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Part IV - Selected issues: Peaces and people

13. Threatened places
Natural and human hazards
The tragedy of the open access
Threatened places: A regional view
14. On threatened peoples
Sustainability of indigenous socio-economic systems
15. Urban environmental issues in south-east Asian cities: An overview


THE last three substantive chapters, gathered together in this Part IV, also stem from papers which were given extended periods for presentation and discussion. They concern some of the problems of places and people, rather than issues. The three chapters are strongly contrasted in both content and approach, though all address questions of major importance: the vulnerability of places, the vulnerable people of the region, especially the tribal people, and the problems of the cities and their environmental management. Because of the breadth of each topic-which could not be captured in the space and time available in Yogyakarta-an extended editorial introduction is provided for this part of the book.

In their linked, but very different, papers, Morgan and Jefferson Fox seek to bring together a good deal of material from the preceding chapters focused on the themes of 'hazardousness of place' and the difficulties of managing common resources in a period of rapid change. Their papers, and Soemarwoto's important commentary, constitute the equivalent of almost three chapters, collectively offering a comprehensive review of diverse issues which come together around a common theme.

Morgan provides an overview of many of the natural hazards affecting the South-East Asian region, with an emphasis on the more extreme hazards of typhoons, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, and then goes on to discuss hazards of directly human origin, especially those related to inshore and coastal pollution, discussed earlier by E. D. Gomez (Chapter 12). This overview leads into a discussion of hazard management and response, drawing on a wide literature, the main empirical domain of which is in the developed countries. It raises the important question of the relative roles of local and national management of hazard avoidance and response, which thus links to Jefferson Fox's review of the breakdown of local-management systems for the use of commonproperty resources in the forests and fisheries.

Fox raises questions which lead indirectly to the following Chapter 14, linking the vulnerability of place with that of people. He recognizes the near-impossibility of sustaining traditional rules governing access to common resources under conditions of commercialization, technological change, and state control, which supports the privatization of resource use for the benefit of a much larger than local community. He argues, however, that joint national/ local management is, in the long run, the only way to secure sustainability.

In an extended comment, Soemarwoto calls attention to several other forms of natural and human-made hazards to life and welfare in the region, and also to future hazards arising from changes in the global environment. He offers examples of adaptation to change in management of both resources and certain hazards, but notes the severe pressures placed on these adaptations.

There is a common conclusion, and it echoes that of Hardjono: top-down approaches have severe limitations, while bottom-up approaches are unable to cope with the rate of demographic, social, economic and natural change. There is a major need for cooperation between the authorities and the people in developing truly flexible adaptive responses. There is also a most serious need for a better flow of information to the people, placing more trust in their judgement. Without these changes, none of the behavioural responses to hazard discussed by Morgan can have much relevance, nor can sustainable solutions be found to the disastrous breakdowns of local management and control discussed by Fox.

The stage is thus set for the distinctive Chapter 14 by Lian, himself a member of the Kenyah people who are divided between Sarawak and Kalimantan in Borneo. Lian, from far inland Sarawak, is the first of his people to study to doctorate level. His topic is the 'threatened peoples' of the region. After a wide introductory discussion, he concentrates on the tribal people, among a large group who include many rural and urban poor, and many of those whose livelihood is threatened by hazards, by the consequences of global environmental change and by resource degradation. Although he regards the tribal people as marginalized within the wider society, and is critical of the government agencies who seek to manage their 'development', his approach to the problems of the tribal people is unusual in the modern literature. Lian stresses their adaptability, and he will have no part of the widespread view that they are desperately clinging on to an ancient lifestyle in the face of a rapacious exploitation-one that threatens their very existence. Moreover, he does not regard traditional resource-management systems, dependent on low population density and lack of commercialization for success, as sustainable under modern conditions. His conclusion closely parallels that in Chapter 13: the way forward is to involve the tribal people in their own development, so as to achieve a dynamic 'marriage' of old and new.

