Contents - Previous - Next
This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
IV. The effects of national and international policies on renewable resource use
1. International economic impacts on developing
2. National development policies and their impacts on resource systems: the case of forestry
3. Implications for national development planning
Resource development takes place at four levels: within the international economic system; within national economies; within regions of individual countries; and within small group and household economies. Appropriate solutions to the problems of marginal areas, and of the poor living in them, can emerge only if it is recognized that all four levels are related, and if the relationships are taken into account in national policymaking and development planning in international assistance organizations.
It has become increasingly clear over the past two decades that the problems of individuals and groups living in marginal areas cannot be dealt with effectively if their social reference groups - usually the family and village are not well understood. Household and community economies are often intimately related, in turn, to conditions of the natural environment within regions. Regional economic structures and especially the organization of production, processing, marketing and distribution - and the settlement patterns within a geographical area shape the interactions among households and communities. Similarly, regional problems cannot be analyzed effectively in isolation; they are often the result of, or are affected by, national development policies and programmes. And national development policies are, in turn, influenced by prevailing international economic and political trends. At each level, moreover, policies and decisions are shaped by past levels and patterns of physical infrastructure investment, indigenous organizational and institutional characteristics, and sociocultural factors. These factors determine the characteristics of the actual resource system at each level, the types of resource system interactions that take place, the linkages among households, communities, regions and nations, and the potential for using resources more effectively to promote human development (see Figure 6, page 40).
Although it is rarely possible to describe, analyze and control all of these interactions to influence resource development, planning at one level is not realistic unless it considers the potential effects and impacts at other levels. In the absence of the ability to plan and control comprehensively, strategic planning and incremental transformation depend on a better understanding of resource systems at each level and the most important interactions within and among them.
The complexity and multiplicity of relationships among international, national, regional and household resource systems are often not perceived by planners and policy makers or taken into consideration in policy-making when they are perceived. But the failure to understand and attempt to deal with the most critical relationships in development policy-making can lead to adverse consequences for the poorest groups and for marginal regions of developing countries that can ultimately be detrimental to the development of the entire nation. As was noted in Chapter 2, developing nations often incur large opportunity costs from their failure to design development policies so that potentially new and more productive uses of resources can be found that will increase the income of those people who had previously been by-passed by economic growth.
In this chapter, the complex and interacting effects of international policies on national resource use in developing countries are illustrated. One of the most influential forces in the international economy- rapid increases in energy prices - on national and regional development is examined, and the impact of petroleum operations on one sector of the environment - marine waters - is described. Potentially adverse effects of national development policies that are not based on a thorough understanding of the interactions within resource systems can be seen in the forest exploitation policies of many developing countries in Southeast Asia, and are discussed in the second part of this chapter.
1. International economic impacts on developing countries
1.1.Increasing petroleum costs
1.2.Pollution of marine waters by petroleum hydrocarbons
The gloomy international economic environment prevailing as the world entered the 1980s will have its most crucial impact on the lives of poor people in developing nations, particularly on those inhabiting marginal areas. Two principal and partly connected factors have led to the deteriorating international economy: the rising price of petroleum and domestic inflation in industrialized countries. The increasing costs of energy - especially petroleum - have limited the ability of developing countries to expand their economies, and the petroleum industry has often had adverse effects on their resource systems, especially their marine waters.
1.1.Increasing petroleum costs
In 1980, the real price of oil was about 80 per cent higher than in 1978, leading to current account deficits of more than US$60 billion in oil-importing countries. Moreover, it can be anticipated that the real price of energy will continue to increase during the 1980s despite gluts and price declines at the beginning of the decade. This situation raises serious concern about the ability of the international financial system to recycle enough funds to maintain past import levels and economic growth rates. Further, the adoption of strong measures to counter the widespread inflation that occurred in 1979 and 1980, partly as a consequence of higher oil prices, caused a slow-down in the growth rate of the industrialized economies and thus a decreased demand for developing country exports, particularly for primary commodities. Thus, the outlook for capital flows, and especially for international assistance funds, to the poorest nations has worsened consider ably1.
