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This chapter has provided a general overview of some of the major environmental and developmental issues related to the threatened peoples of South-East Asia, and to the tribal peoples of the region in particular. While some of the problems are group-specific, there are other aspects that are common to all threatened groups. Attention has been drawn to the complexities of the issues. The problems faced are not solely the result of external interference and influence, equally important are dynamic changes taking place within the society. Evidence from the region suggests that the selective utilization of technologies from the 'outside' has been very effective in upgrading the livelihood and the economy of many tribal peoples. A 'marriage' of the two systems is probably the most sound strategy and there are many areas where this could be done. Some form of modernity is required, at least to assist all threatened peoples in coping with modern-day living.

Finally, an unfortunate truism in the region is that public interest in the threatened peoples emerged less from a concern to improve their livelihood than from a realization that environmental and economic problems created by development also impact on the environment outside the habitat of the threatened peoples themselves. Upland deforestation and ecological degradation affect the downriver modern communities, and the health hazard in slums and squatter areas spreads to wider urban populations. Regional government and development agencies may be interested in involving upland communities by granting them a stake in resource-management and preservation programmes. However, threatened peoples cannot wait for a solution from the outside and are probably not prepared to be the object for experimentation; a little regarded consideration which partly explains their so-called 'resistance' to new development projects.

  1. The 'upriver' or inland people-in Sarawak, meaning mainly the indigenous people of eastern Sarawak-are distinct from the more numerous Iban. Bidayuh and other groups in the centre and west of the state.
  2. Editorial footnote: The sago palm used by the Penan is Engeissona utilise a species limited to Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia (Ruddle et al., 1978). Its use by the Penan was first described by Beccari ( 1904: 307) as common in the forest, and who stressed that it did not produce a large amount of starch. Engeissona occurs in large clumps, supported on aerial roots. sometimes around springs and along spring-lines, as at the loot of an escarpment. When it is harvested, only a few trunks at a time can be taken from each clump, in order to allow the palm to resprout (Brosius, 19863.

Sustainability of indigenous socio-economic systems

Editorial comment


LIAN'S chapter raises important questions about the sustainability, especially the environmental sustainability, of socio-economic systems. For some years now, but especially since the late 1980s, the fate of certain groups in South-East Asia has captivated the attention of concerned interest groups, and even governments, all over the world. Lian, as a 'native ethnographer', has collected a great deal of empirical material bearing on these problems, material which itself-in addition to his own discussion of theoretical questions surrounding the topic-helps answer what has become a critical question: what is a sustainable socio-economic system?

Lian puts this question in context. In each of the South-East Asian countries, there is tremendous variation between sections of the population, and between different areas and ethnic groups. Some segments of South-East Asian societies are tremendously rich while others continue to struggle far below national poverty lines. Though development projects multiply each year, they often threaten the existence of many communities. There appears to be a big question mark regarding the very future of these communities. Are there ways in which governments have correctly addressed the issue, and have the 'solutions' devised made things any better? The thrust of Lian's analysis lies in his observations on the tribal groups among the many disadvantaged socioeconomic groups; he considers them to have become the most marginalized in the region.

These tribal communities are often under threat because they rely on the immediate environment for a substantial proportion of their subsistence, yet these same environments are also warehouses of valuable primary resources for the dominant ethnic majorities. The extraction of these resources has usually resulted in human exploitation as well as the degradation of the resources themselves. Moreover, independence has brought further marginalization, as the states have sought to forge new identities and new structures to fit their own visions of their changing role in the world. Too often, local elites 'design' the lives of tribal people without first possessing an understanding of the needs and expectations of the marginal communities. Not uncommonly, the objective of justifying the loans and financial aid obtained for development has accentuated these problems.

