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Part I - The driving forces of change

1. The dimensions of environmental change and management in the south-east Asian region
2. Population growth in south-east Asia: Pushing the limits
3. Industrialization and urbanization in south-east Asia
Development problems and the environment
4. Energy and mineral development: Environment and economics
5. The onslaught on the forests in south-east Asia
Notes on co-operative management
In defence of south-east Asia


THE papers forming the basis of the five chapters in Part I were all presented on the first day in Yogyakarta. Their purpose was to establish some of the main issues that must underlie planning for a sustainable environmental future in the region. Population and economic growth go hand in hand as forces that make it extremely difficult to manage the regional environment, and to give management high priority, even without any complications arising from global climatic change. All 1991 indications were, as Kamal Salih notes in his comments, that this region may experience some of the highest rates of economic growth in the world during the 1990s. During this decade, parts of South-East Asia may decisively move into a class that might come to be described as the 'newly developed countries', even though substantial pockets of underdevelopment will certainly remain well into the twenty-first century.

A constraint on progress is the continued high rate of population growth; a slowing of these rates has been less than was hoped and expected. It is a major achievement that food production, in the region as a whole, has more than kept pace with population growth, but there is a cost in growing consumption of available water resources, in chemicalization together with all its side-effects, and in heavier use of uplands with all their sensitivity to erosion.

Furthermore, population is being substantially redistributed by urbanization and industrialization, as well as by a large, unquantified volume of temporary and illegal migration between countries. Three of the emerging megacities of the developing world are in this region, as well as a growing number of smaller cities with populations of a million or more. Many smaller towns are also growing fast, and throughout large rural areas, there has been a major increase in the availability of off-farm employment.

While urbanization creates huge environmental problems of its own, it is beginning to take some of the pressure off agricultural land. Unfortunately, a large part of the national revenues which finance industrialization and the provision of infrastructure has been derived from the massive exploitation of natural resources, and this practice continues in the early 1990s. It is most clearly expressed in the 'onslaught on the forests', which has become a major issue internationally as well as regionally. It is also embodied in the rapid growth of mineral exploitation and this, together with burgeoning energy consumption due to development and urbanization, creates a whole new set of environmental consequences. South-East Asia already finds itself, uncomfortably, being said to be a significant emitter of greenhouse gases into the global atmosphere, albeit thus far mainly from deforestation and wet-rice agriculture.

These are the issues raised and reviewed by the authors of these five chapters and by their discussants. Chapter 1, by Brookfield, is written from the keynote paper delivered at the conference. It seeks both to generalize about the wider regional changes, and to analyse the fundamental causes of environmental mismanagement and the basic problems that lie in the way of improvement. Chapter 2, by Concepcion, summarizes the demographic condition of the region and its countries, and discusses some of the harmful environmental consequences of population growth. Jones, in Chapter 3, surveys industrial progress and rapid urbanization. These three chapters are followed by a hard-hitting statement by Kamal Salih, linking economic and environmental policies.

The two remaining chapters in Part I address specific issues of resource use. Clark, in Chapter 4, presents an alarming picture of the future for energy and mineral production in the region; his discussants sought to temper this alarm. Potter, in Chapter 5, reviews change and exploitation in the forests of the region, and discusses the methods of improved management. Comment on both these chapters is revealing of the sensitivities of a region enjoying rapid economic growth and excited at the prospect of more, in the face of what is seen to be biased criticism of its activities from the developed countries. Some discussants, however, share the alarm voiced in the chapters, and seek solutions to the problems.

1. The dimensions of environmental change and management in the south-east Asian region

Trends of the mid-1970s to 1980s
Some explanatory variables
Projecting trends into the future
The conditions of resource management in the region
The main environmental issues
The need for a new concept of common resources



TAKEN as a whole, the South-East Asian region is both the most populous and developed part of the Tropics and, moreover, has experienced by far the most rapid economic growth during the 1970s and 1980s. Within a region which, in its widest sense, embraces not only the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), but also Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Papua New Guinea (Figure 1.1), there is great differentiation in all these respects. There are sprawling megacities and some of the most densely populated and intensively used agricultural land in the world. At the same time, there remain, even now, extensive tracts of sparsely inhabited and unlogged rain forest. There are areas, both large and small, of economic stagnation and even retrogression, and there are other areas in which the economy, society and built landscape are undergoing a transformation that perceptibly changes their condition almost year by year. These changes take place in an environment that ranges from Equatorial to the limits of the Tropics, includes ancient and very recent landforms, and even ice-caps on the highest mountains (above 4 800 metres in Irian Jaya)-here at once is encountered one of the external dynamics considered in this book, for those ice-caps are shrinking fast.