Lian also draws attention to the plight of many urban squatters and to the unsanitary conditions in which they live. This theme is further stressed by Sham in Chapter 15 where, in dealing with urban environmental issues, he notes that the lack of services to the large squatter populations, together with their common location close to the rivers and channels, is a major cause of the severe pollution of urban waterways in almost all regional cities. The 'hazardousness of place' (Chapter 13) has particular meaning in the low-lying parts of the cities, both from the more frequent experience of flood, as well as the severe health hazard created by urban and industrial wastes.

Although urban problems are referred to in several earlier chapters, Chapter 15 is the only one in this book specifically concerned with the environmental problems of the urban areas which now hold between one-quarter and one-third of the whole regional population. There is a reason for this unbalanced treatment. The United Nations University has a major programme on the 'Implications of Demographic Change and Urbanization', of which the initial thrust has been on 'The Asian-Pacific Urban System: Towards the 21st Century'. With a series of meetings on these issues already in train at the time of the Yogyakarta meeting, it was decided to include only a single paper that was specifically on urban problems.

Sham, the author of Chapter 15, is a climatologist specializing in the problems of the urban atmosphere, on which he has published extensively, mainly from his work around Kuala Lumpur. A selection of his many papers is gathered together in Sham ( 1987); with the support of the UNESCO regional office, he has edited a series of monographs on the environmental problems of the Malaysian Klang Valley conurbation, using the ecosystem approach to integration which he advocates in this chapter. He deals with a much wider range of urban environmental problems than those of the atmosphere alone, but they are linked together by the problem of disposal of waste products on the land, in the waters and in the atmosphere. The low-energy environment of the Tropics, especially in the atmosphere, reduces the threshold at which the concentration of pollutants gives rise to serious problems.

More specifically than other authors, however, Sham goes on to discuss in detail the institutional and practical problems of management. Using the case of Malaysia, he reviews the legislation enacted to protect the environment since independence, and especially since the early 1970s. The problem, as noted more briefly in Chapter 1, is not a lack of legislation, but a lack of enforcement. The utility of modern provision for environmental impact assessment is low without the resources, the political will or the public awareness and participation required to make such procedures effective. There is a sharp contrast between the large staffs employed to manage state-owned forest land-though much more for production than for conservation-mentioned by Jefferson Fox, and the very small amount of resources devoted to the wider issues of environmental amelioration.

The global situation is not only as described by the Brundtland report (World Commission, 1987: 10), that 'the mandates of ministries of industry include production targets, while the accompanying pollution is left to ministries of environment'. The environmental ministries and departments are quite insufficiently staffed and have too few powers or support to do a great deal about the 'accompanying pollution' and damage. The result-as Sham points out for the cities, and other authors have shown for the rural and forest areas and the seas-is that notwithstanding some improvements, the general state of the environment is still deteriorating and, with it, the quality of life for many people. Sham's proposal for a co-ordinated, systematic approach using an ecosystem framework has wide applicability, but more than this is also required. These points lead on directly to the conclusions and recommendations set out in Part V.

13. Threatened places


SOUTH-EAST ASIA, like other regions of the world, suffers from threats to its environment. These threats include those arising from natural hazards, global climatic change, rapid economic development and population growth, and those that derive from the style of development being pursued almost universally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, Working Group 2, 1990) outlines probable effects on agriculture, forestry, terrestrial ecosystems, hydrology, human settlements and oceans. In South-East Asia, these effects may include declines in agricultural production, increased forest destruction from wildfires, changes in temperature and precipitation regimes, hydrometeorological changes, inundation of low-lying coastal cities, changes in the patterns of vector-borne and viral diseases and sea-level rise. But while scientists are certain that emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, Henderson-Sellers (Chapter 6) argues that the impact of this change on South-East Asia is, at best, poorly understood.

Any effects of climatic change must be viewed against a background of transformations which are already occurring and which will continue as a result of other factors. Natural elements include those of the long term that are driven by solar and tectonic factors; and those of short-to-medium term, driven by ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns.