However, Lian has also shown that there have been some positive reactions to these external encroachments. This is because traditional social systems, in their own distinct styles, found ways to adjust to the outside world, to protect their traditions and avoid being 'bought over' by others. They have devised new and intelligent ways of coping with change. Lian cites the case of the Kenyah (whom he has studied closely), who have sought ways of escape from repressive and poverty-engendering aspects of their own social system by engaging in non-agricultural activities and participating in the introduced activities of outsiders. Especially for the lower and poorer sections of society, a movement out of agricultural activities has been seen as an opportunity to escape from a system which could not meet their current needs and new expectations. He stresses this eagerness to change, demonstrating that the Kenyah, and people like them, are much more adaptable than many foreign environmentalists imagine.

In discussing the Orang Ulu people in Sarawak, and also the Penan blockades he reminds us of the need to examine these issues more closely in a historical context. Since the time of the Brooke regime in the late nineteenth century, there has been movement of Orang Ulu to areas in which there were more cash- and wage-earning opportunities. The acceptance and adoption of rubber and coffee cultivation enhanced rather than destroyed the Orang Ulu economy. He stresses the need for a very low man-land ratio for the effective conduct of shifting cultivation and especially hunting and gathering. There is also a need for isolation. Such a situation has not existed in most areas for very many years, even as long as a century. The view that the Orang Ulu should be 'left alone' goes back to the romanticist Joseph Kaines, and has been misguidedly taken up by many modern 'champions' of these 'primitive' people. Yet few of these 'champions' are aware that less than 10 per cent of the hunter-gatherer Penan are still wholly nomadic, and that shortage of sago not only preceded logging but also has not been greatly worsened by it, since the logging has taken place in areas with very little sago.

As Lian indicates, the problems are much the same with the urban squatters and Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia. There is a lack of reliable information about all these marginalized groups, and there is inadequate communication between the planners and those for whom the plans are made. Neither side knows enough nor cares enough about the objectives of the other. Lian's argument is that a 'marriage' should be possible between certain values of the traditional socio-economic systems and those of the modern world, within which marriage, the wider participation of the marginalized groups in their own affairs should be practicable. Implicit in his view is that modem-type living should be the aim for all.

This author's view (written fresh from a meeting about and with the Penan at Marudi in Sarawak) is that Lian has presented a balanced critique. He shows how the images of the so-called sustainable traditional socio-economic systems have been exploited to benefit certain agencies and individuals according to their own interests. For the most part, he is convinced-and correctly so- that some romantics have little real knowledge of the actual difficulties, sufferings and contemporary expectations of tribal peoples as they try to cope with the changing world around them. He has rightly pointed out that the tribal peoples will change if they wish to, and will seek new ways of coping with the challenges of their new environment. But this is not the same as saying that they have had a major and instrumental share in destabilizing their own environment. They quite obviously did not-because they have never been partners in that operation-in the real sense of the term. This much has to be acknowledged.

Lian mentions, only fleetingly, that education is an important element which could help alleviate the future situation. This author concurs, but there must be a sincere and massive drive towards this goal; that is, it should be a top-priority project. All too often, efforts to achieve this goal have been hindered by bureaucratic and other obstacles, causing what should be a priority project to be shelved and treated as only of marginal importance.

Questions of land and its alienation on an equitable and viable basis should be seriously worked out by the governments in the region. Simultaneous with this new approach should be the proper and sustained planning of agricultural and industrial projects, designed and implemented together by government agencies and by responsible leaders of the marginal communities.

Editorial comment

Discussion focused on the contradiction between myth and fact about the relationship of indigenous peoples to the forests in which they live. Allen has described the situation on the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea, where small logging companies from East Malaysia are now extracting round timber for direct export to Japan. Significant bribes are paid to politicians for the concessions, but the local people also see advantages for themselves in this situation. Since they have few roads, very low incomes and little education, the small payments received from logging are the one way in which they can obtain cash. Only later do they regret the damage done to their forests. There is no spiritual' link with the forest environment, only a material one: but both governments and environmentalists misinterpret the reality.

What forest people need is a sustainable timber industry; what they are getting is very different. It was also noted that in the early 1980s, the Asmat people of Irian Jaya were said by environmentalists to be in the process of being destroyed by governmentsponsored logging. The result was a set of programmes to regulate logging, and also provide education and development for the Asmat people. All regional countries have this problem.