The scope of this book is a very large one, and the potential scope is even wider than the one that has been drawn up. In this region of such rapid transformation, how is one to characterize modern interactions between growth, development and the environment? Then, more importantly, what is going to happen over the coming few years? Finally, and most importantly of all, how can management of these interactions be improved so that the prospect up to the year 2005 is both sustainable and adaptable to larger systemic changes that can already be foreseen?

By contrast with the scope of some environmental reviews, this one adopts the fairly limited time horizon of 15 years. It may seem short. However, if one thinks back to 1976 and realizes the amount of transformation that has taken place since then, it will be evident that, over such a time period, it is possible to foresee certain changes, though by no means all. If one goes further back to 1961, it becomes very clear that an attempt to forecast over a period of 30 years would be close to futile. The selection of such a limited period is an effort to anchor necessary speculation as closely as possible to realism.

FIGURE 1.1 The South-East Asian Region

This introductory or keynote chapter introduces some of the background of environmental problems and their management in the region, and emphasis is given to issues that are less fully covered in the chapters that follow. It begins with land-use change and economic performance, linking these because this is still a region basically dependent on the use of natural resources both for direct livelihood and for its export wealth. A review of land-use change, and then of some aspects of agricultural performance, focusing principal attention on the larger ASEAN countries, leads quite directly to some of the environmental issues. It will then be suggested that the rapid transformation of the boom period which peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s cannot be sustained on all fronts, so that the environmental problems of primary production will, for some time, continue to be of major importance even as urbanization continues and industrialization deepens. Turning finally to environmental issues themselves, these are not discussed seriatim, but an attempt is made to draw out certain common elements. In particular, it will be suggested that in both colonial and post-colonial times, the environment has been treated as an open-access common resource around private property, and that there is a need to develop the institutions of a managed commons. Most of these topics are pursued further, directly or indirectly, in the chapters that follow.

Trends of the mid-1970s to 1980s

The trends reviewed cover the limited span of the last 1(}15 years, and mainly used are some very imperfect international data sources which conceal as much as they reveal. The principal sources used are those collated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, supplemented by a few others (various issues of the FAO Production Yearbook, FAO Trade Yearhook, Far East and Australasia Yearbook and World Development Report). The notorious inadequacy of these sources can be offset to some degree by use of national data, but this is done only here and there. Since the immediately following chapters deal with population, urbanization and industrialization, it is appropriate here to review changes in land use and agricultural production since the late 1970s.

Notwithstanding the rapid growth of cities and industry, and the large but inadequately quantified expansion of off-farm employment in rural areas, agriculture continues to employ the most people in all the larger countries of the region and will continue to do so into the twenty-first century. The agricultural share of gross domestic product (GDP) is, however, declining in all regional countries, but at very different rates (Table 1.1). The decline is particularly rapid in Thailand where mineral and industrial production increased by over 60 per cent between 1985 and 1989. In Malaysia, the industrial sector gained 20 points in its percentage share of GDP between 1960 and 1988, and is now well ahead of agriculture; industrial exports now exceed agricultural exports. However, in spite of a remarkable growth in the electrical and electronics industries such that they have become principal generators of national exports (Bank Negara Malaysia, 1991), a major part of Malaysian manufacturing continues to be agro-based, wood-based or petroleum-based (Osman Rani and Haflah Piei, 1990). This is even more true of Indonesia (Hill, 1990). With the exception of Singapore, the economic health of the South-East Asian countries continues even in the early 1990s to depend primarily on production from their own resource.s-minerals, timber and agriculture; despite the industrial deepening now taking place, resource use remains basic.