Another ongoing factor in environmental management is population growth. World population is expected to be more than 10 billion by the middle of the twenty-first century; this growth will be unevenly distributed on a regional basis and will have an impact on already vulnerable areas. By the first decade of that century, South-East Asia is likely to have some 160 million more people, an increase of 36 per cent from 1990 estimates. The countries with the greatest projected growth are Laos, the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar (Concepcion, Chapter 2). By the year 2000, three of the major metropolises of the region-Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok-will have reached 10 million people (Jones, Chapter 3).

Throughout the ASEAN countries, the growth of manufacturing production exceeded that of either services or agriculture over the 1965-80 period. Singapore emphasized the production of chemicals, steel products, and machinery and equipment. In Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, the focus of industrial deepening was on iron and steel and basic chemical industries (Ariff and Hill, 1985, cited by Jones, Chapter 3). This growth has had a profound effect on the environment of the rural hinterland around major cities.

The clearing of forests for new agricultural production, together with more intensive use of existing agricultural land, will contribute to land degradation and increased demands for water resources (Allen, Chapter 10). The Green Revolution has helped rice production in the region to grow from 53.49 million tonnes in 1970 to 102.48 million tonnes in 1987. Problems associated with this growth, however, include inefficient use of water and chemical fertilizers, indiscriminate use of wide-spectrum insecticides, unstable farming systems and increased inequity among rice farmers (Chang, Chapter 9).

Against this background of the many factors that 'threaten places' in South-East Asia, the following linked papers discuss two types of threats. Morgan deals with threats that arise from both human activities and natural hazards, such as typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. South-East Asia, a region of high seismicity and volcanic activity and in the path of tropical storms, ranks as one of the world's most hazardous areas. Natural hazards cannot be avoided, but their effects can be reduced by various individual and community responses. These include warning systems, seawalls and breakwaters, evacuation of threatened areas, insurance programmes and land-use zoning. Morgan describes natural hazards found in the region and the methods for reducing their impact.

Jefferson Fox develops the argument, made by Brookfield (Chapter I ), that the rise of state control of forest and marine resources has often been at the expense of indigenous management systems. The resulting conflict between state resource-tnanagement policies and local resource-use systems, is a major cause of degradation and mismanagement. Fox briefly reviews the evolution of indigenous and state resourcemanagement systems in the region, and the growth of conflicts between local communities and governments bureaucracies. Jurisdictional conflicts have limited the ability of both the state and the community to effectively control forest and coastal resources. Fox suggests that one of the few solutions to this problem is to transfer the management of and responsibility for local resources to community groups.

Natural and human hazards

Nature's threats
Human threats
Natural hazards and their management



SOUTH-EAST ASIA is characterized by great geographic and cultural diversity. There are archipelagic states and continental countries, long coastlines and large coastal areas, and terrestrial regions consisting of both high elevations and lowland plains. There are numerous languages, religions and cultures, both modern and traditional. Geography and culture influence the degree of threat that any particular location might experience. The threats can be characterized as 'natural', that is, threats to human health and welfare due to causes beyond human control, and 'human', those caused by human activities. In a sense, people threaten themselves and the place where they live and work by engaging in unsuitable activities that affect their environment. It is not enough to merely describe the threats. An analysis of how to alleviate them, adapt to them, and reduce their magnitude must be attempted. This requires consideration of both individual and institutional (usually governmental) responses to both natural and human threats.

Nature's threats

Threats to human life, property and welfare due to so-called natural causes are usually referred to as natural hazards, although, as will be discussed subsequently, they are technically due to a combination of a natural event, such as an earthquake, and deliberate human habitation of an at-risk area.