Lian also wishes to see the forests retained, but said that the real fear of the tribal people is the loss of their separate identity. In this connection, however, he reminded the Yogyakarta conference that there is nothing new in the suppression of tribal rights by outsiders: it has been going on for centuries. Present changes arising from the timber industry have both good and bad consequences. Brookfield suggested that it is insufficient to form value judgements on the consequences of only a few short years of rapid change for the forest people; a longer time perspective-involving the last 40 years, perhaps even more than the past century-is required if all the many changes that have occurred in society. affecting its welfare, are to be taken into account.

15. Urban environmental issues in south-east Asian cities: An overview

Major causes of urban environmental degradation
State of urban environments in south-east Asia
Managing the urban environment: Some possibilities
Concluding remarks
Editorial comment



ESTIMATES by the United Nations (UN) indicate that the total world population will increase from about 4.4 billion in 1980, to 6.6 billion in 2000, and then 8.2 billion in 2025 before stabilizing at about 10.2 billion in 2100. These projections also show a tendency for the population to be concentrated in urban areas, so that by 2000, almost 50 per cent, and by 2025 more than 60 per cent, will live in cities (UN, 1988). It is of further importance that while both the rate of total population growth and of urbanization in the developed areas is declining, that of the less developed nations is expected to accelerate (Figure 15.1). In South-East Asia, the increasing dominance of large cities is shown in the rising proportion of urban population as a percentage of the total population (Table 15.1). Even more notable are the high rates of urban population growth in the region-about 3-5 per cent per year compared to the world average of 2-3 per cent (Table 15.2).

The manner and rapidity with which urban growth is taking place in South-East Asia are causing great concern among planners, architects, environmental scientists and decision makers. The central issue is the sustainability of urban systems, both as suitable habitats for mankind and in terms of their ecological and environmental support systems. Evidence to date indicates that, while some aspects of the environment have been enhanced and greatly improved, the general state of the environment and quality of life for many parts of the cities are deteriorating. Respective governments are taking various mitigating measures within their means to minimize the negative side-effects of urbanization, but the need to have a more systematic programme for the planning and management of urban ecosystems everywhere is obvious.

The aim of this chapter is threefold: first, to discuss briefly some of the major factors that lead to environmental degradation in the urban areas; secondly, to provide a general overview of the more important environmental issues in some major cities of South-East Asia; and finally, to highlight some common concerns that need to be addressed in order to better plan and manage the urban environment.

TABLE 15.1 Share of Urban Population in Total Population by Countrya in South-East Asia, 1970 1990 (per cent)

Country 1970 1980 1985 1990
Indonesia 17.1 22.2 25.3 28.8
Malaysia 27.0 34.2 38.2 42.3
Philippines 33.0 37.4 39.6 42.4
Thailand 13.3 17.3 19.8 22.6
Singapore 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Vietnam 18.3 19.3 20.3 21.9
Myanmar 22.8 23.9 23.9 24.6
Laos 9.6 13.4 15.9 18.6
Cambodia 11.7 10.3 10.8 11.6

Source: WRI (1988).

a Excluding Brunei.

FIGURE 15.1 Percentage of Population Living in Urban Areas in the Less Developed (LD), Developed (D) and Total World (W) Communities, and the Number of Urban Inhabitants

TABLE 15.2 Urban Population Growth Rates for South-East Asia, 1960 5 to 200-5 (average annual percentage)

  1960-5 1970-5 1980-5 1990-5 2000-5
World 2.97 2.65 2.42 2.55 2.52
South-East Asia 3.77 4.14 3.96 3.83 3.44
Indonesia 3.72 4.92 4.60 3.96 3.24
Thailand 3.53 5.59 4.66 4.02 3.70
Philippines 3.85 4.02 3.81 3.71 3.32
Malaysia 3.77 4.87 4.51 3.87 2.77
Myanmar 3.83 3.23 2.09 3.21 3.84
Cambodia 3.48 -2.09 3.54 4.19 4.30
Vietnam 4.18 2.86 3.27 4.16 4.38
Laos 3.14 5.52 5.58 5.45 4.77

Source: UN (1989).