Notwithstanding the tense and continuing debate over appropriate strategies for developing countries, there is general agreement on the need to raise growth rates. There is little reason to doubt the World Bank's conclusion that "the world will reap great benefits from rapid growth. Without it, hundreds of millions of very poor people will live and die with little or no improvement in their lot. Many developing countries will find it hard to maintain political stability." Clearly, developing countries themselves will have to overcome many of the formidable obstacles to rapid growth, "but through their policies on trade, aid and other capital flows, the industrialized countries and capitalsurplus oil exporters have a striking impact on how much the developing countries can accomplish. Much will depend on the degree of international cooperation - which at present threatens to fall short of what is needed."2 A sustained recovery of the world economy and the course of development in the poorest countries during the first half of the 1980s will hinge to a large extent on international policies for energy, trade, and capital flows.
For the foreseeable future, rising petroleum prices will remain a central concern for oil-importing developing countries. An estimated 50 per cent of the energy consumed in the poorer, oil-importing countries is derived from such sources as fuelwood or dung, and at present those countries account for only some 13 per cent of the world's use of commercial energy. But as the economies of the oil-importing developing countries expand, so too will the reliance on commercial energy. Estimates indicate that by 1990 those countries will account for 17 per cent of total world commercial energy consumption and that their use of commercial energy will increase by more than 80 per cent during the present decade, compared with an average GNP growth of about 70 per cent. In most developing countries there are few prospects for curbing the growth of demand for energy (except for non-essential or inequitable uses). Clearly great emphasis must be placed on developing alternative sources of energy to reduce the reliance on imports, and there is an urgent need to increase low cost supplies of energy to the poor in marginal areas.
Policies for international trade are of major importance to the development of marginal areas, since trade is a principal means of promoting economic growth and is essential to attracting international capital. Solutions to the problems in developing countries caused by international commerce are largely in the hands of the industrialized countries, since primary commodities. excluding fuels, exported to industrialized countries constitute about 55 per cent of the merchandise exports of developing countries. Growth of these exports has approximately paralleled the growth rate of GNP in industrialized nations.
But few decisions regarding their primary exports can be made in most developing countries. For example, their agricultural export sector is tied closely to transnational corporations through direct investment, production agreements, marketing structures and other links Such relationships influence and limit ". . . the options of decisionmaking in agrarian reform and rural development, and [have] a special bearing on problems of land use, agricultural wages and ecological preservation."3 Moreover, income from agricultural and other primary resource exports to industrial countries limits domestic capital available for investment in rural development. Similarly, decisions regarding levels of industrial processing or primary products can seldom be made in a developing country alone, since, typically, industrial countries impose little or no tariffs on unprocessed primary products whereas tariffs often rise progressively and to high levels depending on the degree of processing. This inhibits rural and other forms of industrialization in developing countries. Further, freight charges set by international "conferences" of shipping countries tend to discriminate against processed products compared with the cost of transporting raw materials; and the location of processing activities is not uncommonly decided by the needs of transnational corporations rather than by those of the producing country.
Capital flows to developing countries ". . . will be determined by savings and investment behaviour in the industrialized countries and the capital-surplus oil exporters - and specifically on how much of their savings they choose to invest in the developing world".4 Developing country capital needs are usually met by private financial aid from official (both concessional and market) sources. In the 1980s the poorer developing countries will encounter restrictive monetary policies and regulations and increased competition for loans from private commercial banks, and such loans will bear higher rates of interest than hitherto. Private direct investment by industrialized countries in the developing world will also probably slow in the 1980s, in large part owing to international political problems and to the still-unresolved conflicts over the activities of transnational corporations. Since the outlook for private capital flows during the early 1980s is uncertain, greater emphasis will be placed on official agencies to finance the needs of developing nations, and official aid flows will be determined largely by the economic performance of the industrialized nations and on the expediency of their expanding foreign assistance while simultaneously curtailing domestic expenditures. But the international institutions are increasingly hampered in providing assistance to developing nations by a shortage of financial resources.
