly poor ones, and, thus, fertilizer may not be used in the proper amount. Second, long—term use of fertiliz- er can damage the structure of the soils themselves and therefore make it necessary to increase the amount ap- plied over time. Third, due to the amount and intensity of rainfall, fertilizer leaches out of the system quickly and ends up in nearby waterways where damage to wildlife and water quality may be severe. In general, relatively little is known about the long- term viability of many agricultural systems in the tropics. This is especially so in the areas of poor soils that are The Physical Environment 17 found throughout the region, particularly in upland areas Considerable research effort is presently being under- taken in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia to de- vise agricultural or agroforestry systems that can perform better in upland environments with poor soils. As we have seen, the soils of Southeast Asia are relatively im- poverishedThere are, however, two major exceptions to this general statement. The high levels of rainfall on peninsular Southeast Asia mean that the rivers on the mainland transport large vol- umes of water, especially during the rainy season. This, combined with their relatively steep gradients, means that they have the capacity to carry large amounts of sedi- ment. Over time, these rivers have developed large valleys and deltas upon which these sediments have been de- posited. The resulting alluvial soils are well known for their high fertility. In addition, the annual flooding in these areas means that new alluvial soil is deposited annually and, thus, high soil fertility is maintained. Such areas are of course well known for intensive wet rice cultivation, or sawah.The upland areas between these river systems are, in general, characterized by poor soils, which preclude in- tensive agriculture. The major form of agriculture prac- ticed in these areas has usually been swidden. The second major exception is found principally in in- sular Southeast Asia, an area as we have seen that lacks the large river systems found on the mainland. Recall that it is the insular portion of the region wherein much tectonic activity is taking place. Volcanic activity in this area, especially in parts of Indonesia and the Philippines, has produced fertile volcanic soils that can support in- tensive agriculture. The premier example of this phe- nomenon is the island of Java in Indonesia where rural population densities commonly exceed 2,500 people per sq mi (965 people per sq km). As noted earlier, some vol— canic soils are too acidic to be of much agricultural use but, in general, many of the volcanic soils in Indonesia and the Philippines are basic soils and therefore quite suitable for intensive agriculture. NATURAL VEGETATION The natural vegetation in Southeast Asia is a result of a series of related influences, primarily differences in cli- mate, landforms, and soils In addition, Southeast Asia is at the crossroads of two great floral (and faunal) realms, the Asian or Oriental in the west and the Australian in the east, and as such it has been influenced by the plant and animal life of both of these realms The boundary, or transition zone, between the Oriental and Australian realms is in the eastern part of Indonesia. To the west of what is known as Wallace’s line (modified later by Weber and Huxley) is the Oriental realm and to the east is the Australian realm (Map 2.4). Here are found the rather peculiar animals known as marsupials, which include 18 Chapter 2 ': ’33 Tropical Evergreen Forest Tropical Deciduous {Monsoon} Forest - Subtropical andTemperate Forest - Mangrove, Swamp Forest *Assurm'ng absence of cultivated land Map 2.4 Natural vegetation regions* and biogeographical realms. Source: Ulack and Patter; i 989, p. 9. kangaroos, wombats, and koala bears. During the Pleis- tocene epoch, or Ice Age, that began about 2 million years ago and ended only 10,000 years ago, most of insular Southeast Asia was attached to the Asian landmass be- cause sea levels were much lower than they are present- ly. Land areas then exposed included the continental shelf areas, ocean areas that are less than 650 ft (200 m) deep. In Southeast Asia during the Pleistocene the existence of the Sunda Shelf, or Sundaland, meant that Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and Palawan were connected to the mainland and the Sahul Shelf, also known as Sahulland, connected the island of New Guinea and other, smaller islands to the Australian continent. In the area between the lines drawn by Huxley, Wallace, and Weber is an area called Wallacea, where greater ocean depths kept the areas physically separated by at least 40 mi (65 km). Thus, the two great biogeographical and vegetative realms were separated by a water barrier that precluded many types of life-forms from diffusing across the barrier (Map 2.5). It is estimated that the first humans, people of the Aus- traloid racial group, did not reach those areas to the east of the barrier (the easternmost islands of Indonesia, New Guinea, and Australia) until perhaps 40,000 years ago. The end result is that the flora (and fauna) of Southeast Asia is remarkably diverse. For nearly the entire area, the natural climax vegetation (i.e., the terminal plant com- munity that results from long-term adaptation to its en- vironment) is one of three major forest types found in the The Physical Environment 19 Map 2.5 Sunda and Sahul. Source: Various. region.These three major natural forest types are ever- green, deciduous or monsoon, and mangrove (Map 2.4). The tropical evergreen ferest occurs in areas of high rainfall all year round; as such, the forest retains its green foliage throughout the year. This type is found in all coun— tries throughout both peninsular and insular Southeast Asia with the exception of Singapore which, for all prac— tical purposes, has no original forest cover left. The dc» 'ciduous forest (often referred to as a monsoon forest) occurs where there is. a distinct dry season; trees lose some or all of their leaves when the stress caused by lack of water is greatest. This forest type occurs primarily in south-central Indonesia and in large parts of inland Burma and Thailand.These forests are particularly vul— nerable to fires caused by human or natural disturbances because the long dry season makes them more suscepti- ble to burning than the evergreen tropical forest. The third major forest type is mangrove. Tropical tree Species in these forests have adapted themselves to live on the saline muds of tidal zones and occur along pro- tected coastlines In Southeast Asia they grow mostly in Indonesia and on the deltas of the major rivers on the mainland. In Indonesia, mangrove forests are located on or within a few miles of coastlines and are especially im- portant on the east coast of Sumatra and on Kaliman- tan. Throughout the region an estimated 13.3 million acres (5.4 million hectares) of mangrove forest are left; they contain 20—40 different mangrove species. Indeed, the region accounts for a large share of the world’s re- maining mangrove forests. 