TABLE 1.1 Share of Agriculture in GDP in Selected Countries in South-East Asia, 1978-1988 (per cent)

Year Malaysia Philippines Thailand Indonesia Myanmar Laosa PNGa
1978 25.0 26.5 27.5 29.9 46.1 40.0 n.a.
1979 24.5 25.3 25.8 28.9 46.0b 60.0 n.a.
1980 24.0 23.2 25.4 25.7 45.6 n.a. n.a.
1981 23.2 22.7 23.9 25.3 46.5 60.0 n.a.
1982 23.6 22.5 22.3 26.3 47.5 n.a. n.a.
1983 21.1 22.9 22.1 24.0 47.7 81.4 n.a.
1984 20.1 25.8 19.5 23.4 47.8 n.a. n.a.
1985 20.8 24.8 16.7 23.6 48.6 81.0 n.a.
1986 21.4 26.8 16.5 25.8 48.2 n.a. 34.0
1987 21.9 24.1 16.1 25.5 50.0 62.0 33.0
1988 21.1 23.0 16.9 24.0 46.2 62.5 34.6

Sources: Far East and Australasia "Annual).
a Figures from Far Eastern Economic Review Year hook (various years).
b Estimate.
n.a. = Not available.

Aggregated over the whole region, the changes in land use over this short period have not therefore been of a dramatic order (Figure 1.2), but none the less the proportion of the total regional land area stated to be under forest and woodland shrank from 61 per cent in 1973 to 55 per cent in 1988, with a trend suggesting that it may fall below 50 per cent by, or soon after, the year 2000. The fact of change is certainly much greater than this, for official data often maintain the area of forest without adjustment for several years, until new survey data become available. At regional level, there is little in the way of reliable data on the areas of forest that have been logged, though there are good surveys in Peninsular Malaysia, and inventory data will soon come to hand from much of Indonesia and some other areas. Much of the forest cover given as such in the national data has, from the air at low altitudes, the appearance of the back of a mangy dog. Even data based on satellite imagery do not distinguish at all well between undisturbed primary forest, logged or 'managed' forest and secondary forest areas, some of which have multiuse functions, and one study has bluntly suggested that such data are full of 'ambiguities and impossibilities' (Blasco and Achard, 1990). Moreover, the infrequency of cloud-free passes over the low-latitude Asian Tropics means that years of imagery may be required to produce one static map of a given large area such as Sumatra, Papua New Guinea or Borneo. Until, or unless, these problems can be resolved and the results compared through time, for purposes of regional generalization one has either to rely (with reservations) on data such as these or else use estimates of deforestation rates that on a global scale range from 70 000 to 200 000 square kilometres per year (FAO/UNEP, 1981; Myers, 1986; Train, 1988;Tyler, 1990). It is more than probable that much less than 33 per cent of the regional forest area-that is less than 15 or 16 per cent of the whole regional land area-still remains largely free from substantial ongoing human interference; ongoing because the amount of truly undisturbed primary forest is probably considerably smaller than is often stated in the modern literature.

Unlike what has happened in the American Tropics, however, there is no expansion in the very small area of permanent pasture, consistent at 3.3 per cent of the whole. Land under crop, both annual and permanent, has expanded quite slowly from 14 to 16 per cent, though the official data seem to lag behind observable reality. More of the statistically recognized expansion has been in a rag-bag category termed 'other land use' now occupying 26 per cent. Of this category, a high proportion must certainly be in land taken up for human settlement, but some degraded land and national parks must also be included. Moreover, it is clear that land is classified differently in some countries. Over 90 per cent of urbanized Singapore is in this category, and this is credible. Less explicably, however, 50 per cent of Vietnam and Brunei, and about 33 per cent of Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar are under 'other land use'.

FIGURE 1.2 Regional Land Use as Percentage of Total Land Area, 1973- 1988

Within the region, there is sharp differentiation in trends, and even within a country. The slow change in the total forest area is seen to be dominated by the reported constancy of forest cover in Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Cambodia. In Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos, more than 50 per cent of the land was recorded as under forest in 1988. Even on the basis of the FAO data, there have been steep reductions over the 15-year period in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, while other studies record much greater losses. Thus, in the Philippines, about 70 per cent of the country was forested at the end of the Spanish period and 57 per cent in 1934, but by 1969 the forest area had fallen to only about 35 per cent and by 1988 to 21.5 per cent (Bautista, 1990). Timber production, which peaked between 1967 and 1975, is now only 33 per cent of the former level (Boado, 1988). Moreover, only 15 per cent of the remaining forested area was of the valuable 'old-growth dipterocarp', once the dominant type but which in 1988 occupied only about 20 per cent of its 1969 area (Bautista, 1990). In Vietnam, a reduction of from 48 to 24 per cent of the country under forest was recorded between 1943 and 1983 (Le Trong Cuc, 1989). The recent decline in Thailand has been even more dramatic, the forested area falling from 53 per cent of the country in 1961 to only 29 per cent in 1985 (Arbhabhirama et al., 1988). All these sources suggest more rapid loss than does Figure 1.3.