Figure 13.1 shows four principal threats of nature in the South-East Asian region: typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis (Morgan and Valencia, 1983). Typhoons are of meteorological origin, while the last three are geophysical. The Equator is a general geographical divide between the domains of meteorological and geophysical threats, with typhoons usually threatening only north of the Equator, while the geophysical hazards are more prevalent to the south. The main exceptions to this simple division are Taiwan and the Philippines, particularly the island of Luzon, which are greatly or even extremely threatened by earthquakes, as well as by typhoons.


Intense tropical cyclonic storms are called typhoons in the western Pacific; in the Indian Ocean, including the Andaman Sea, they are cyclones, while in the eastern Pacific, they are hurricanes. Typhoons have maximum wind velocities of 75 miles per hour or greater. Lesser tropical cyclonic storms are called tropical depressions or tropical storms. Typhoons are the most destructive and frequent of the natural hazards affecting the coastal areas of South-East Asia. They create immense damage with high winds, violent seas, storm surges and torrential rains. Thus, they are hazardous to ships at sea, as well as coastal and inland areas. An average of 8.9 typhoons occur in the South China Sea each year, mainly between July and November. The monthly frequency ranges from less than 0.1 in March-April to 1.7 and 1.6 in July and September, respectively.

FIGURE 13.1 Principal Threats of Nature in the South-East Asian Region

Typhoon tracks shown on Figure 13.1 were calculated from data collected over a 20year period (1949-69). The width of individual track lines is proportional to the chance that a mariner will encounter a typhoon in the South China Sea while on a passage from the Singapore Strait to the Formosa Strait. Storms in coastal regions, particularly tropical cyclones, are a great risk for many communities. 'The numbers and density of people exposed to these storms, notably in the Bay of Bengal, is exceeded only an the shores of the East and South China Seas' (emphasis added) (Hewitt, 1983a: 186).

In the Andaman Sea, there is a 25 per cent chance of at least one tropical cyclonic storm occurring during May, the month of maximum activity. Since the May storm activity includes tropical storms, tropical depressions and Indian Ocean cyclones, and the incidence of actual cyclones is not particularly high, no tracks were calculated for this area. Nevertheless, the cyclone (typhoon) hazard must also be considered here. Most typhoons originate in the western Pacific Ocean, north of the Equator, before moving west and north-west into the South China Sea. However, some typhoons are spawned in the South China Sea itself. Tracks show that the Philippines is by far the most susceptible in South-East Asia, followed by mainland China and northern Vietnam. The Equatorial regions are almost immune from the typhoon hazard, though one or two such storms are historically indicated in the southern part of the South China Sea. The eastern part of Papua New Guinea is also subject to rare typhoons.

Volcanic Eruptions

There are both undersea and terrestrial volcanoes in South-East Asia, and all those currently believed to be active are shown in Figure 13.1. In the case of submarine volcanoes particularly, the classification of the degree of activity is difficult. Dormant volcanoes must also be considered as natural threats, since it is impossible to be certain they will not subsequently become active. This fact was dramatically demonstrated by the 1991 eruption of the long-dormant Mount Pinatubo in Luzon, Philippines. The region is probably the most volcanic of any region of comparable size on earth. Three areas are particularly active: the Indonesian island arc extending from Sumatra through Ceram: the western Pacific Ocean from New Guinea through the Philippine archipelago and Taiwan: and a region of submarine volcanism in the South China Sea off the southern coast of Vietnam.

The more violent terrestrial eruptions cause extensive ash falls, which endanger human populations. In 1818, the eruption of Gunung Tambora killed 92,000 people, and the explosive eruption of the volcanic island of Krakatau in 1883 caused world-wide effects. Incandescent ash, gas, lava flows and floods associated with volcanic activity have killed people in the near vicinity of erupting volcanoes, while ash falls have harmed people and property at greater distances. The eruption of Gunung Merapi in Java in late 1930 killed 1,350 people in the surrounding area. Following the eruption of Gunung Kelud in Central Java in 1587, 10,000 people were reported killed by mud flows, floods and ash falls. There were particularly destructive volcanic eruptions in 1912 and 1919 with thousands of lives lost. It was only because of early warning that the death toll from Mount Pinatubo's eruption in 1991 was small.