0f the more than 100 coun- tries that have some mangrove area, Indonesia ranks first in the world with 10 million acres (4 million hectares); Malaysia is fifth, and Burma ranks eighth. The Philip- pines has only 350,000 acres (140,000 ha) left; it is esti- mated that 70 percent of its total mangrove area was lost between 1920 and 1990 (World Resources Institute, 1996—97). Mangrove forests play a vital role in protecting coasts from erosion and in providing a suitable habitat for many animals important to the marine food chain. Man- groves have come under intense pressure in the post— World War II period for several reasons. First, they have been sought as a source of high quality fuelwood, used for domestic consumption by the majority of the population, especially in rural areas, of most of the region’s countries Second and equally important, they have suffered from the expansion of urban areas, most of which have of course developed along coastal areas. Other reasons in- clude pollution from mining and agriculture; the damming of rivers, which alters salinity; and, especially in the past 10 years or so, conversion of mangroves to commercial 20 Chapter 2 BOX 2.2 Fires and the Forest —_—_—_—_—_——————-— Fire is one of the major threats to forests all over the world. In 1997, the Southeast Asian region was beset by an unusually dry season and this, combined with fires set by people, caused extensive damage and haze, particularly in Indonesia. Satellite imagery led analysts to the con- clusion that fires were being deliberate- ly set in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and lrian Jaya to clear areas for oil palm plantations and, to a lesser extent, for rubber estates and tree plantations. In Kalimantan and Sumatra it was estimated that nearly 2 million acres (750,000 ha) offorests burned (M. Hiebert, 1997).This has occurred in spite of a 1995 Indone- sian government ban on burning forests to clear land. Certainly a growing glob- al demand for palm oil, a demand which has increased Indonesian exports of the commodity by 32 percent in the five— year period to 1 997, has boosted the de- mand for new plantation lands. In addition to Indonesia, smog from the fires has been carried by winds to Sin- gapore and Malaysia, threatening the health and livelihood of the population in these two countries. In Kuala Lumpur and other Malaysian cities, air pollution levels reached “unhealthy” levels caus- ing many to wear surgical masks. In Sarawak pollution levels attained “ex- tremely hazardous” levels, causing gov- ernment offices, business, and schools to close (Cohen, 1997). In Indonesia, it was concluded that the smog from the fires was the principal cause of the crash of one commercial Singapore Airline flight in Medan, northern Sumatra, and the sinking of one commercial passen- ger ship in which scores of passengers perished. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that smoke from fires set in lndonesia have caused devastation. Fires also occurred in 1982—83 when 9 mil- lion acres {3.6 million hectares} were destroyed, and in 1991 and 1994. Fol- lowing the 1994 fires, ASEAN officials established an ASEAN Cooperation Plan on Transboundary Pollution which in- cluded an agreement to work toward preventing forest fires. fish and shrimp ponds (Photo 2.5). High Japanese de- mand for shrimp, for example, has led to the destruction of thousands of hectares of mangroves in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. All of Southeast Asia’s natural vegetation has under- gone extensive and rapid transformation (Maps 2.6a and 2.6b). These changes will be discussed in more detail in the section on contemporary environmental problems, but at this point it is important to note the considerable and critical commercial value of many of the forests in Southeast Asia. In the post-World War II period the ma- jority of tropical wood products have come from South- east Asia; in the 19805 it is estimated that approximate- ly 85 percent of all tropical wood product exports came from the region, primarily Indonesia and Malaysia (Gillis, 1988).The high commercial value of the forests in South- east Asia is in contrast to tropical forests in other regions which, due to the large number of different species of trees per hectare, have been of limited commercial value. With the exception of some of the forests in Western Africa, the forests of Southeast Asia are unique among tropical forests in having high-valued tree species in large Photo 2.5 Commercial fishponds in central Java. (Leinbach) The Physical Environment 21 r 7 Forest Types, 1 970 Rain forest Swamp forest Monsoon forest Secondary forest Mangrove forest D Other land use £3 numbers per unit area. While thesc forests still contain a great deal of tree species diversity, their commercial yields as measured by cubic meters of wood per hectare can be very high. TWO forest types stand out in this re- gard, the teak and dipterocarp forests of the region. Burma and Thailand are the world’s primary producers of teak, a hardwood used in shipbuilding and furniture making, which is found in both natural forests and on plan- tations However, the forests of Southeast Asia, which have undergone the most rapid transformation recently, are those composed of tree Species from the family Diptero- carpaceae. Dipterocarps, as they are commonly called, occur in fairly even stands that contain large amounts of harvestable wood per hectare. In addition, there is strong overseas demand for these logs and the wood products, primarily plywood and veneer, derived from them. Al» though Japan has been by far the most important desti- nation of Wood products from Southeast Asia, other important consumers include the United States, Taiwan, vol. 17, no. 1, 1996, p. 3. Hong Kong, and South Korea. The result has been massive logging of dipterocarp forests in the past 50 years, partic- ularly in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Finally, mention must be made of changes in vegeta- tion brought about by deliberate replanting programs. As a result of the obvious effects of deforestation and domestic and international pressure, several of the gov- ernments in the region, notably the Philippines, Indone- sia, Malaysia, and Thailand, have implemented large-scale reforestation programs. In addition, some logging com- panies that have pulp and paper mills have also initiated reforestation programs to ensure themselves of a steady supply of softwood in the future. Of importance for this section is that virtually all of these programs have in- volved about a half-dozen tree Species, all of them exot- ic, that is, not native to the region. Because reforestation efforts in the region-will most likely increase in the future, the long-term effect of these programs on biodiversity is an important concern. 22 Chapter 2 ForestTypes. 1990 - Rain forest Swa mp forest Monsoon forest Secondary forest Mangrove forest Other land use Map 2.6b Forests of Southeast Asia, 1990. Source: Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, vol. 17, no. 1, 1996, p. 4. MINERALS AND ENERGY RESOURCES In general, Southeast Asia is relatively poor in terms of its mineral endowment. Two countries in the region, tiny Brunei and Singapore, have virtually no minerals, and, as a result of political instability, four other countries have no significant mineral exports (Burma, Laos, Cam- bodia, and Vietnam) at the present time. Thus, the only four countries with substantial mineral production and export are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Tin is the most significant mineral ore from Southeast Asia—30 percent of all tin produced in the world comes from the region. This, however, represents a sharp. drop from the late 19705 when the region produced approxi- mately 50 percent of global output (World Resources In- stitute, 1994). Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia ranked second, sixth, and tenth, respectively,in terms of world pro- duction in 1994 (World Resources Institute, 1996, p. 291). Of special interest is the fact that Malaysia, which was formerly the worlds largest producer of tin, has been eclipsed. This is the result of two factors: competition from lower-cost producers both inside and outside (China, Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia) the region, and because the most easily worked tin deposits in Malaysia have already been mined. Another important mineral is nickel, Indonesia is the world’s third-largest producer with the bulk of produc- tion coming from Irian Jaya, In the future, Irian Jaya will continue to play a major role in Indonesian mineral pro- duction as several large mines are opened.These mines will produce primarily copper and gold. As with darn pro- jects, the environmental consequences of developing large mining projects in what is essentially virgin forests are the negative effects on both the physical environment and the indigenous peoples of the area. The Philippines used to be a major producer of nickel, chromite, and cop- per, but output has declined considerably in recent years. The Philippines also has substantial