A comparison of the forest cover of Peninsular Malaysia between 1972 and 1981 (Figures 1.4a, 1.4b) shows clearly the scale of transformation that has taken place. The peninsula's forests have been greatly reduced by large-scale land-settlement schemes in this period, as well as by selective logging, which has extended over huge additional areas in that one decade, making deep inroads into the largest remaining block of primary forest in the peninsula. Further encroachment took place between 1981 and 1991, especially in the north and east, but may now have reached its limits, as land development by the principal government agency was halted in that year, costs having exceeded the returns from new settlements achieved (Government of Malaysia, 1991 a). Data of comparable quality are also available for a few other areas of South-East Asia, including a part of eastern Borneo, where perhaps the best use of remote-sensing data so far achieved in the region has been undertaken (Malingreau, Tucker and Laporte, 1989). For most areas, however, only much more generalized maps are available.

It has already been noted that the international data are variable in their information on the fate of wholly deforested land. However, some comparative trends of significance are revealed in broad terms. Arable land has increased sharply only in Thailand, where it has risen from 31 to 39 per cent of the whole (Figure 1.5). The small area under permanent crops in Vietnam has almost doubled, but the arable area has declined since 1978. The small increase in Malaysia is not easily explicable, since in Peninsular Malaysia most modern clearance has been for agriculture, so that by the official landuse surveys the agricultural area of the peninsula increased from 21 to 35 per cent of the whole between 1966 and 1982, an increase of 68 per cent in 16 years (Brookfield, 1993; Brookfield and Byron, 1990). The definition of arable land should include temporary fallow, hence giving great scope for variable interpretation between countries and through time; this problem has to be borne in mind in all measures based on the stated arable area. The problem is particularly acute in data for Papua New Guinea, which is shown as having only 0.07 per cent of its area in arable land. Yet survey data derived from air photography in the 1970s show 0.5 per cent in current arable, and if all fallow land-use types are added, together with permanent crops, the proportion rises to 6.6 per cent. An alternative basis of estimating mean per capita use of land plus fallow on a mean 10-year cycle, and adding permanent crops, would yield a figure of 5.6 per cent (R. L. Hide, personal communication).

FIGURE 1.3 Areas under Forest and Woodland as Percentage of Total Land Area by Country. 1973-1988

FIGURE 1.4a Forest Cover of Malaysia, Generalized from Forest Inventory Data , 1972

FIGURE 1.4b Forest Cover of Malaysia, Generalized from Forest Inventory Data. 1981

FIGURE 1.5 Arable Land and Permanent Crops as Percentage of Total Land Area by Country, 1973-1988

Despite these data problems, it is probably correct that the actual expansion of arable land in most parts of the region has been relatively small in the last 15 years. This has significance in relation to the rapid population growth discussed in Chapter 2. During this same period, the food needs of growing numbers of people have been met, and without reliance on large volumes of imported food. In important lowland areas, great improvements in yield have been achieved, and there has been significant intensification of cropping. However, this is not true everywhere, and it is not true in most of the many upland parts of South-East Asia. A shortening of fallow periods has been noted in several of these upland areas, with potentially serious consequences for sustainability of production and environment.

Major improvements in yields of cereal crops-overwhelmingly rice- have been created by the Green Revolution, so that growth of production has ceased to depend mainly on increases in agricultural area. Multiple cropping has also expanded and, because of it, the harvested area has enlarged more rapidly than the arable area. The area harvested for cereals (Figure 1.6) exhibits a marked upward trend over the 12 years 1978-89, with an increase of 13 per cent; production has meanwhile increased by 53 per cent. However, technology has not rendered output immune to the vagaries in rainfall. The dry-season harvested rice area in Central Thailand fell by almost 50 per cent from the wet year 1979 to the drought year 1980. Aggregated over the region, the trend in area harvested exhibits principal breaks in its upward trend in 1982 and 1987. These were years of drought related to the El Niņo Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in large and important parts of the South-East Asian region, and the data show the significance of these episodic events, discussed by Nicholls in Chapter 7.