South-East Asia is characterized by high seismicity, with most earthquake activity concentrated along the Indonesian island arc and in a portion of the Circum-Pacific seismic belt extending from Taiwan through New Guinea. The Philippines is one of the most seismic island areas in the world, with about 5 per cent of the earthquakes measuring 6.0 or greater on the Richter scale occurring there. Since the Philippines occupies only about 0.1 per cent of the earth's area, the degree of seismicity is about 50 times greater than normal.

Earthquake activity is unevenly distributed throughout South-East Asia; Australia, the island of Borneo, the Sunda Shelf, most of the South China Sea, and the South-East Asian portion of the Asian continent, except Myanmar and northern Thailand, are for the most part aseismic. Figure 13.1 shows general areas of earthquake activity, both on land and underwater. Individual epicentres are not shown, but general areas are categorized according to risk: slight, moderate, great, extreme, and areas where earthquakes have been felt at sea. The last category is important, because undersea earthquakes of high magnitude sometimes generate tsunamis.


Impelled waves occasionally associated with underwater volcanic activity, but more frequently with strong undersea earthquakes, are properly called tsunamis. The term 'tidal wave' is often used synonymously, but it is a less preferable name for the phenomenon, since tsunamis have no relationship to tides. Coasts that have experienced these, sometimes destructive, waves are marked in Figure 13.1. During the 1900 65 period, there were 78 reported events. Despite the high frequency of tsunamis on SouthEast Asian coasts, only a relatively small number have caused extensive damage or loss of life.

The volcanic eruption of Krakatau in 1883 caused a tsunami wave more than 30 metres high in the Sunda Strait, and waves caused by this violent explosion probably struck most of the southern coastal regions of Indonesia and northern Australia. Of the 20 reported tsunamis since 1900, only those of 1918, 1921, 1928, 1965 and 1976 caused great damage and loss of life. The 1976 tsunami inundated 700 kilometres of coastline bordering Moro Gulf in Mindanao, Philippines. About 8,000 people were dead or missing as a result of this violent wave, and there were an estimated 10,000 injuries. Approximately 90,000 people were left homeless. The toll can be expected to rise with increasing coastal populations. It is usually impossible to provide advance warning in South-East Asia, since almost all tsunamis are of local origin: the earthquake epicentre is close to the coast and the tsunami wave arrives only seconds to minutes after the earthquake is felt.

FIGURE 13.2 Low-lying Vulnerable Coastal Areas in Parts of Asia

Sea-level Rises

The prospect that the level of the oceans will rise by some measurable amount over the next century can be considered either as a threat by nature or a human-induced environmental change. There is substantial evidence that human activities are producing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. Thus, global atmospheric temperatures are expected to rise, which in turn will cause the eustatic sea level to rise, as glacial ice melts and is added to the oceans, and the near-surface ocean layers expand with warming sea-water temperatures.

Rising sea levels will affect locations differently. In some areas, the land is currently rising relative to the present level of the sea, and the effects of a world-wide rise in sea level are masked. In other areas, even where the land is not subsiding, a rise in sea level may result in serious detrimental effects on coastal activities. Although the evidence of rising sea levels is not clear in many locations, and in those where it seems to be occurring, the rate is unclear, it seems wise to plan for an elevation of the sea and consequent effects on land. Such planning is a type of adjustment to natural hazards, which can take the form of either the protection of threatened coastal regions by means of structures or land-use zoning which effectively abandons the land to the rising sea.

In South-East Asia and the nearby South and East Asian regions, there are some obvious areas for concern over a slowly rising sea. These are the low-lying areas, particularly those associated with river mouths and deltas (Bardach, 1988) and are shown on Figure 13.2. Most notable are the old and current deltas of the Huang (Yellow) River, the Yangtse, the Mekong delta, the delta of the Chao Phraya River, the Irrawaddy delta and the Ganges delta. Manila Bay, the south shore of Kalimantan, parts of the north shore of Java and the northeast coast of Sumatra are also at risk from sea-level rise. Bangkok, at the head of the Gulf of Thailand, already suffers from frequent flooding, and this problem will presumably increase if the trend towards increasing global air temperatures continues.