gold deposits; in fact, after South Africa, the Philippines has more gold per unit area than any other country in the world. Of more importance for the region as a whole are re- sources of petroleum and natural gas. Approximately 5 per- cent of world production occurs in Southeast Asia. The three major producers are Indonesia (a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC), Malaysia, and Brunei. In addition, Vietnam is rapidly increasing production and exports of petroleum. In all four countries, the majority of the petroleum and natural gas production is exported, with Japan the major market. Such exports generate between 10 and 15 billion dollars a year in export earnings. In the case of Brunei, its gross national product (GNP) per capita is one of the highest in the world due to these exports. In the cases of Malaysia and Indonesia, these export earnings have con- sistently been one of their largest sources of foreign ex— metric tons) cubic meters) The Physical Environment 23 Photo 2.6 'Iin mine in Perak, Penin- sular Malaysia. (Leinbach) change. Approximately 20 percent of Indonesia’s for- eign exchange earnings comes from oil and natural gas, and 10 percent of Malaysia’a earnings are from the ex- port of oil and natural gas. Almost all of Brunei’s exports are derived from energy; even Vietnam, which had min- imal exports of oil until recently, now derives approxi- mately 25 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from oil. The region has significant reserves of oil and natural gas, but they account for only slightly more than 1 percent and 3 percent of world reserves, respectively (Table 2.1). Although oil and natural gas dominates the commer- cial energy sector of the region, there are other sources of power. Coal is important inThailand,V1etnarn, and In- donesia, and geothermal energy is important in the Philip- pines In fact, the Philippines is the world’s second-largest producer of geothermal power after the United States. In addition, hydroelectric power is found throughout the Hydroelectricity: Known Exploitable Potential (megawatts) Hydroelectricity: Installed Capacity, 1993 (megawatts) Burma Cambodia Indonesia Laos Malaysia Philippines Thailand Vietnam Table 2.1 Proved recoverable reserves of crude oil and natural gas, and hydroech potential and capacity, 1993. Source: World Resources Institute, 1996, p. 289. |_ Known Oil Fields Known Gas Fields Continental Shelf Boundary (650 ft; 200 meters] flOO Map 2.? Continental shelf and known offshore oil and gas fields. Source: Ulack and Patter; I 989, p. 8. region but, in general, presently plays a relatively small role in terms of its overall contribution to total electric ity generation. Hydroelectricity constitutes a significant future source of energy for the region (Table 2.1). Final- ly, mention must be made of the fact that biomass (veg— etative matter, primarily in the form of fuelwood and charcoal) is an important source of energy, particularly in the rural areas. Consumption of energy is increasing rapidly in the re- gion, particularly in those countries that have industrialized and urbanized the most. Singapore’s per capita consump- tion of commercial energy is equal to that of most West- ern European countries It is expected that the region as a whole will continue to experience strong increases in per capita energy demand well into the twenty-first century and this raises several major questions. First, because most energy production is based on fossil fuels and these are a major contributor to greenhouse gases, the long- term effect of increased energy consumption on global climate change cannot be ignored. If per capita con- sumption of energy in the region increased to the level of Singapore, that would mean that Southeast Asia would produce as much, or more, greenhouse gas than either North America or all of Western Europe. In other words, the economic development of the region could have glob- al environmental effects. Second, because most of the production of oil and natural gas in the region occurs in offshore areas, the potential negative environmental ef- fects of increased production, for example, oil spills, should also be considered. An offshore area that may achieve notoriety in the future is the South China Sea where the Spratly Islands are located (see Map 10.3).This disputed archipelago is claimed in part or in its entirety by China,Taiwan,Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei.A]l but Brunei have had troops on at least one of the tiny islands in the Spratly group even though not one island in the archipelago has freshwater. While some of the claims to the Spratly Islands are based on historical or geopolitical considerations, much of the tension over the islands stems from the fact that experts believe they are located over substantial deposits of oil and natural gas. In fact, both Vietnam and China have recently awarded exploration contracts to Western oil companies in regions which are close to the Spratlys. In short, the Spratly Islands are an example of overlapping territori- al claims exacerbated by the probable presence of fossil fuels. MAIOR ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES Before addressing some of the specific environmental is- sues of regional importance, it is important to keep in mind that for almost all Southeast Asian countries a major goal is rapid economic growth through development. Sin- gapore has for decades been considered one of the four “Little Dragons” (along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan) and now has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Brunei, because of its energy exports, has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. As of the late 1990s, many observers consider Malaysia and Thailand to be the next candidates for newly indus- trializing economy (NIB) status. Both Vietnam and In- donesia have recently liberalized their economies and are actively courting foreign investment. Of the remaining four countries, Burma and Cambodia continue to be pre- occupied with domestic strife, Laos is starting to make its first tentative moves to expand its interaction with the outside world, and the Philippines has made economic growth a priority. In short, with the exception of those countries that are experiencing internal turmoil, all the countries of South- east Asia are committed to rapid, long-term economic growth based on the model of the industrialized West. In fact, the area as a whole has been one of the most rapid- ly growing areas in the Third World during the post- World War II era. For example, some areas of Malaysia and Thailand have gone from primarily agricultural to industrial-based communities in as little as one or two generations. In many cases, the rates of socioeconomic change observed in Southeast Asia are occurring much more rapidly than anything that has happened in the in dustrialized West. It is equally important to note that the major reason economic growth is being pursued so vig- orously by mast Southeast Asian countries is that it is viewed as the best means to eliminate poverty. Although there are other reasons to advocate economic growth, most countries in the region still have large proportions of their populations living in poverty. Any discussion of Southeast Asia’s present and future environment must recognize that rapid economic growth will most likely be the norm in the region for many decades to come; as an example, the stated goal of Malaysia’s “Vision 2020” is to achieve developed country status by the year 2020. Two other points are appropriate here. First, environ- mental change brought about by human activity has a very The Physical Environment 25 early origin in the region. Human induced environmental change started with settled agriculture that may have oc~ curred as long as 6,000 or more years ago. Moreover, small~ scale deforestation, particularly in accessible lowland areas, was most likely simultaneous with sedentary agriculture. What is unique about the contemporary period is that change has been extremely rapid and of wide geographic extent. The second point is that