There are some sharp contrasts between national trends, which were in some cases influenced by political events. Thus, in Cambodia both area harvested and production fell by about 40 per cent between 1978 and 1979, and in Myanmar production as well as area harvested have stagnated through most of the 1980s. Philippine production increased sharply between 1983 and 1986, but the progress has not been sustained.

Over the region as a whole, the area harvested for rice increased by 14 per cent between 1978 and 1989 with breaks in growth only in 1982 and 1987; production increased by 52 per cent, with a break in growth only in 1987. Thailand and Indonesia together accounted for 69 per cent of regional production in 1989. Whereas Thai area and production expanded respectively by 24 and 22 per cent over the 12 years, or by 35 per cent from 1979, Indonesian area was up by only 15 per cent, but production by 69 per cent (Figure 1.7). In the early 1970s, farmers in Central Thailand required five times the land needed in an intensively farmed pan of Central Java to obtain an equal crop (Barker and Anden, 1975). By 1989, the mean yield for all Indonesia was more than twice that of Thailand. During this period, Indonesia changed from being the world's largest importer of rice to being self-sufficient. In Thailand, there was much less adoption of new varieties and associated methods, in part because of inadequate control over irrigation and rain-water in both wet and dry seasons, and in part because of less intensive farming practices on larger holdings. These problems were recognized early, but have persisted (Arbhabhirama et al., 1988; Sris-wasdilek, Adulavidhaya and Isvilanonda, 1975). In terms of future management, they have important implications.

There was also a spectacular increase in rice productivity in Vietnam, though from a lower base in terms of yield; a production rise of 80 per cent was achieved against an area increase of only 7 per cent. The Philippines achieved 31 per cent growth in rice production with only 13 per cent increase in the area harvested. Malaysia, by contrast, expanded production by only 13 per cent, while the area harvested rose by 9 per cent; the best year was 1985, since when both area and production have declined. The ricefarming sector in Malaysia has consistently remained an area of relative poverty in a rapidly industrializing country, and over 900 square kilometres of irrigated land have gone out of production, partly due to hydrological problems, and partly because labour has been transferred to other parts of the economy (New Straits Times, 4 January 1991).

FIGURE 1.6 Area Harvested and Production of Cereals in the Region, 1978-1989

FIGURE 1.7 Area Harvested and Production of Rice in Thailand and Indonesia, 1978-1989 (semi-logarithmic scale)

TABLE 1.2 FAO Index of Per Capita Agricultural Production by Country a in South-East Asia. 1979-1990 ( 1979-81 = 100)

Year Malaysia Philippines Thailand Indonesia Vietnam PNG Cambodia Laos Myanmar
1979 97.99 98.22 97.38 94.57 96.00 99.32 82.78 89.62 95.76
1980 100.91 100.37 100.23 100.86 101.82 100.93 113.25 101.38 98.86
1981 101.10 101.41 102.39 104.57 102.19 99.76 103.97 109.00 105.38
1982 105.26 99.14 102.16 100.92 106.69 98.14 116.65 107.14 112.88
1983 99.29 93.88 103.85 107.97 106.91 99.39 135.17 108.79 114.68
1984 109.15 89.89 105.08 113.39 110.29 99.21 145.81 117.96 119.23
1985 116.83 87.62 111.33 114.29 108.48 101.24 155.56 122.69 124.87
1986 117.78 88.26 101.56 121.26 113.69 97.08 153.40 121.44 122.78
1987 117.83 85.65 99.92 119.61 116.04 97.83 149.22 114.62 120.83
1988 123.69 85.38 107.03 122.42 116.40 97.44 166.85 109.60 111.09
1989 129.57 87.16 110.74 126.33 123.18 102.39 167.65 124.78 98.65
1990 132.66 87.05 102.85 127.23 127.10 99.24 164.48 129.61 102.91

The contrasts in agricultural change may be summarized by using the FAO index of all per capita agricultural productivity over 1978-89 (Table 1.2). The most remarkable growth is in Cambodia from its very low base, but this does not yet reflect high productivity. Among the larger countries, Indonesia and Vietnam exhibit parallel growth, and draw well ahead of Thailand; since 1984, Thailand has had a significantly lower share of GDP in agriculture than the other large regional countries. The per capita agricultural productivity of Papua New Guinea has stagnated while its mineral production has increased so as to completely dominate the national economy. The total productivity of Philippine agriculture has been almost stagnant or in decline since 1981 and that of Myanmar has dropped sharply since the mid-1980s. Especially in the latter half of the 1980s, however, the leader in real growth is Malaysia with its high dependence on export tree crops.