Major causes of urban environmental degradation

As in other parts of the world, urban growth in South-East Asia has led to profound transformation of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. The increase in the size of urban areas, for example, has affected the local climate. The rapid development and expansion of industries and in the number of motor vehicles have led to increased pollutant emissions affecting air quality, health and the biosphere. Construction and infrastructural works have modified the How of rivers, greatly increasing the incidence of flood hazard, causing erosion and slope failures, and involving enormous government expenditure.

Urban growth itself, however, has been largely generated by a rapid increase in population. Poverty and lack of employment opportunities in rural areas combine to stimulate outmigration from rural to urban areas. The consequence of such rapid urbanization is the inability of the authorities to provide adequate infrastructural facilities and services to keep pace with population growth. This results in the growth of urban slums and squatter settlements, and the overburdening of the water supply, sewerage and waste-disposal systems, thus, resulting in environmental degradation.

Closely allied to this rapid population growth is urban poverty. Generally, this is defined as a level of well-being below the minimum needs of a household in terms of nutrition, clothing, housing, sanitation and basic requirements. In Malaysia during the 1970s, the urban poor were defined as those whose incomes fell below M$500 per month. Using this as a measure, about 35 per cent of the population of Kuala Lumpur alone, or approximately 300,000 people, could be classified as urban poor, 80 per cent of whom were squatters (Yip and Low, 1984).

Squatter settlements are generally found along river banks and railroads, or on disused mining land, and other undeveloped government or even private land. While there are some good-quality dwellings in the squatter settlements, most of them are somewhat substandard, being constructed from wood, corrugated iron and even cardboard. The majority do not have proper water and electricity facilities or sewage-disposal systems. Domestic waste is generally dumped either near the settlements or on river banks, further exarcerbating environmental degradation in urban areas.

Urban areas are also very often centres of industrial activities. Many of the industries are resource-based, although integrated metal-processing, and chemical and petrochemical industries have also been established. While industrialization has brought some measure of economic prosperity and increase in standards of living, it has also resulted in natural-resource depletion in the form of air, water and noise pollution and the accumulation of toxic and hazardous wastes, all of which affect human health and the quality of life. In many countries of the region, industrialization has more often than not ignored technology management that would emphasize low or no waste and efficient use of resources. Very often, the new industries being introduced are decades behind in terms of technology. Some of these technologies are transferred to third countries because they are obsolete and unacceptable in their countries of origin. This is compounded by the fact that the principle 'polluter pays' or 'pollution prevention pays' is seldom applied; much of the social and environmental costs are usually passed on to the general public.

Transport is another major source of environmental degradation in urban areas. Apart from lead pollution, particulates and carbon monoxide (CO), the increased number of motor vehicles is also responsible for a special form of atmospheric pollutant-the photochemical smog. In the presence of sunlight, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is disassociated into nitric oxide and oxygen. Some of these oxygen atoms (O) react with oxygen molecules (02) to form ozone (03). These oxidants affect organic materials including the unburned hydrocarbons, producing more ozone and other oxidation by-products such as peroxyacyl nitrates (PAN), with irritant effects on people and serious effects on plants. Photochemical smog also affects visibility which is now becoming a problem in the Klang Valley in Malaysia, especially during the dry months of June-August and FebruaryMarch.

State of urban environments in south-east Asia

While substantial efforts are being made to cope with the challenge of metropolitan growth, considerable social, economic and environmental problems still persist in varying degrees in all cities of the South-East Asian region. Many of these problems are traceable to the continuing population increase in urban areas and rapid industrial growth, both of which are closely linked to most forms of environmental degradation. The following provides a brief outline of the state of urban environments in some major cities in the region, especially with respect to air and water quality, solid-waste disposal and squatter-related environmental problems.