rapid rates of economic, so- cial, and environmental change mean that our ability to predict future events and anticipate future problems is necessarily limited. It is important to keep in mind that no observer of Southeast Asia in the 19405 and 19503 came close to predicting the incredibly rapid economic and de- mographic changes that have occurred since then. As late as the 1960s and 1970s, influential agencies such as the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank were advocating more rapid exploitation of natural resources with an almost complete disregard for the environment. The prominence given to environmental issues, particu- larly in a Third World context, is relatively new. In short, not only do environments and economies change rapidly but so do our perceptions of these changes and their rel- ative importance. Deforestation Most knowledgeable observers and researchers would agree that the most severe environmental problem in Southeast Asia has been rapid and large-scale removal of forest cover and the loss of soil that has accompanied this removal. Three reasons are commonly given for this state of affairs: shifting cultivation, the expansion of set- tled agriculture, and logging. Traditional shifting cultivation, or swidden, is an agri- cultural system that is land extensive and suitable for areas with low population densities It involves cutting dOWIl the existing forest, drying and burning the woody material, growing crops for one or two years, and then abandoning the field as weeds increase and yields decline due to the loss of organic material. If population density is low and land is available, the original cultivators will let the abandoned land lie fallow for anywhere from 10 to 100 years before returning to repeat the cycle. Shifting cultivation has been practiced all over the world and, in many cases, can be considered to be a form of sustainable agriculture; however, the system can break down when there is not enough land to maintain long fallows or when subjected to outside forces such as in-migration or log- ging. Iffallow periods are too short, then the forest will not have sufficient time to return and the creation of grassland areas will occur. In fact, there were fairly large areas of grassland in the region before the Europeans arrived around 1500. Today, swidden is still practiced in most Southeast Asian countries, particularly in relatively isolated upland areas such as parts of Mindanao, 26 Chapter 2 Kalimantan, Irian Jaya, Laos, and northern Burma and Thailand. However, these systems are coming under stress as the area available to them decreases and, thus, it is most likely that traditional shifting cultivation is caus- ing some deforestation in the region today. The avail- ability of chain saws also means that larger areas of forest can be cut down more quickly (Photo 2.7). In addition to traditional shifting cultivation, defor- estation is also caused by both spontaneous and planned migration to forested or formerly forested areas. In most cases, it is primarily undertaken by lowland families who are seeking to engage in subsistence agriculture. In gen- eral, these families have no choice due to the absence of economic opportunities in lowland agriculture or urban areas. On a large scale, this process has occurred through- out the Philippines in the postwar period, in parts of In- donesia (Sumatra, Kalimantan), and in northern Thailand. In short, poverty is forcing poor families to engage in frontier migration and, henCe, these people are some- times referred to as “shifted cultivators.” An outstanding characteristic of many, if not most, of these households is that they are not familiar with the environment they are migrating to and, therefore, are not as knowledgeable re- garding appropriate agricultural techniques as are the local inhabitants. In addition, many of these frontier areas are environmentally fragile because they have hilly or mountainous topographies and, therefore, agriculture is often being practiced on lands that are steep (e.g., parts of Sumatra, northern Thailand, and parts of Mindanao). The shifting cultivation practiced by migrants in these environments is usually much more destructive than that practiced by long-term residents. The last major agent of deforestation is large-scale commercial logging. The forests of Southeast Asia have a high commercial value. Recall that they contain tree species like teak and dipterocarps that are valued on the international market and that these species occur in large numbers per unit area. Because stocking densities are high, yields in terms of cubic meters of wood are also high per hectare. These forests have been heavily logged in the post-World War II period with many of the wood prod- ucts exported to Japan and the United States As we have noted, most of today’s exported tropical wood products originate in Southeast Asia; indeed, more than 50 percent of all tropical wood exports come from the island of Bor- neo alone (Brookfield et al.,1990) (Photo 2.8). An impor- tant factor in explaining the rate and scale of logging in Southeast Asia has been that it has been very lucrative for a small number of individuals, primarily owners of log- ging companies and their political allies. The military has also benefited handsomely in countries such Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The entire process has been accompanied by considerable corruption, particu- larly noticeable in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand (Callaham and Buckman,1931;Vitug, 1993', Sricharatchanya, 1987; Broad and Cavanagh, 1994). There have been three major forms of corruption in the forestry sector. The first is illegal logging, which is log- ging for commercial purposes without a permit.The sec- ond is underinvoicing timber exports and the smuggling of logs overseas. In the case of the Philippines, it is esti- mated that the vast majority of logs exported are done so illegally (“A Brazilian Tale,” 1989).The third is the grant- ing of concessions either for political or monetary favors. Photo 2.7 Shifting cultivation clear— ing done with chain saws in central Borneo, East Kalirnantan Province. (Kunnner) ___L All three forms of corruption have been immensely prof- itable to those with the right connections because of the high price that timber exports fetch on the world mar- ket. Despite the attention increasingly being devoted to the environment in general and to the tropical rain for- est in particular, corruption in the forestry sector is still common. Although not the focus of this chapter, the issue of corruption is important because it indicates that some people may personally gain from and, thus, have a per- sonal interest in the continuation of deforestation. Be~ cause some benefit from environmental destruction, an understanding of who gains from the rapid deforestation that is occurring in Southeast Asia is important in at- tempting to halt or reverse the process In other words, the political economy of forest resources, that is, who has access to and control of the forests, is among the most important features of their use today. There are numerous positive effects of deforestation. First, the process provides employment. Loggers, haulers, and those who use tropical wood products, such as furniture manufacmrers, all gain a livelihood from the harvesting of timber. In an area where poverty and unemployment may be high, this can be an important benefit. Second, the ex- port of tropical wood products can provide substantial foreign exchange earnings. This has certainly been the case for Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines and, to a lesser extent, for Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. Lastly, the elimination of forest cover allows for the expansion of agriculture whether it be of the subsistence or com~ mercial type. In other words, the natural forest is replaced with an agricultural system that can produce subsistence and cash crops. Malaysia in particular and Thailand to a The Physical Environment 27 Photo 2.8 Logs from central Borneo floated down Mahakam River