TABLE 1. Impacts of Marine Engineering and Petroleum Industry on Natural Resources
|Activity||Environmental Impact||Principal Types of Pollutants||Impact on Linked Resource Systems|
|Placement of structures on seabed||Disturbance of habitats through introduction of solid objects and construction activities from bottom sediments||Increased turbidity through disturbance of bottom sediments||Impairment of small-craft navigation If structures occupy critical sites can disrupt population dynamics (e.g., spawning) or destroy|
|Release of toxic materials shellfish beds|
|Alteration of local currents and sediment transport regime|
|Drilling and fluid extraction||Physical and chemical alteration of habitat||Chemical toxicants||Principal impact is on fisheries:|
|Physical obstacles||Lethal (Usually acute exposure):|
|Spills of crude oil or refined products||Destruction of coral reefs (and increased danger to formerly protected coasts)||Fouling||Toxicity, smothering and clogging causes death of organisms;|
|Deballasting of tankers||Chronic toxicity, interference with breeding and reproduction; abnormal growth and behaviour; susceptibility to predation; interference with chemical communication;|
|Washing ship tanks|
|Domestic, storm drain and river discharges|
|Atmospheric transport|| Long and protracted recolonization and restoration of habitat;|
|Changes in population size and distribution within individual fish species; species composition change within given areas;|
| Tainting and contamination of fish.|
1.2.Pollution of marine waters by petroleum hydrocarbons
Another impact of international energy policies and of the development strategies of some countries on resource systems within developing nations is illustrated by the pollution of marine waters by petroleum hydrocarbons (see Table 1).
The pollution of marine waters by petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) from man-made sources is now of worldwide concern. However, assessment of the seriousness of pollution from this source is hampered by several severe problems. Chemical analysis, for example, becomes exceedingly difficult since crude oils are composed of tens of thousands of different compounds and because the composition of crude oil varies according to its source. Moreover, PHCs also enter the environment naturally, from seepages. Further, since no generally accepted assay techniques have been developed, few analyses of the petroleum content of marine waters have been made. General and tentative ideas, however, have emerged regarding the impact of how levels of PHC pollution on marine life.
The principal route of entry of PHCs into the marine environment occurs during their transportation and related activities. This includes tanker operational discharges, drydock discharges, as well as those that occur during routine loading and unloading operations. Discharge of PHCs also occurs as a consequence of tanker and non-tanker accidents and during routine refinery and terminal operations. Crude oil enters the marine environment as a result of accidents to off-shore wells, drilling sites and submarine pipelines. PHCs originating from motor vehicle and aircraft emissions enter marine waters via the atmospheric flux, rain washout and air-sea interactions. Petroleum and petroleum products flow into coastal waters from the municipal waste of coastal cities and in the effluents of industries located in coastal sites. Urban run-off via storm drains and rivers also contains considerable quantities of PCHs deposited in cities as a result of human activities. Finally, PCHs enter coastal water in association with the silt load borne by rivers.
The biological consequences of PCH pollution on the tropical marine environment are difficult to assess, since research in tropical seas has produced few and scattered data, which are of little value for assessment. The biological impact of oil on the marine environment demands special study since knowledge derived from temperate waters cannot be applied directly to the tropics.
Crude petroleum and its derivatives are complex mixtures of hydrocarbons and substituted hydrocarbons.
Moreover, the chemical composition of oil from different regions varies considerably and hence has a different impact on the environment. The stability, volatility, toxicity and susceptibility of oil to biological decomposition depends on its chemical structure. These and other characteristics do not operate independently of each other. In general, the low-boiling aromatic fraction is the most harmful to organisms; thus if petroleum remains on the surface of tropical waters for more than several hours evaporation will eliminate much of the toxicity. Severe biological damage occurs only when an organism is immediately exposed or when fresh oil is incorporated into sediments, as when a spill occurs over a shallow sandy or muddy bottom during stormy conditions, for example, which favours rapid mixing with the sediments. When oil mixes with sediments, the toxicity is long-persistent since it degrades extremely slowly in oxygen-poor environments. 6
Effluents from refineries and petrochemical plants, oil ports and coastal oil fields cause long-term, low-level contamination. Such continuous discharges may have qualitatively different consequences than do single, massive deposits of oil, particularly since stress on organisms will not result from PHCs alone because such waste waters contain relatively high concentrations of phenols, ammonia and salts, including those of heavy metals. Bleedwater from oil fields, for example, may be three times more saline than seawater and the ratios of important ions may be reversed.7 Invariably, oil refineries and oil ports are surrounded by industrial complexes and large urban populations that also discharge large volumes of waste.