Air Quality

Available information on the quality of air in the cities of South-East Asia suggests that the ambient concentration of some selected pollutants is high. This is particularly true in the case of suspended particulate matter (SPM). Tables 15.3-tS.4 show that while sulphur-dioxide (SO2) concentration is comparatively low, SPM levels already exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in all selected cities. Exceedences of the 98 percentile guideline values for SPM are shown in Table 15.5. These data refer to cities which, on the average, exceed 230 micrograms per cubic metre more than seven days per year. Of the South-East Asian cities, perhaps Singapore is the only one in which the air quality has remained within the long-term WHO guidelines (Figure 15.2).

Two major sources of air pollution in urban areas are motor vehicles and industries. About 47 1,000 of over one million vehicles in the Philippines were reported to be in Metro Manila (Chrifa, 1988). In Bangkok, the corresponding figure was about 600,000; and despite the existence of emission standards, over 50 per cent of vehicles tested failed to meet the standards both in terms of CO and smoke emission (Tasneeyanond, 1984).

TABLE 15.3 Range of Annual Average Concentration of SO, in Selected South-East Asian Cities, 1980 1984 (ug/m)


Range of Individual Site

City Minimum Maximum Combined Sites
Manila 50 90 65
Kuala Lumpur - - 23
Bangkok 16 19 17

Source: UNEP-WHO (1989).

Note: The WHO guideline is 40-60 ug/m.

TABLE 15.4 Range of Annual Average Concentration of SPM in Selected South-East Asian Cities, 1980-1984 (ug/m)


Range of Individual Site

City Minimum Maximum Combined Sites
Jakarta 180 295 250
Bangkok 120 290 200
Kuala Lumpur 100 190 150
Manila 68 260 100

Source: As for Table 15.3.

Note: The WHO guideline is 60-90 ug/m.

TABLE 15.5 Exceedences of the 98 Percentile Guideline Values for SPM in Selected South-East Asian Cities, 1980 1984

City Best Site Average for All Available Sites Worst Site
Manila 4 16 250
Kuala Lumpur 12 45 65
Bangkok 6 102 210
Jakarta 4 185 302

Source: As for Table 15.3.
Note: The data refer to SPM levels above 230 ug/m

FIGURE 15.2 Overall Air Pollution Levels in Singapore

TABLE 15.6 Mean Monthly Ventilation Volumes in Selected South-East Asian Cities, 1977-1981 (m/s)














(13 55 ')
998 969 1 182 1 029 1 540 2291 2 178 3 303 2429 1 836 1 430 1 200
Kuala Lumpur
(3 10 ')
1 290 1 380 965 510 1 008 1 470 1 360 1 289 1 338 1 097 638 1 459
(1 15 ')
1 598 1 426 820 792 855 1 699 1 728 2055 1 310 1 536 1 242 1 688
(6 1 ')
3048 4880 2015 1 599 896 920 1 800 2070 1 908 3 150 3932 1 188

TABLE 15.7 Estimates of Solar Radiation Receipt over Selected South-East Asian Cities (cal/cm/day)

City Solar Radiation
Bangkok 350-550
Kuala Lumpur 479
Manila 350-550
Jakarta 368-408
Singapore 405

Sources: Chia (1969); Oldeman and Frere (1982); Sham (1979).

The deterioration in air quality, together with increases in potentially polluting activities, is indeed a cause for concern in these cities. This is particularly disturbing as the climate in this region has a high potential for pollution (Sham, 1979, 1980). Table 15.6 gives an estimate of the mean monthly ventilation volumes for selected cities calculated on the basis of radiosonde data for 1977-81 (Sham, 1983). The figures suggest that, with the exception of a few months, at most times the ventilation volumes for all cities were well below the critical limit of the minimum ventilation volume of 2 000 cubic metres per second suggested by the US National Air Pollution Potential Forecasting Program (National Meteorological Center, 1967). In Jakarta, only 6 of the 12 months had mean ventilation volumes exceeding 2 000 cubic metres per second. The corresponding figures for Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were respectively 4, 1 and 0 months.