arriv- ing at the port of Samarinda, East Kalimantan Province. (Kummer) lesser extent have both generated substantial export earnings from the expansion of commercial agriculture onto previously forested lands. In short, from the view point of many individuals, deforestation represents de— velopment because the process of deforestation itself provides jobs and foreign exchange. In the eyes of some, the replacement of the natural forest with agriculture represents a “better,” that is, a more “productive” use of the land. However, there are also clearly several negative as- pects to deforestation. The process of removing forest cover, particularly if done on a large-scale basis such as capital intensive commercial logging, causes consider- able damage to the remaining forest and the soil. If log- ging is followed by short~term agriculture and the land is abandoned after a year or two, the resulting landscape is almost invariably severely eroded. In short, rather than the natural forest being replaced by a productive system of agriculture, it is more often the case that the produc~ tive forest is replaced by a badly degraded land surface that is not capable of sustaining intensive agriculture. The extensive areas of almost completely unproductive grasslands throughout Southeast Asia are eloquent tes— timony to a destructive process of recent deforestation (Photo 2.9). A key element in the creation of these grasslands is the process of soil erosion. Due to the elimination of many large trees and the damage to the soils caused by heavy equipment, logging itself can often result in a substantial increase in erosion. The process is completed when agri- culturists remove the remainder of the vegetative cover, plow the land, grow crops, and then abandon their farms. 28 Chapter 2 The resulting soil erosion can often be so severe that the land, for all practical purposes, is of little value for agri- culture. In addition to these on—site effects of soil erosion, there are several off-site effects as well. Most eroded soil is deposited in water bodies. This siltation can harm ani- mal life and raise riverbed levels, which can increase the chance and severity of flooding. In addition, siltation can accumulate behind dams and reduce the economic life of hydroelectric projects It has also been found that eroded soil is reaching the coast, where it is being deposited on coral reefs, effectively killing them. Another major negative aspect of deforestation in the region is its effect on the biodiversity of the forest. De- forestation has led to the extinction of numerous forms of life. In the Philippines, where most of the original for- est cover has been removed, the Philippine Plant Inven- tory Project has estimated that as many as 80 percent of all species have already become extinct as aresult of de- forestation.While it is difficult to quantify the precise ef- fect of this loss of biodiversity, many observers feel that, in the long run, this may be the most serious aspect of tropical deforestation. The tropical rain forest contains more biodiversity than any other ecosystem in the world and the impoverished ecosystems in Southeast Asia today may be one of the long-term legacies of the rapid and widespread deforestation that has occurred since 1945. Land degradation and the loss of biodiversity are the two most serious negative consequences of deforesta- tion, but there are others One is the impact on the nu- merous ethnic minorities who live in the forests. One well-known group in this regard is the Penans of Sarawak,Ma1aysia. Only a minority of all Penans are still nomadic hunters and gatherers; however, they have es~ Photo 2.9 Grassland area on Cebu (central Philippines) that was under forest cover as recently as 15 years ago. (Kummer) tablished roadblocks in Sarawak to prevent further log- ging on their traditional lands and have achieved con— siderable international notoriety (Colchester, 1989). In this case, deforestation necessarily means the destruction of their homeland and, quite likely, their culture. It has been claimed by some that cultural diversity is akin to biological diversity, and if this equivalence is accepted, then loss of distinct cultures is an irretrievable loss of part of the world’s cultural heritage. More immediately, the case of the nomadic Penan demonstrates that in the process of development some “lose” and some “win.” Whether or not this is inevitable will be discussed in the concluding section. In general, the people who live in for- est or upland areas tend to be ethnic minorities in their own countries; as such, deforestation almost invariably means the destruction of the homelands of people who are not lowlanders and are not from the dominant ethnic group. This process is occurring in the uplands of virtually every country in the region. Lastly, deforestation necessarily involves the destruc— tion of the amenity resources of the forest. Given the concerted effort by many of the nations of Southeast Asia to increase tourism as part of the precess of develop- ment, large-scale removal of the forests will make future efforts regarding ecotourism, for example, more difficult. In short, deforestation assumes that the amenity value of the forest is zero or, at best, very low, a proposition that is patently false. Because deforestation involves costs and benefits to society and to individuals, an evaluation of its overall ef- fect is difficult. This is particularly the case because many of the costs of deforestation cannot be expressed in mon- etary terms; for example; “How much is a species worth?” In addition, the winners and the losers are almost always different groups of people, and it is difficult to make comparisons across groups; for example, “If poor mi- nority people in the uplands benefit from cutting down the forest for fuelwood but this causes erosion that neg- atively effects the yields of middle-class farmers in the lowlands, who is to say that society as a whole is better or worse off?” The above questions notwithstanding, almost all ob- servers are agreed that land degradation in Southeast Asia as a result of deforestation and poor agricultural practices is the most serious environmental problem confronting the region today. This is so for several reasons First, land degradation covers a large area. Every country in the re- gion suffers from this problem. Second, large numbers of people are effected, not only in the rural areas where the land degradation is occurring but also in lowland and urban areas that are impacted by the off~site effects of sil- tation and flooding. Because deforestation is still occur- ring at a rapid rate and agriculture is spreading into more marginal hilly or mountainous areas, it is safe to assume that land degradation is an ongoing problem and, in fact, may be worsening (Photo 2.10). Eventually, agricultural yields may start to decline if the process continues much longer. While there is some evidence to indicate that agriw cultural yields per hectare have declined in some areas, there is no evidence to prove that agricultural productiv- ity over larger areas is declining. If such evidence became available, it would be a dramatic indication of just how far the process of land degradation had reached. What has happened to the commercial forests of Southeast Asia since 1945 is not a new phenomenon and it is certainly not unique. It is very similar to what has The Physical Environment 29 happened to other valuable resources as they were in- corporated into the global capitalistic system for the first time, for example, the southern and midwestern forests of the United States in the nineteenth century, fur-bearing animals of the northern Pacific Ocean in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, or gold deposits in Australia, Canada, and the United States in the nineteenth centu- ry. These “first-generation staples” are never exploited in an environmentally sound manner; instead, rapid booms are followed by rapid depletion and, as the resource be- comes more and more depleted and degraded, a reaction designed to conserve the resource develops. In the case of