Commonly, all these chronic sources of oil pollution act on inshore waters that are subject to extreme fluctuations of temperature and salinity. Potential or actual pollution occurring in coastal waters has much more serious biological consequences when combined with other pollutants or natural environmental stress.8
Although certain organisms might not be damaged even by direct contact with oil, other activities of the oil industry can have a considerable impact on inshore fisheries. For example, diesel oil added to well-drilling mud causes tainting in fish; canalization for moving heavy equipment and for laying pipelines can lead to saltwater intrusion and other effects; and the elimination of extensive bottom areas by physical obstructions and other disturbances of topography can cause considerable local changes in species composition of ecosystems.
The degree of ecological damage occurring in any given area as a consequence of PHC pollution depends mainly on the kind of oil spilled, the proximity of the spill to the shoreline, the configuration of the shore, the character of the bottom, and the weather at the time of the spill. The most sensitive organisms to pollution are eggs and larvae which occur in the topmost layers of the sea. The next most sensitive are benthic invertebrates since they live in conditions where oil can mix with sediments and be long persistent. The inter-tidal zone is also susceptible to heavy deposits of oil, and organisms living there are usually smothered with thick layers of weathered oil.
Despite the resistance of some organisms owing to their adaptation to short-term exposure to the atmosphere, the susceptibility of the biota of the inter-tidal zone and reef fiats to oil pollution is probably greater than that of any other marine or estuarine community, since at low tide oil comes into intimate contact with the organisms. However, the dominant species are short-lived and therefore recovery of the community should be fairly rapid. But species composition may be changed; original algal communities, for example, may be replaced by blue green species.9 Moreover, in much of Southeast Asia the biological resources of these zones are of the utmost economic importance to subsistence communities, particularly the fish species and seaweeds gathered at low tide. Shallow coral communities are also important nursery grounds for fish. A large number of valuable Southeast Asian seaweeds are known to be of high to moderate susceptibility to PHC pollution.10 Corals, however, are not damaged unless exposed to air and oil simultaneously.11 Mangroves appear to be unusually susceptible to oil pollution, but they are known to recover.
Oil can be carried to considerable depths in the water column and deposited in sediments and then redisbursed in the column, thereby affecting organisms as much as 20 m below the surface.12 This coincides with the bulk of Southeast Asian fisheries, which are conducted in waters no more than 20 m deep. Finally. concentration of hydrocarbons on the water surface might inhibit photosynthesis of marine phytoplankton.
The impacts of international and national petroleum industry development policies on natural resources are clearly visible in Southeast Asia. The greatest impact of actual and potential pollution from this source in Malaysia is in the inshore and estuarine waters of the Strait of Malacca. This Strait, one of the world's busiest and most hazardous waterways, is navigated by an estimated 150 ships per day, and an estimated average of 700,000 tons of crude oil is passing through it daily. The Strait of Malacca is particularly treacherous because of the volume of traffic that uses it and its geographical peculiarities. In general it is narrow, and critically so at several points, particularly in the waters around Singapore. Moreover its tides and currents are difficult to negotiate and sand waves form on the muddy bottom at several points. Defects in charts and the scarcity and poor maintenance of navigation aids makes transit a trying task, particularly in periods of heavy monsoon rain As a consequence, ship collisions are relatively frequent in these waters; 10 of the 1974 world total of 77 occurred there, for example.13
Certain parts of the Indonesian coast are particularly susceptible to severe ecological damage as a consequence of PHC pollution. The waters between the Spermonde Islands and Madura, where milkfish are thought to spawn and the fry reach the coast, is of special concern since it is the only domestic source of supply of Chanos chanos fry to the extensive tambak (brackish water fish pond) areas. The tambak themselves are of concern since the system is particularly sensitive to pollution. Without an abundant growth of algae to generate oxygen, high temperatures in the relatively shallow ponds would cause very low oxygen levels and lead to fish kills. A surface oil film entering on the tide could reflect light and thereby inhibit photosynthesis such that oxygen production is reduced dangerously. Moreover, even were this not a problem it is known that the growth of certain marine phytoplankton is inhibited by oil.14
The long-term consequences for man of the depletion of fisheries and other marine resources is a matter of conjecture, as the gradual and widespread effects of longlasting sub-toxic levels of pollution are still only vaguely perceived. But there are numerous examples of the impact of localized and major incidents of pollution that have had immediate consequences.