Exports of agricultural, forestry and fishing products distinguish the export-based rural economies of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia from the other regional countries. Deleting the re-exports of Singapore from the regional total, these three countries produced 79 per cent of all greater South-East Asia's non-mineral primary exports in 1978 and 87 per cent in 1990. Among other countries, only Vietnam shows a significant increase; the value of exports from the Philippines declined from 1980 to 1986, and there has since been only a small recovery. Myanmar and Papua New Guinea have also lately exported at below peak levels attained some years ago.

Some explanatory variables

To conclude the agricultural comparison, three important explanatory variables are presented. First, the amount of farmland per agricultural worker is greatly affected by the relationship which labour-intensive arable land bears to the more extensively worked permanent tree crops, but it is none the less a useful surrogate measure of agricultural intensity. Table 1.3 presents data for countries with a large agricultural sector, in which Malaysia stands out very clearly as having more than twice the regional mean area per worker and six times that of Vietnam. In Peninsular Malaysia, the agricultural work-force has remained static since the 1960s during which the agriculturally productive area has almost doubled, significantly reducing production intensity, and leading also to heavy dependence on illegal immigrants; inclusion of the latter, were data available, would reduce the high Malaysian value. In several countries, there has been a decline in the amount of land per worker since 1978 or 1983: the decline is seemingly indicative of greater intensification of production. It is tempting to read into this trend a clear and unambiguous index of growing pressure of the rural population on land resources, but to do so may be too simplistic. The change is less in Indonesia-where data are dominated by crowded Java-than in other countries, and the decline in area per worker has in fact been steepest of all in urbanized Singapore where it fell to 0.14 hectare per worker in 1988. This brings to mind the fact that new opportunities for intensive production created by the growing urban markets, and increasing division of labour, are also of significance.

TABLE 1.3 Farmland (Arable Plus Permanent Crops) per Agricultural Worker in South-East Asia, 1978, 1983 and 1988 (hectares)

Country 1978 1983 1988
Malaysia 2.19 2.10 2.17
Myanmar 1.38 1.37 1.20
Cambodia 1.22 1.61 1.16
Thailand 1.15 1.18 1.80
Philippines 0.96 0.83 0.77
Laos 0.68 0.63 0.67
Indonesia 0.65 0.62 0.62
Vietnam 0.40 0 37 0 35
PNG 0.31 0.31 0.32

Source: World Development Report (various years).

Secondly, there have been important increases in the irrigated proportion of arable and permanent cropland in all the major countries except Malaysia, but the highest proportions and principal increases are in Indonesia and Vietnam (Figure 1.8). In Indonesia, over 33 per cent of all agricultural land was irrigated by 1988, up from 25 per cent in 1973: and in Vietnam, 32 per cent was irrigated by 1988. In the Philippines and Thailand, the 1988 figures were 22 and 24 per cent respectively. The most rapid increase has in tact been in Laos: from 4 to 15 per cent between 1973 and 1988.

Irrigation is a major factor in increasing agricultural productivity, facilitating multiple cropping and the use of high-yielding varieties, and reducing loss from drought; there is little doubt that it will be pressed further to its economic limits. However, there is a downside: according to estimates made since the late 1980s, South-East Asia is now a major source of methane emissions into the atmosphere. Even though some of the best research done on carbon-dioxide (CO,) emission from land-use change-especially forest degradation-uses South-East Asian data, it would be surprising if the World Resources Institute (WRI, 1990) is right in its calculation that its deforestation and timbercutting rates put Indonesia alone into the same rank of CO, emitters as Japan. The data are simply not up to establishing such a devastating conclusion, especially while there remain great variations in estimates of the total contribution of tropical deforestation and forest degradation (Brown, Gillespie and Lugo, 1991; Houghton, 1991). However, the importance of multiple-crop, irrigated production of rice in South-East Asia makes it very likely that the regional atmospheric input of methane from the region as a whole is globally significant (Aselmann and Crutzen, 1989; Bouwman, 1990; Cicerone, 1989; Takai and Wada, 1990). Present bases of estimation rest mainly on extrapolation from a few mid-latitude sites, and can rightly be questioned, as they are indeed being questioned (for example, by Agarwal and Narain, 1991). None the less, the repeated inundation and cultivation of the low-latitude rice fields (sawah) suggest that South-East Asia may well turn out to be a disproportionately significant source of methane emission.