Human threats

People threaten the South-East Asian environment in a number of ways. They threaten the land as well as coastal areas and offshore marine waters. The following discussion emphasizes threats to oceans and coastal areas, primarily because more quantitative data are available concerning pollution potentials in these areas. Figures 13.3-13.5 should be considered as illustrative case-studies only: terrestrial ecosystems are also threatened by human activities.

FIGURE 13.3 Sewage and Biochemical Oxygen Demand in South-East Asia

Figure 13.3 follows up the review by E. D. Gomez (Chapter 12) by depicting the results of a study on near-shore ocean pollution caused by a combination of industrial activities and sewage disposal in several specific South-East Asian locations. Organic pollutants include human wastes as well as agricultural wastes from processing of palm oil. rubber and tapioca. Other contributions to marine pollution are animal excrement, commercial fertilizers, food and beverage industries, textile processing and paper industries (Morgan and Valencia, 1983). All these activities create demands for oxygen, which can be measured as biochemical oxygen demand (BOD).

The figure shows major cities, generalized areas of high human population concentration, detected pollution from sewage and measured BOD at several locations. The greatest BOD values for both domestic and industrial activities are in Manila Bay, near Bangkok and in the Malacca Strait. Lesser, but still significant, values are found off Jakarta in eastern Java and in East Malaysia. The low value of BOD for Singapore is notable and remarkable; the reasons have been discussed by E. D. Gomez (Chapter 12). The eastern Indonesian archipelago is relatively underpopulated and therefore produces less human and industrial wastes.

Figure 13.4 depicts both actual and potential oil pollution in South-East Asian waters. The actual oil pollution is evident in the form of visible tar balls (oil lumps), hydrocarbon content in parts per billion in 5 grid squares, and reports of high hydrocarbon content (Morgan and Valencia, 1983). Potential pollution may occur in regions of extensive oil drilling or exploitation. The line of tar balls along a route between the Singapore Strait and Luzon Strait is clear proof of the effects of tanker shipping on pollution. With the exception of the anomalously high amount in the grid from 5 to 10 N, 105 to 110 E, open-sea values of hydrocarbon content of the waters are not alarmingly great. Oil pollution in South-East Asian seas is not a serious problem in the early 1990s, but it could become one as shipping and production activities increase.

The impact of unwise human actions on the region's coastal and marine environments is shown most dramatically by comparing desirable and undesirable activities on the same map (Morgan and Valencia, 1983). By combining land-based pollution sources and mariculture, Figure 13.5 clearly shows potentially conflicting uses of coastal waters. Some areas where land-based pollution is predominant are unsuitable for mariculture; in other regions, mariculture prevails. There are several small regions where pollution and mariculture compete, with obviously detrimental effects. The competition for coastal zones is intense, and the governments in South-East Asia must make Important decisions about optimal coastal use. The problems are most obvious in the Strait of Malacca off the coast of Peninsular Malaysia, numerous places in the Philippines, the upper Gulf of Thailand and the north coast of Java.

Other threats by human activities include the deliberate clearing and destruction of mangroves, sea-grass beds and coral reefs, often to make way for more directly remunerative activities such as housing and tourist development. There are also inadvertent effects on natural coastline features by land-haled pollution and certain forms of destructive fishing. Sensible planning and effective enforcement of existing regulations are needed for managing coastal zones and near-shore ocean waters Human threats are under human control; they can be minimized or completely eliminated by suitable institutional arrangements and actions.

FIGURE 13.4 Actual and Potential Oil Pollution in South-East Asian Waters

FIGURE 13.5 Land-based Pollution Sources and Mariculture in South-East Asia

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