Most widespread is general interference with inshore fishing operations. The rearrangement of bottom topography and the other effects by sea-mining or dredging operations or acute toxicity from other sources that destroys local fish populations, causes distributional changes in fishstocks. Catches are reduced when fish are no longer concentrated and when fishermen are presented with an unfamiliar distribution of their target species or when species of little economic value enter as replacement stock. Although changes in the character of the sea bottom and its flora and fauna owing to disturbance or the deposition of fine sediments may be regarded as a relatively insignificant form of pollution in terms of regional productivity, locally they may be of the utmost importance to many small communities that depend heavily on fishing. If dredging for sand or gravel affects the seasonal aggregation of fish for spawning or feeding on particular grounds, it may critically reduce the catching efficiency of small groups of fishermen who have been accustomed to relying on these areas as part of their seasonal fishing pattern. Alternative and equally productive grounds may not be available either for biological, physical or socioeconomic reasons, or may be inaccessible to the traditional vessels and gear involved. The altered sea bottom topography, especially as results from digging pits, dumping boulders, or placin permanent structures, may seriously restrict the local use of trawls, seines, long lines, set nets. lobster pots and other bottom gear, and may seriously impede nearshore navigation. Major oil spills can also spell temporary economic disaster for entire communities or sectors of a local economy, as catches decline, when fish migrate to avoid the polluted area, or when fishermen cease fishing to avoid fouling their gear. In addition to outright fish kills, pollution can cause serious economic losses through blemishes and tainting of catches, although the extent of such losses is difficult to evaluate owing to inadequate documentation.
The relationship between the consumption of polluted fish and human health is becoming more widely established. Filter-feeding molluscan shellfish concentrate bacteria and viruses, such as hepatitis, typhoid, dysentery and cholera, present in untreated discharges of human sewage, along with other particulate materials. The consumption of contaminated shellfish may cause enteric infections, and the transmission of infectious hepatitis through the consumption of raw shellfish contaminated by sewage is well-documented. The consumption of fish from relatively enclosed waters adjacent to the sites of heavy industry has led to disastrous health problems. A particular culprit is methyl mercury which has a high mammalian toxicity and produces nervous disorders and death at low levels of dietary intake.
2. National development policies and their impacts on resource systems: the case of forestry
The degree to which resource systems are linked at the different levels depicted in figure 3-6, and the impacts of inappropriate national development policies or of those that fail to take potentially adverse impacts into account can be seen in the deforestation of large parts of Southeast Asia (see Table 2).