the forests in Southeast Asia, it is obvious that the re- gion as a whole is still in the rapid-depletion phase; at the same time, more and more voices critical of this path are being heard.Whether or not the voices favoring con- servation and preservation will have a significant impact is unclear at this point. In this regard, two points are sig- nificant: First, there has been a remarkable increase in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that deal with environmental issues in most countries in the region; sec- ond, Several countries, most notably Malaysia and In- donesia, have deveIOped a series of national parks to protect unique and representative environments. Al- though some of these parks exist on paper only, there is a rising demand from within the region for conservation and preservation of natural resources. Resettlement Projects and Their Impacts As noted above, deforestation can result from sponta- neous migration or if planned settlement occurs in pre- viously forested regions. In terms of the latter type, Photo 2.10 Smallholder agriculture moving up the slopes of Mt. Maquiling, Laguna Province, the Philippines. (Kummer) 30 Chapter 2 planned settlement, there are several examples of such deliberate expansion of agriculture through large-scale government programs in the post-World War II period. Governments as different as Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines have all had land development programs since 1945; the prominent example of this is the Indone- sian Transmigration Program, which has moved several million families from the densely populated Inner Islands of Java, Madura, Bali, and Lombok to the Outer Islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Irian Jaya where population densities are much lower and agricultural land is available (Photo 2.11). Malaysia has also had an ex- tensive land development program that has concentrat- ed on the conversion of tropical forests to rubber and oil palm plantationsThis is the principal reason that penin- sular Malaysia has been one of the largest producers of rubber and oil palm for the past 20 years. In the case of Malaysia, it is important to keep in mind that the re- placement of natural forest by commercial agricultural plantations has been deliberately undertaken by the na- tional government.'Ihe conversion process has, to a large extent, been directed by government planners through the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA). It is reasonable to argue that the Malaysian people today enjoy a standard of living higher than most of their neigh» bors, in part because of the success of developments in plantation agriculture (Sutton, 1989). Both the FELDA and Transmigration programs have demonstrated that large-scale resettlement and land- conversion projects are possible in a tropical environ- ment. 0f the two, however, FELDA has been the more economically successful in terms of raising standards of living and producing tropical products for export. At the same time, both programs have been criticized for their perceived negative impacts on the environment. The conversion of tropical forest to smallholder or planta- tion agriculture has necessarily meant the nearly com- plete destruction of the original vegetation in the receiving area (Secrett, 1986). The negative environ- mental effects include: species extinction, soil erosion which has resulted in land degradation and siltation of waterways and the displacement of indigenous peoples In addition, there is some question as to the long-term agricultural viability of some of the projects, particular- ly the "transmigration Program. If the projects end up being abandoned due to declining agricultural yields and demand, then a valuable natural resource (the rain for- est) will have been converted to an asset of very little value (abandoned agricultural land) with no long-term benefit to society as a whole. Urbanization Economic growth, at least in the Western sense, has meant urbanization as agriculture declines in relative importance to the more rapid growth of the manufacturing and ser- vice sectors. Indeed, urbanization has been proceeding steadily in many of the countries in the region, and with it has come the attendant problems of congestion and air and water pollution. Although this chapter will not cover these problems in depth, it is appropriate to point out that with the increased concentration of economic activity in urban areas, these issues have become more pressing. Be- cause economic activity is certain to increase rapidly in the future (the urban population of Southeast Asia may increase by three times in the next 30 years),it seems rea- Photo 2.11 A transmigrant settler’s home in South Sumatra, Indonesia de- picting cleared forest. (Lembach) _ sonable to expect that the geographic extent and magni~ tude of these problems will also increase. In fact, much of the expansion of metropolitan regions is taking place on formerly intensively farmed agricultural land (Photo 2.12). In such “extended metropolitan regions” (EMR) as Jakarta, Manila, and Bangkok, these problems are al- ready well advanced; in all three cities air pollution is already a serious problem. In Jakarta, approximately 1 percent of the income of its inhabitants is spent on boil- ing water because the untreated water is not safe to drink. Commuting times from place of residence to place of work have increased dramatically in the region’s largest cities. In short, there is a rapidly growing body of evi- dence to indicate that, on the basis of different indica- tors, some aspects of the quality of life in several major urban centers of Southeast Asia are decreasing (Brook- field and Byron, 1993; Ooi, 1987). In addition to the environmental problems concomi- tant with deforestation, agricultural settlement, and ur- banization, there are of course other environmental issues that affect Southeast Asia. For example, mining has caused localized land and water pollution; excessive fishing and inappropriate marine fishing practices such as dynamiting have caused the destruction of coral reefs, particularly in the Philippines—in fact, the degradation of coral reefs is the marine equivalent of deforestation. Chemical pollution as a result of Green Revolution tech- nologies is also widespread. Lastly, depletion of ground- water reserves is occurring near some major urban areas; for example, Bangkok is literally sinking a little every year. In short, there is a broad range of environmental problems in Southeast Asia, as there are in all regions of the world. The Physical Environment 31 It would be unfair and incorrect to give the impres- sion that the environmental picture in the region is com- pletely negative. It is necessary to keep in mind that the environmental change that has occurred in the region has, in many instances, been accompanied by genuine economic growth, which has resulted in improved stan- dards of living. This will continue in the future. In addi- tion, as countries in the region become wealthier, the demand for an improved environment will hopefully in- crease and the economic ability to provide for it will also increase. This is what has occurred in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan and is very likely to occur in Southeast Asia. SOLUTIONS It has been argued that the major environmental prob- lems faCed by Southeast Asia are land degradation in rural areas as a result of improper land use, and pollu- tion in urban areas as a result of rapid economic devel- opment. Given the present rapid rates of economic growth and the commitment of the region’s governments to further this growth, it is to be expected that urban and rural stresses will increase. This section will examine sev- eral solutions that have been proposed. Putting a Price on the Environment Economists would argue that one of the main reasons environmental damage occurs is because use of the en- vironment is free. For example, there is no economic cost involved in polluting; hence, the solution is to “get the prices right,” that is, to put a value. on using the envimn- ment.'1his could be