The atmospheric ability to disperse pollutants in these four cities appears to be much more restricted than those in the mid-latitude regions. This together with the near-total dependence on motor vehicles and the abundance of sunshine provide the necessary set of conditions required for photochemical smog formation. Over I year, Kuala Lumpur receives approximately 480 calories per square centimetre per day of solar radiation, which is comparable to Los Angeles and San Francisco (Sham, 1979). A summary of figures for other major cities of South-East Asia is shown in Table 15.7.

Urban Heat-island Effects

In common with other cities of the world, South-East Asian cities also exert an impact on the atmospheric environment. The effects of the complex geometry of the urban surface, the shape and orientation of individual buildings and structures, the peculiar thermal and hydrological properties of the urban morphology, the heat from metabolism and various combustion processes in the city, the pollution released into the city's atmosphere, and indeed the entire physical transformations all combine to create a climate which is quite distinct from that of the surrounding areas.

FIGURE 15.3 Temperature Distribution Patterns in Kuala Lumpur-Petaling Jaya. 1972-1985 (C)

FIGURE 15.4 Schematic Representation of the Form of the Air Layer Modified by a City: (a) with Steady Regional Flow: and (b) in Calm Conditions

Observations carried out between 1975 and 1990 in Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley urban region in Malaysia indicate that the commercial centres are generally several degrees warmer than the surrounding area, a phenomenon known as the 'heat island' (Sham, 1973, 1980, 1989, 1991) (Figure 15.3). Other than its effect on temperatures and hence on human comfort, health and energy for cooling, the urban thermal influence also extends up to 200 300 metres and even to 400 metres and above (Figure 15.4). Such a development has been observed to affect urban ventilation, airpollution concentration, dispersion and transport, and is particularly evident if the cities are located in a valley and close to the sea. In such a situation, the combined emissions from these urban centres may form a giant plume affecting the surrounding area. If the spacing between cities is insufficient, their alignment with the wind may cause a cumulative pollution build-up. In addition, the plume from one city can also become fumigated into the atmosphere of a second one downwind, in a similar manner to those shown in Figure 15.4.

Research into urban heat-island effects in South-East Asian cities is limited. Based on previous studies, however, it is expected that such effects would be far-reaching, especially for large metropolises.

Noise Pollution

Another aspect of environmental deterioration in the urban areas of South-East Asia is the increase in noise-related complaints. The Department of Environment (DOE) of Malaysia, for example, recorded an increase of about 32 per cent in such complaints during 1987-8. A noise-monitoring exercise carried out in the vicinity of schools in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Pulau Pinang in 1982 (DOE, 1986) showed that over 85 per cent of the time, the level exceeded the acceptable standard of 55 dBA. A similar survey in selected residential areas showed that noise level in 96 per cent of the areas failed to meet prescribed standards. In the commercial areas of Kuala Lumpur, the equivalent noise standard of 65 dBA was exceeded 97 per cent of the time. Many locations in other major urban centres of South-East Asia are experiencing a comparable problem.

Water Quality

With the exception of Singapore, where about 96 per cent of the population enjoys modern sanitation, South-East Asian cities have no such comprehensive central sewerage system. In many of the large cities of the region, the urban rivers are heavily polluted with domestic sewage, industrial effluents and solid wastes. Typical examples of these include the Chao Phraya River and the klong in Bangkok, the Pasig River in Metro Manila and the Klang River in Kuala Lumpur. In Metro Manila, only about 12 per cent of the population- about 7.15 million in 1986 (Chrifa, 1988)-is served by a sewagecollection system. For the majority of the residents not served by a piped-sewerage system, sanitary facilities range from septic tanks to nothing at all, especially in the slums and squatter settlements (Nierras, 1988). In Bangkok, where there is no central sewerage system, a similar situation exists (Sivaramakrishnan and Green, 1986). Human waste is disposed of mainly through septic tanks and cesspools, and the effluents are discharged into storm-water drains or klong. Inefficient drainage, together with periodic flooding and a high water table, makes water pollution a health hazard. It has been estimated that about 50 per cent of the city's 2 500 tonnes of garbage finds its way into the klong daily (Sivaramakrishnan and Green. 1986). The situation is not much different in Jakarta.