TABLE 2. Impacts of Commercial Forestry on Resource Systems
|On Soils:||Sediment||Creates access
and opportunities for
shifting cultivation and "artisanal
|Accelerated erosion and landslides||Sawdust, bark, logs|
nutrients and other forms of
|Irregularity of freshwater supply||Impoverishment
of resource base for
hunting and gathering (economic
complements of small-scale
chemical, biological and
|Reduced interception of rainfall||Loss of
potential resource systems
(e.g., pharmaceuticals based on
|Reduced streamflow in dry season|
|Increased run-off in wet season||Forest plants)|
disruption and water
|Altered aquatic habitats (e.g., changed|
regime, increased BOD and COD may
affect riverine and in-shore fisheries)
|Reduction of total biomass|
|Direct physical damage||Flash-floods and landslides damage|
|Reduction of disease and pest resistance||Downstream resource systems by|
|Habitat destruction||Waters and heavy siltation|
|Changed species composition||Droughts and
water shortages affect
Irrigation systems, reservoir levels,
and domestic and industrial water
|Loss of gene pools|
increase in those deleterious to
humans, animals and vegetation
|Accelerated siltation of reservoirs and damage to HEP plants|
|Chemical residues may be deleterious to downstream resource systems|
Source: Derived from K Ruddle and W Manshard, Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment, Dublin: Tycooly International Publishing Ltd and United Nations University, 1981
Most of Southeast Asia is dominated by forest, with mangrove forests fringing the coasts, tropical moist forests blanketing the lowlands and montane forests covering the uplands. A large percentage of the forests in their region is composed of species of the family Dipterocarpaceae, which contains economically valuable timber trees. Although disturbed since the advent of Neolithic man and long cleared for intensive, irrigated rice production in the best-suited areas, Southeast Asian forests have been exploited intensively on a commercial basis only for the last two centuries. This was done first under colonial economic regimes and subsequently by the national governments, seeking from this abundant, readily available and economically valuable natural resource, together with other important primary export commodities such as minerals, to finance the enormous costs of developing their newlyindependent nations.
About 302 million hectares, or 67 per cent of the total land area of Southeast Asia has a hypothetical climax vegetation of humid tropical forests. This represents approximately 20 per cent of the estimated world total of 1,600 million hectares that could support this vegetation type. As of the mid-1970s, the area actually covered by such forests was an estimated 187 million hectares, or 41.7 per cent of the land area, and 31.8 per cent of the estimated potential climax area (Sommer, 1976).16 The estimated area affected by forest exploitation increased from 0.4-4.1 million hectares in 1964 to 1.0-2.7 million hectares in 1973; an increase of 144.3 per cent in just 10 years. 17
The forest ecosystems of Southeast Asia are being disturbed and degraded at an accelerating rate as a consequence of three principal human activities: repeated, selective harvesting of timber trees without reforestation, followed by illegal colonization by smallscale farmers who enter the area along the logging roads; clear-felling for largescale agricultural or urban-industrial development and for monocultural replanting of formerly forested areas with quicker-growing timber species; and forest clearance for colonization and either permanent or temporary systems of agriculture, including shifting cultivation, historically a major factor in modifying these forests. In Kampuchea, Laos and Vietnam protracted warfare has also had a devastating effect on forests over more localized areas.18 Although these changes have had impacts of varying severity and longevity, and their effects on the value of the forests differ considerably, many national development policies result in the complete destruction of large tracts of forest and the serious impoverishment of soils.
Although it contains the world's largest biomass and its total primary productivity is greater than in any other region, the net primary production of the moist tropical forest is only slightly in excess of that of the temperate zone forests, owing to a lower proportion of useable stem wood and to much greater losses through respiration and biological deterioration.19 But on the other hand, the moist tropical forest yields a much wider range of economically and nutritionally valuable products in addition to timber than does the temperate forest, including an immense variety of fruits, nuts, leaves, flowers, resins, gums, fungi, animal protein, insect products, drugs and other commodities.
Timber is the single most-important resource of the moist tropical forest, and of this fuelwood is the most important commodity, with approximately 80 per cent of all timber extracted in the tropics being used to satisfy some 90 per cent of domestic fuel needs.20 In many areas the rate of exploitation seriously exceeds the rate of growth.
Traditionally, timber has been exported from the developing countries as logs that are processed in the industrialized nations, and roundwood still comprises 70 per cent of the volume equivalent of tropical timber exports. Moreover, only a few species are demanded by the industrial timber markets, resulting in vast waste and massive damage to the tropical forests. More broadlybased removal of timber would not only reduce this waste and damage but would also increase the resources available to developing nations.
Contents - Previous - Next