FIGURE 1.8 Area under Irrigation as Percentage of Arable and Permanent Cropland by Country, 1973-1988

The expansion of the irrigated area, however, may be approaching its limits, and there are growing problems due to the siltation of dams, and losses of irrigated land caused by silting of valleys and changing hydrological regimes below deforested areas. Moreover, the rising water demand of cities and industry is increasingly in competition with agricultural needs. The holding back of water to provide urban supplies is already leading to inadequate dry-season flow into the sea, resulting in some problems of salt-water intrusion. During ENSO years, especially 1991-2, water shortages have become a serious problem.

Finally, in a comparison made dubious by its reliance on the uncertain definition of 'arable land' (discussed above in relation to Figure 1.5), fertilizer consumption on cropland is both an explanatory variable and a cast forward into some discussions in later chapters. Surprisingly highest in Vietnam among the mainly agricultural countries at the end of the 1960s, fertilizer use has since been much heavier on arable land in Malaysia than in the other countries even more than in Indonesia with its major drive to increase fertilizer use since the late 1970s (Figure 1.9). It has remained extremely low in Thailand and has not increased in any consistent way in Vietnam. The figure for Papua New Guinea should be rejected, as it seems to depend on a more restricted definition of 'arable' in this country than in others; Papua New Guinea's fertilizer use on its arable land is probably more comparable with those of Laos and Cambodia, than that of Thailand. The general regional increase over the 19-year period is, nevertheless, a very notable feature of this graph. Together with the heavy use of herbicides and pesticides, this chemicalization indicates both a major change in farming practice and cause for serious concern because of the environmental consequences. Irrigation and chemicalization are measures of input intensification and, to some extent, of farm incomes; they help explain great differences in agricultural productivity. Thus, by far the highest level of fertilizer application within the region is on the tiny farmland area of mainly urban Singapore (not shown in Figure 1.9), where it is more than eight times that of Malaysia and so much higher than in other countries that the disparity can only be shown on a logarithmic graph.

This fact highlights the great differences in productivity within countries: for example, between the high-input, high-output systems of the core ricebowl areas of Java and all the rest of Indonesia; between central and eastern Indonesia almost as two separate wholes; between Kedah and the Cameron Highlands on the one hand and most of the rest of Malaysian arable land on the other; and between central Luzon and-at least until lately-the Mountain province, and most of the rest of the Philippines. So long as it is sustained, intensification of rural production can create agricultural systems that, in extreme cases such as those of Singapore and the market gardens on reclaimed tin-dredging sites around Kuala Lumpur, depend scarcely at all on the natural-resource base; elsewhere, the natural conditions of production can be greatly enhanced by artifice. Though initial siting of intensive production systems may, in most cases, be highly selective of suitable natural conditions, their further development and expansion depends on the social and economic conditions of production much more than on the quality of the site. It is important that this factor be noted carefully in projecting trends from present and recent patterns.

FIGURE 1.9 Fertilizer Consumption on Arable Land by Country, 1969-1988

Projecting trends into the future

What can be predicted about the future? The expansion of agricultural land use will certainly continue, but its limits are fast approaching. Moving into more remote and steeper areas, land clearance for settlement has already surpassed economic limits in Peninsular Malaysia, and is therefore close to being terminated. The yield in some transmigration areas in Indonesia is extremely poor, and their future is uncertain. The intensification of production can certainly be further enhanced in the region as a whole, but it is likely that increasing pressures will be placed on uplands where intensification, rather than further extension of the arable area, will soon be the only way forward. The reduction of fallow periods will, in the absence of other changes, soon lead to degradation in those areas still practicing landrotational systems of agriculture. With rapid growth of the urban population. and the emergence within the region of three of the world's megacities, the resource demands of industry and the towns will become increasingly pressing. In general, the South-East Asian region has since 1980 entered a period in which availability of natural resources will become more constrained. The view, current until the late 1980s, of South-East Asia as being abundant in resources is in the process of being discarded. During the 15 years up to 2005, a great deal will necessarily change, not least in the form and direction of the path of development itself. To this, the discussion now turns.

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