In Kuala Lumpur, the Klang River which flows through the middle of the city has been classified by the DOE as one of the three most polluted rivers in the country. Heavy metals such as lead, zinc, copper and cadmium have been detected. Although the levels for many metals are still below the WHO guidelines, the concentrations of others, especially lead and zinc, could well be in excess of these standards (Badri and Sham, 1986). The Klang River is also badly affected by sewage discharges from the city population, only a small percentage of whom is served by a central sewerage system.

Effluent from industries is an additional source of pollution affecting water quality. However, with greater controls of industrial pollution in some countries, the load discharge into the water courses attributable to these sources is gradually being reduced. In many countries of South-East Asia, nevertheless, sewage and (at least in the case of Malaysia) animal wastes remain the major contributors to the organic-waste load.

Solid-waste Disposal

Solid-waste disposal is another problem common to South-East Asian cities. Metro Manila produced some 2 650 tonnes of refuse per day in 1982 and this is projected to increase to 5 010 tonnes per day by the year 2000 (Chrifa, 1988). Of this amount, only about 70 per cent is collected. The rest is dumped into creeks and along roadsides, exacerbating drainage and flooding problems and constituting a health hazard. In the Bangkok metropolitan area, the total amount of solid waste generated per day is about 4 030 tonnes. Only 6(} 70 per cent of this waste was collected (Tabucanon, 1991). Of the amount collected, 60 per cent was disposed of by composting and the rest was dumped at open dumpsites, into canals and/or rivers or directly into the drainage systems (Tasneeyanond, 1984).

In the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, some 1 930 tonnes of refuse are produced daily and for the greater Klang Valley region, the figure is in the order of 3 400 tonnes daily. A large proportion of the refuse is disposed of through sanitary landfills. Kuala Lumpur, however, is no longer able to provide land for such landfill operations and will have to resort to incineration in the future. Solid-waste disposal in Singapore is more organized and better managed. The Engineering Services Department operates two refuse incineration plants with a combined capacity of 3 600 tonnes per day. A third incineration plant began operation in 1992 with a capacity of 2 400 tonnes. In addition, the department operates a refuse transfer station which can handle some 1 500 tonnes of refuse per day (Ministry of Environment, Singapore, 1989).

With the increased growth of industries, toxic and hazardous wastes and their disposal have also become a problem. In Malaysia, it is estimated that industries generate some 380 000 cubic metres of toxic wastes yearly. They are mainly acids (possibly heavy metals) (comprising 22 per cent by volume), heavy metal sludge (15.4 per cent), mineral sludge (12.6 per cent) and asbestos (9.2 per cent). The rest are components such as paint or pigment in water, dust, ashes, alkali. oil and hydrocarbons (New Straits Times, 18 January 1990). The major sources of these toxic and hazardous wastes are metalfinishing industries, textile industries, gas processing, foundry and metal works and asbestos factories. In the early 1990s, the issue of disposal sites for hazardous wastes is still unresolved. In the meantime, the bulk of this waste is being dumped indiscriminately.


In general, all major South-East Asian cities have squatter problems. In 1982, in Metro Manila alone, there were 1.64 million squatters (274,270 families) representing about 26 per cent of the total city population. They occupied about 415 squatter colonies covering almost 700 hectares of prime urban land (Jimenez, Javier and Sevilla, 1986). In Kuala Lumpur, the latest available records show that squatters numbered some 156,150 representing 17 per cent of the total city population (City Hall. Kuala Lumpur, 1985). Their settlements are mostly located along the Klang River (Hair) Abdullah, 1987). Indeed, wastes generated by squatters here form one of the major water-pollution sources of the Klang River, one of the most polluted waterways in the country. Because squatter areas are usually provided with very limited, if any, amenities and social facilities, they invariably become potential sites of environmental degradation and health, flood and fire hazards.

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