done, to: instance, by charging logging Photo 2.12 The construction of sub divisions near Manila on former agri— cultural land. (Kumrner) 32 Chapter 2 companies for each cubic meter of wood harvested or by charging companies and households for each kilogram of waste discharged into a river or stream. The idea is that if users (whether they be firms, governments, or in— dividuals) are required to pay the cost of the negative as- pects of their behavior, they will reduce or eliminate these activities. Putting a price on using the environment w0uld raise the price of resources and encourage in- creased efficiency and conservation. A good example of the effects of pricing occurs in irrigation: If irrigation water is free or is available at very low cost, it encour- ages overuse; for irrigation water to be used properly, however, it must be priced properly. Notice that this ar- gument does not just apply to Third World countries; the remarkable misuse of water resources in the southwest- ern United States is primarily the result of the national government providing water at a greatly subsidized rate. In general, economists argue that the only way to ensure that natural resources are used properly is to guarantee that their pricing take into account both private and so- cial costs. They would further argue that the best way for this to happen isthrough the market. In short, society must change conventional approaches to provide finan- cial incentives for environmentally sound use of natural resources. In the case of commercial logging in South- east Asia, for example, the above line of reasoning would require that loggers pay substantially higher fees than they do now for each cubic meter of timber removed. If “excessive profits” were eliminated, the rate of commer~ cial logging would slow considerably. Sustainable Development Sustainable development is a vague term even though it is widely used (National Research Council, 1993; Wilbanks,1994). In a very general sense, sustainable de- velopment refers to a type of economic growth that is not environmentally destructive. Such a process would mean that the present generation would pass onto the succeeding generation a natural resource base equiva- lent to what it had inherited. But sustainable develop- ment may also include local participation, empowerment, an equitable sharing of society’s resources, limits on con~ sumption and energy use, and a new ethical relationship to the environment. While the goals of sustainability are easy enough to state in a general sense, it is much more diffith to devise a means to attain them. In terms of spe- cific policies or goals, what does sustainable development mean? Is continued economic growth compatible with sustainability, or is there a contradiction between the two? If there is a contradiction between the two, how does one reconcile reducing poverty in the region and at the same time preserving the environment? This trade-off is particularly acute in Southeast Asia where, as previ- ously mentioned, almost all governments agree that eco- nomic growth is the best way to solve the region’s wide- spread poverty (Aiken, et al., 1982). At the same time, the case is increasingly being made that economic growth and an active concern for the en~ vironment are not incompatible. Three major arguments are put forth in support of this viewpoint. First, the pre- sent path of development is destroying numerous pro- ductive natural asscts such as forests, coral reefs, and the soil; that is, these natural resources are being used in an unsustainable manner. If these resources were managed on a sustained yield basis, they would be able to provide for economic growth for the long term. Second, the eco- nomic activity based on these natural resources results in significant externalities (effects on third parties) such as destruction of animal and plant life, soil erosion, and harmful effects to human beings caused by, for instance, polluted water and air. In this regard, one of the key fac- tors to be aware of is agricultural productivity. If crop yields per hectare start to decline at the national level because of soil degradation, then the question of envi- ronmental damage will have entered a dangerous new phase. Third, it is becoming clear that the economic costs to undo the effects of past environmental neglect may be quite high. Several countries of East Asia, including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, have been forced to spend billions of dollars to improve their air and water, particularly in urban areas. Significant sums of money could have been saved if these negative environmental effects had been avoided in the first place. Overall, the case is being made that respect for the environment makes economic sense. At the same time, tens of millions of people in South- east Asia still live in poverty, and there is a strong feeling that the best way to eliminate poverty quickly is through economic growth. Even though conscrvationlpreservation of the natural environment is often suggested as a desir- able goal in and of itself, many Third World countries are quick to point out that there may be significant oppor- tunity costs involved. The cost of preserving a virgin for- est is the foregone profit from logging that will not be earned or the people who remain unemployed. In some cases, these will be substantial as the export earnings that Indonesia and Malaysia earn from timber indicate. Two logical questions are: Who should pay the costs of conservation? and Why should Third World countries conserve their biodiversity if they do not benefit finan- cially? One of the reasons that the First World is eco» nomically dominant today is because of profligate exploitation of natural resources in the past. In fact, the vast majority of the earth’s resources are still being con- sumed by the First World. To some Third World countries, the First World emphasis on conservation and biodiversity is a deliberate attempt to prevent Third World countries from developing economically. At the same time, it cle- flects attention from the fact that the First World has en- gaged in more environmentally damaging behavior than the Third World. Including the Environment in the National Income Accounts Another approach advocated by economists is to change the way that economic activity is measured. The stock of natural resources is presently not counted in the nation- al income accounts of nations; as a result, destruction of a valuable natural asset such as forests is counted as a contribution to GNP. Logging increases GNP because it produces a product that has value on the market; how ever, the decreasing value of the forest asset is nowhere recorded. If the national income accounts included forests (and coral reefs, biodiversity, and other natural resources) as assets, then their destruction would show up as a negative entry, and decision makers could more clearly see the effect that economic activity was having on the national heritage. Local Control of Natural Resources Another approach to environmental degradation and, indeed, development as a whole, is the increased em- phasis given to local control of natural resources. The idea is that local communities, if given actual control of local resources, are in a better position to manage them for the benefit of the entire locality than agents from outside the community, whether they be firms or gov- ernment agencies from the capital city. Local control would necessarily mean the decentralization of many government activities and, almost by definition, an em- phasis on the small-scale. A key element of community management is indigenousftraditional knowledge. The notion here is that over a period of time, rural commu- nities have successfully adapted to their local environ- ment and, in fact, have become expert in appropriate local land use. Local control would give more credence to this knowledge than is presently done. Local control also implies local participation by citizens and NGOs. In fact, NGOs in Southeast Asia are now much more ac- cepted as part of the development process than they were just five years ago, and empowerment of local com- munities (and indigenous peoples) is even recognized by some governments as an integral part of sustainable development. In short, the issue of local control is now being presented as an alternative to the present devel- opment path with its emphasis on largescale industrial- ization and urbanization. There is an increasing emphasis on small-scale, participation, and empowerment in de- velopment discussions. The Physical Environment 33. While many of these discussions have not led to action, the fact that such ideas are being openly debated is an in- dication that they are being seriously considered. The Philippines has already created a Muslim Autonomous Area in parts of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, and the idea of increased regional or provincial autonomy on a nationwide basis is being considered. It is too early to tell how successful these efforts will be. Social Forestry In the forestry sector, a great deal of emphasis in the past 15 years has been on what is called social or community forestry. In its most basic formulation, social forestry is the simple recognition that forests provide more than just commercial timber. They provide a gamut of eco- nomic and environmental goods and services such as wildlife, oils, resins, medicinal herbs, rattan, bamboo, fu- elwood, and watershed protection. In addition, many of these products are of benefit primarily to the poorer members of society. From the simple recognition that forests provide noncommercial timber resources have come attempts to legitimate the claims of people other than loggers to the products of the forests Another aspect of social forestry has been the emphasis on local control of community-based projects such as reforestation. Last- ly, social forestry has encouraged the active participation of community groups and NGOs in project design and implementation. Overall, this social view of the forests and what they should be used for is diametrically op- posed to the view of the traditional forester who sees the forest primarily as a source of commercial timber. The change of viewpoint is refreshing; unfortunately, in real- ity, the rhetoric of social forestry has been greater than its actual accomplishments Throughout Southeast Asia, it is difficult to point to many large-scale social forestry pro- jects that have been successful. Political Economy Environmental change occurs in a complex natural and social framework. One of the critical variables of the so- cial framework has to do with the distribution of wealth and power and the rules of the game that regulate access to natural assets. It should come as no surprise that it is usually those with the wealth and power who determine who will have access to valuable natural resources, and it would appear that they usually appropriate the most valuable resources for themselves. This has particularly been the case with prime agricultural land and commer- cial forests. In the case of commercial logging in South- east Asia, the governments of Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand have all sup- ported rapid destruction of their forests in the name of 34 Chapter .2 development. What is not so well known is that the gov- ernments in these countries primarily represent the in- terests of the military and of political and economic elites. In this context, a fair question to ask is, “How can these governments be made to be more democratic?” or, to follow up on our discussion above, “What right do we have to put pressure on these governments to change to meet our standards?” Once the political economy of re— source use is made a central point of the analysis, the issue of how to devise more-representative and environ- mentally benign socioeconomic systems becomes a lot more difficult because people in positions of power virs tually never give them up voluntarily. The discussion has now expanded to include development, the environment, and representative government. CONCLUDING COMMENTS Environmental change is the result of the interaction of the physical environment with natural and social process- es. An underlying premise of this chapter is that a true understanding of contemporary environmental issues in Southeast Asia requires knowledge of both the physical geography of the region and the forces leading to change in society. This does not mean that one has to be an expert in geology, climatology, and hydrology before meaningful statements about environmental issues can be made. Rather, it means that one should be aware of the rela- tionship, for example, of monsoon rains and agriculture or of soil erosion and slope of the land if developments in Southeast Asian agriculture are to be understood. The environment of Southeast Asia has undergone widespread and profound change since 1945 and this process of change will continue in the foreseeable future. By the year 2025 there will be fewer virgin forests, more grasslands, fewer species of flora and fauna, more land devoted to agriculture, more and larger urban areas with their attendant environmental problems, and more peo— ple (the population of the region is projected to grow from 500 million in 1996 to 718 million in the year 2025, an in- crease of approximately 50 percent). At the same time, average standards of living will have increased. In short, the people of Southeast Asia will use their environment in a manner similar to the Japanese, Europeans, and North Americans However, the major difference will be that the rate of change in Southeast Asia will be far greater. This conventional “vision” of development is in- creasingly being challenged within Southeast Asia by a diverse group of people who are motivated by a concern for the environment, sustainable development, the rights of indigenous people to preserve their way of life, and the rights of those who have been marginalized by de- velopment, for example, the unemployed, landless and, all too often, women. In short, the “environment” and the overall path of “development” are becoming an issue of contention between different classes, regions, and, in some cases, ethnic groups. There is a risk that the winners and losers in the process of growth will become in— creasingly polarized. On a more optimistic note, although the discussion re- garding the political economy of resource use in South- east Asia was not particularly hopeful, it does point out one feature of the present situation that is often he- glected: In many cases, the governments of the region do have control over the natural resources at their disposal. The best example of this is government regulation of log- ging because virtually all large-scale logging in Southeast Asia is taking place on government forestland and under government regulations. Although the process has been remarkably destructive, it has not occurred in a vacuum; theoretically speaking, the governments of Southeast Asia could have exercised more control over this process if they had wanted to. This has not been the case for two major reasons. First, the Western model of development sees mdusuialization as the key to economic growth.This necessarily entails the conversion of natural resources into industrial inputs. Second, and as already discussed, the process has been primarily designed to benefit a small elite. Once again, the political economy of resource use in the region is of paramount importance. Finally, while it is difficult to generalize about sociopo- litical developments in each of the 10 countries of the re- gion, it would appear that there is now more democratic, public space available for different environmental view- points to be expressed. This movement promises to bring more groups into the discussion about the nature of de- velopment and its effects on the environment. It is part of a wider democratization process occurring in these coun- tries, but it is also a reflection of the fact that increasing numbers of Southeast Asians are no longer content to allow environmental destruction to continue as it has in the recent past. ...
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